Staff with a Winnipeg non-profit say they're being targeted by companies sending phony invoices that demand hundreds of dollars for services the group never asked for or received.
The Métis Culture and Heritage Resource Centre has received dozens of invoices ranging between $500 and $1,000 within at least a year.
The Métis Culture and Heritage Resource Centre in Winnipeg has received dozens of invoices in recent months from companies claiming to have done "online advertising" for the non-profit group.
Centre staff provided the CBC News I-Team with some of the invoices, and here's what the companies charged:
- A Byte of Info: $545.98.
- CanadaRegistry.ca: $548.07.
- First Alert PC: $744.95.
- First Choice Data Inc.: $992.20.
The companies, with names like First Alert PC Inc., CanadaRegistry.ca, A Byte of Info and First Choice Data, were seeking payment for online advertising services they claimed to have done to promote the cultural centre.
But centre staff say they never hired those companies, and they had never approved spending for those services.
"No one was sure if someone else was dealing with this, and then when we learned that no one had been, it became quite a concern," Randy Ranville, the group's head genealogist, told the CBC News I-Team.
A recent letter that accompanied one First Alert PC invoice threatened to send collectors after the group if it didn't pay.
"We must hear from you or we will be forced to take action and turn your account over to our collection agency," states the letter, dated April 15 and marked "urgent."
"Obviously, this would have a detrimental effect on your credit rating."
Holly Marchuk, the Métis centre's assistant genealogist and office manager, said the invoices came in by fax every week and were followed up with phone calls "wondering when they can expect payment."
Company offered to help, then sent its own bill
Then earlier this month, a man with another company, SPG Consultants, called to say he's been investigating the "fraudulent telemarketing companies" and he can put a stop to them.
"Somebody was going to help us with all these people, and it was kind of a relief," Ranville said.
The company sent Ranville and Marchuk a "closure letter" from First Alert PC saying its account and services with the group are "finished with nothing further due."
But Ranville said SPG Consultants — the company that offered to help the group get rid of the bogus invoices — sent its own bill for $700.
"Well, this is great until we realized we need some help to get the guy who was trying to help us," he said. "It's a lot of wasted time for us."
All the companies in question are based in Quebec, according to their invoices: CanadaRegistry.ca claims to have a Montreal address, First Alert PC's invoices show an address in Westmount, and SPG lists an address in Boisbriand.
But when the I-Team tried to track down the companies, some of the phone numbers and websites listed on their invoices led to dead ends.
There was no response at First Alert PC's phone number, while the website listed with A Byte of Info's invoice doesn't exist.
A young woman who answered the phone at CanadaRegistry.ca couldn't tell the I-Team exactly what services her company provided. The woman put a reporter on hold so she could get a manager, but then she came back and said the office was closed. Then she hung up.
As for SPG Consultants, its listed phone number led to a woman who said it was the wrong number and she had nothing to do with the company.
The Quebec-based SPG Consultants is using a name that is similar to a legitimate Ontario-based company, SPG Management Consultants.
Managers there told CBC News they have nothing to do with the phony invoices.
"We regret that a company with a similar name to ours might be doing business in a way that is causing so many complaints and issues," said Glenn Busby of SPG Management Consultants.