Business owners in New Zealand are being targeted by a new scam which has already duped Kiwi's out of $200,000.

The Commerce Commission is alerting businesses across the country that they are under no obligation to pay an invoice being sent in the post by TM Publisher.

The invoice for $1,638 relates to an overseas trade mark registration service, which is not necessarily a service that the recipient has agreed to buy.

The Commission is investigating TM Publisher, a trading company based overseas which claims to offer a web-based trademark registration service.

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TM Publisher's bank account has been frozen while decisions are made about how to deal with the $200,000 in payments that have already been made by New Zealand businesses.

Commerce Commission General Counsel, Mary-Anne Borrowdale, says that unfortunately, this type of pro-forma invoicing model hits New Zealand businesses on a regular basis.

"Businesses are misled into thinking that they are obliged to pay for a service that they have not agreed to,"said Mrs Borrowdale.

"These schemes aim to exploit businesses by sending seemingly legitimate invoices in the hope that companies' will pay them without reading all the fine print.

"In this case, some businesses have paid the fee, not realising that it was for an online listing on a private trade mark directory.

"The trader here uses a similar method to the Corporate Portal and Global Map index letters we've warned about before."

It appears that TM Publisher has used details of the businesses and their trademarks which are available from the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (IPONZ) website as the same details have been used in the letter.

TM Publisher is not connected to IPONZ.

Mrs Borrowdale explained that unlike similar pro-forma trade mark registration schemes this trader has a registered New Zealand address and bank account, in this instance with ANZ Bank NZ, although the trader is based overseas.

"This example is another important reminder for businesses to always be vigilant in checking any unsolicited mail thoroughly, no matter how believable it may seem," added Borrowdale.

If your business has paid this invoice, you may be able to get a refund. Contact the Commission on 0800 943 600.