NSW Fair Trading Commissioner Rod Stowe last week issued a scam warning to businesses and the general public not to deal with Peter Noel Anthony Sorensen and the business entities Construction Mining & Resource Media and Mining & Resource Media.
Mr Stowe said the business names were being used in a false billing scam targeting the mining sector. Fair Trading is investigating.
“False invoices have been sent to more than 50 companies nationally seeking payment for non-existent advertisements allegedly placed in mining-related publications including Australian Mining and Resource Journal, Australian Mining & Construction Journal and Australian Energy and Resources Journal,” the Commissioner said.
“NSW Fair Trading has discovered the publications named in the invoices are fictitious. False invoices in the possession of Fair Trading carry a purported authorisation of an officer of the mining company and request payment by electronic funds transfer to bank accounts of the two entities.
“Invoices request payment within 14 days, following which company account departments are contacted by a man who threatens the company with disclosure and recovery actions if payment is not made.
“The business names Construction Mining & Resource Media and Mining & Resource Media bear the same ABN, which belongs to Peter Noel Anthony Sorensen.”
Mr Stowe said the scam had resulted in and may continue to result in serious consumer and business detriment involving considerable sums of money.
“It is believed that more than $300,000 has been scammed so far and more than 100 invoices have been issued,” he said.
“Consumers and corporations receiving invoices alleging to be for advertising from these entities should report the matter to Fair Trading. Do not pay these invoices.”
On 15 October 2013, Peter Noel Anthony Sorensen, formerly trading as Commerce and Resource Productions, pleaded guilty to a total of 32 charges of ‘asserting right for payment for unsolicited services’, consisting of 25 charges under the Australian Consumer Law and seven charges under the Fair Trading Act.
He was convicted and fined $40,000 with $3,220 costs. He was also ordered to pay $96,600.50 compensation to five mining companies within 28 days.
Mr Sorensen had registered the business name, Commerce and Resource Productions, on 28 July 2008 with the nature of business listed as publishing.
The principal place of business was located at 15 Spumante Cl, Eschol Park in NSW. Mr Sorensen opened a bank account in the name of the business and was sole signatory.
Between 25 July 2010 and 22 August 2012 Mr Sorensen purported to operate a publishing business from various addresses, including the Eschol Park address. He also leased premises at 25 Willoughby Circuit, Grassmere.
Mr Sorensen utilised agents or contractors to issue invoices to mining sector companies. Included on the invoices were details regarding the name of an authorised person in the company, the size of the alleged advertisements, the name of publications in which the ads had been placed, the amount allegedly due and owing and the preferred payment method of electronic transfer into a specific bank account belonging to Mr Sorensen.
Five companies assisted Fair Trading with its investigation into the business and provided statements confirming Commerce & Resource Productions ABN 37 157 048 100 had issued invoices to them demanding payment for advertising allegedly placed in a range of mining publications.
The companies that made payments for advertising included: Patrick Ports ($22,154.50); Neumann Contactors Pty Ltd ($7,403); Bonacci Group Pty Ltd ($2,524.50); Hot Chili Pty Ltd ($59,629); and, Power Equipment Pty Ltd ($4,889.50)
The companies paid the invoices although they had not requested Mr Sorensen or his business to do any advertising for them.
Mr Sorensen did not provide any advertising services to the companies and the mining publications did not exist.
The fictitious publications known to be used by Mr Sorensen included the following: National Minerals and Mining Journal, Australian Mining and Resources, Australian Mining and Energy, The Mining Industries National Review, The National Resources and Minerals, The National Mining Review, The National Minerals and Mining Journal, The Nationals Minerals and Mining Annual, The Mining Industries National Review Annual, Australian Mining and Energy Annual, The Minerals and Mining National, The National Resources and Mining Annual, The Australian Mining and Minerals Construction, The National Resources and Energy, The Resources and Mining National, The Minerals and Mining Guide, The Nationals Mining and Energy and The Mining Industries National Review.
Commissioner Stowe urged businesses to carefully check invoices for services provided to ensure bills are from legitimate entities and payments are made for real services or products received by those businesses.
“False billing scams rely on businesses processing claims without too much interrogation. Failure to check expenses carefully can result in businesses getting ripped off,” he said.
Protect yourself from directory and advertising (false billing) scams
- Make sure the business billing you is the one you normally deal with.
- Always check that goods or services were both ordered and delivered before paying an invoice.
- Never give out or clarify any information about your business unless you know what the information will be used for.
- Try to avoid having a large number of people authorised to make orders or pay invoices.
- Never agree to any business proposal on the phone: always ask for an offer in writing.
- If you are unsure about any part of a business offer, ask for more information or seek independent advice.
For more information about Fair Trading go to the Fair Trading website.