How to steer clear of fraud

Fraudsters are implementing increasingly clever tactics in order to steal from unsuspecting people. At Euler Hermes we have seen the impact fraud can have on businesses, so here we share tips to help you keep your business safe:

Pay attention to email addresses

Steer clear of messages from people who say they represent a business but use a Gmail or Hotmail address. If they do use a company name in their email, a quick cut and paste into a search engine will provide an indication – if not proof – that the company is genuine.

Meet at their offices

Offer to visit your prospective customer at their premises. If they decline, that’s a red flag. If they invite you over then a few simple checks will build evidence that it’s a genuine business. Is their branding obvious, are there staff members you can speak to, does it look like the business is established or like they have just moved in?

Use search and social media

Search online for any news stories or other mentions of the business, your contact’s name or the brand. Do the same on social media websites, like Twitter and Facebook, where people are always keen to air their grievances. What are people saying about the business? Remember that if people are saying nothing, that could be a red flag too.

Guard your money

It almost goes without saying, but don’t pay a deposit to secure a contract or hand over money for any other reason without proper checks.

Verify the company's details:

  • Check the website registration details on Whois-Search http://www.whois-search.com/
  • Check the delivery address or registered address using Google Street View or Royal Mail checker
  • Check the VAT and bank details are legitimate and consistent with the credit application form or confirmed by the company.
  • Check trade references and be wary of 0845 numbers, mobile numbers and unusual dialling tones.
  • Be wary of virtual offices.

Check financial statements

  • Confirm that the issued share capital stated in the company’s accounts is consistent with the annual returns
  • Check when the accounts are due to be filed. This will highlight if the accounts have been filed soon after the financial year end.
  • Has the company filed above their requirements, such as in the case of an SME filing a profit and loss account?
  • Do the accounts appear too good to be true? If the accounts are audited, check if they’re registered by clicking here.
  • Still in doubt? Contact the accountants/auditors.

Other checks

  • Look out for poor grammar/spelling on the purchase order form.
  • Exercise caution if the company wishes to collect goods or will not negotiate on price. Also be wary of companies that aren’t local, it could indicate that they are trying the market place
  • Check whether a dormant company suddenly becomes active.
  • Check that the details on the credit application form are consistent with Companies House records, status agent’s reports and Euler Hermes records.

Fraud is a major problem for growing businesses, but by following these tips you can dramatically reduce your chances of falling prey to criminals.

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