Many people operating businesses in the travel and tourism industries will be familiar with the long-running false billing scams perpetrated by Amanda Jane Stichbury and her companies Accommodation Find Pty Ltd, Internet Find Pty Ltd, and Special Days Pty Ltd.
Many businesses were sent either invoices or renewal letters concerning advertising on her large network of websites. Most advertisements were never ordered or authorised, so some businesses were tricked into paying the invoices that arrived, assuming it was an ongoing service.
Some of the websites that Amanda Stichbury set up had names that closely resembled names of official government tourism authorities, confusing and potentially deceiving many business owners. This attracted significant attention from many tourism bodies across Australia who regularly published warnings about the sorts of invoices and renewal letters that Amanda Stichbury and her network of websites were regularly sending out.
In 2014, Amanda Stichbury was fined almost $20,000 for breaching Australian Consumer Law in regards to unsolicited invoices and requests for payments. However, this didn’t deter her from continuing her existing business model which was recently described by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) in Queensland as being “based almost entirely on deception” and “preying upon time-poor businesses“.
In January 2017, Amanda Stichbury was fined a further $50,000 in the Southport Magistrates Court after a lengthy investigation by the OFT. A total of 166 charges were made, including:
- sending another person an invoice for unsolicited services
- making false and misleading representations
Businesses across Australia, not just those in the travel and tourism industry, were on the receiving end of unsolicited invoices requesting payment for advertising that was never ordered. The dodgy invoices included wording which implied an existing business relationship, which was false.
While the full extent of Amanda Stichbury’s fraudulent operations may never be known, it is reasonable to conclude that incidents that were brought up in court proceedings were just the tip of the iceberg. Most business owners who identified the invoices and renewals being sent to them as fraudulent simply threw them away and didn’t report it to the appropriate authorities. Some who did pay wrongly assumed it was for a similarly named organisation they already advertised with and just kept paying.
Executive Director of the Queensland Office of Fair Trading, Brian Bauer, commented on the verdict and fine handed down against Amanda Stichbury by the Southport Magistrates Court. He said that it:
- reflected the serious nature of Amanda Stichbury’s offending
- made a clear statement that the behaviour and conduct of Amanda Stichbury has no place in Queensland
- served as a warning to others who thought of adopting Amanda Stichbury’s deceptive business model
He also said that the OFT will “continue to vigorously pursue any unscrupulous traders” like Amanda Stichbury who intentionally mislead other businesses.
If you have received a fraudulent invoice from Amanda Stichbury, Accommodation Find Pty Ltd, Internet Find Pty Ltd or Special Days Pty Ltd, you can report it at www.qld.gov.au/fairtrading.
Amanda Stichbury “did not appear apologetic”
Despite being fined almost $20,000 and convicted for similar offences in 2014, the Southport Magistrates Court noted that “Ms Stichbury did not appear apologetic for her behaviour” during proceedings in January 2017. Her lack of remorse contributed to the hefty penalty of $50,000 that was imposed upon her and her companies.
Since 2011, many organisations in the tourism and travel industry have received from their clients copies of fraudulent invoices sent to them by Amanda Stichbury’s network of websites. The big breakthrough in public exposure came when AccomNews published a series of articles about Amanda’s activities a few years ago:
- 26/3/2014 – Unauthorised website listings worry resorts
- 23/8/2015 – SPECIAL REPORT: Beware of being scammed
AccomNews is a leading industry-wide portal providing critical information to those in the accommodation industry and the publisher of the widely distributed monthly Resort News magazine. Their articles received widespread exposure and resulted in many people coming forward who had also received unsolicited bills and renewal letters for advertising they never ordered.
The increasing number of reports being published on the internet about Amanda Stichbury’s fraudulent activities resulted in bad publicity for her business. She contacted a number of the more higher profile publishers, demanding they remove their articles about her. At least one organisation was also threatened with legal action on the basis that the information published about her and her business operations was not only misleading, but was also causing her loss of income. Ironically, while this may have caused her income to reduce, it actually saved many businesses from losing money themselves once they realised the invoices and renewal letters were a scam. In fact, the Office of Fair Trading made it very clear after its successful court action that Amanda Stichbury operated a business model that was “based almost entirely on deception“.
Some of the organisations that published information about Amanda Stichbury’s fraudulent activities include:
- The Queensland justice system in regards to her significant court fine and convictions in 2014
- Several articles by the respected AccomNews publication and Resort News
- A media report on Amanda’s activities broadcast on TV by the ABC during The Checkout show
- Repeated warnings over many years about Amanda Stichbury’s unsolicited invoices and advertising renewal requests by the government tourism organisations Visit Canberra, Tourism Victoria, Destination NSW and South Australian Tourism Commission
- An alert published by the Queensland Tourism Industry Council
- A warning from Hosted Accommodation Australia Ltd about bogus invoices originating from Special Days Pty Ltd
- The Australian Tourism Data Warehouse (ATDW) who informed its members to discard any request for payment from Amanda Stichbury’s companies and websites as they are “scam invoices”
- Copies of fraudulent invoices and renewal notices sent to accommodation providers that were forwarded to tourism organisations and media outlets over many years
- Social media postings by businesses who had received unsolicited invoices from Amanda Stichbury and her websites
Amanda Stichbury has attempted to get negative publicity about her business activities pushed down internet search engine results that referenced her name, company names, website names and phone numbers. This was done by publishing large numbers of web pages with her name in the title or document body in order to dilute any negative page headings that came up. The snippet below of a Google search for her name shows one negative result swamped by other pages created by Amanda Stichbury.
In closing, the Queensland Office of Fair Trading warned all businesses to “be vigilant when paying invoices, ensuring the payments are for services that were legitimately provided“. If this vigilance is exercised, then false billing scams won’t succeed.
“Local fraudster all stitched up”
Queensland Office of Fair Trading
“…Ms Stichbury’s businesses, Accommodation Find Pty Ltd, Internet Find Pty Ltd, and Special Days Pty Ltd, sent unsolicited invoices to several businesses nation-wide requesting they pay for services that were never requested or authorised…Amanda Jane Stichbury pleaded guilty to a total of 166 counts, including sending another person an invoice for unsolicited services, and making false and misleading representations…Ms Stichbury was personally fined $10,000 and three corporations of which she was sole director were fined a total of $40,000…”
“Queensland business owner fined $50,000 after pleading guilty to sending unsolicited invoices”
“…Stichbury was fined $10,000 in the Southport Magistrates Court earlier this month, and her three businesses were fined a total of $40,000…the success and prevalence of such scams are a symptom of a busy society…a successful scam like this can go uncovered for a long time…”