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Scam Targets More Than 100,000 Small Businesses

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This consumer warning is about a scam that targeted more than 100,000 small businesses. They got what they thought were bills from the state and paid up. Small business owners received a note claiming to be from the Labor Compliance Office ordering them to pay $275. With a state seal and a warning saying failure to comply could lead to fines and an audit, most people paid.

"It looked very legal, so we paid without hesitation," says fraud victim Paola Ibarra.

Turns out it was a scam and Ibarra was one of the victims. She had just opened a children's clothing store when she got the letter.

"We knew once we filed the LLC there were a couple of taxes that had to be due within 90 days of the opening," says Ibarra.

Three months later, they learned they were one of 125,000 businesses who received the letter.

"Small business owners received this official looking invoice and they thought they had to pay it," says US Postal Inspector Wynter Kugel. "They wanted to keep their business in compliance, they wanted to continue to run their business the way they are supposed to."

Postal inspectors say if all the recipients had sent money, this scam could have generated more than $35 million.

"It was a learning experience for us," says Ibarra. "Now we're very careful of what we pay and we double check everything we get."

Postal inspectors say take the time to research if the company or organization that sends you a bill is legitimate and if you even really owe any money.

"Do an internet search on the company and their company name and see what comes up," says Kugel. "You may find out people have already identified it as a scam."

It doesn't happen often but in this case postal inspectors say most of the victims got their money back. If you have a story like this, we want to hear from you.

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