How to Identify Fraudsters
Every day of the week, educated professionals hand over huge sums of their hard earned cash to people they believe are highly respectable, only to discover at a later date the individual and their firm are far from legitimate, if they exist at all! Why are these ordinarily shrewd victims taken in? The answer is simple, the offender looks and talks the part; why they even have a prestigious City address and frequent exclusive private clubs; they must be legitimate they are up there on stage speaking at a major event.
As all victims learn far too late, the majority of con-artists possess a cruel, predatory nature that is remarkably similar to that of a sex offender who stalks then grooms their vulnerable prey. The victim’s heart sinks deeper when the realisation emerges that the predators veil of respectability would have been lifted instantly, if only they invested 10 minutes of their time to see if the City Slicker’s story stacked-up.
The news that the dangerous beasts are operating in packs and have moved into previously safe territory is a cause for concern. Protecting the vulnerable from the pack requires special tactics and a joint effort by everyone who wants to see the United Kingdom retain its premier financial position.
The Authorities work in packs too
In March 2015, it was reassuring to see the authorities making a London-wide clamp down on suspected investment frauds operating out of some of the capital’s most iconic buildings in the heart of the UK’s main financial districts. ‘Operation Broadway’ was set-up specifically to tackle this organised criminality and on March 19 the multi-agency taskforce went into a number of premises across London.
The visits to 25 office premises in the Square Mile, Canary Wharf and Westminster was a major intelligence-led operation to uncover suspected boiler rooms and alert serviced office providers of the realities of unwittingly providing fraudsters with the prestige addresses to facilitate their crimes.
Spotting the Bogus Office
Detective Superintendent Maria Woodall and her team of villain hunters on Operation Broadway can detect a fraudsters den at 100 meters. Here’s what she recommends you look out for:
- Companies that conduct unusual hours of business
- Companies that do not display their name in reception areas
- Staff that are young, brash and unruly
- Staff who read from pre-prepared scripts
- Staff using false names
- Staff using a company trading name that is false and/or use multiple names
- Companies that make up front cash payments and choose short term leases
The 10 minute test that can protect you
Victims don’t have to wait until they get a call from the police or bank to discover they have been defrauded by a person or organisation they purported to be. A few minutes spent online using fraud prevention tools to carry out due diligence can help you verify information about people, addresses and companies before you do business with them.
Here are just a few of the free checks a potential victim can do online to see if the person they’re dealing with is the real deal:
- Professionals have a linked-in profile, even Military heroes. Is there a photograph and is it the same person the victim has met? Are they linked to known, respected professionals? Do their connections include people who work for companies they claim to have worked at? Does their career history and education look and sound genuine?
- Gregarious people are sociable. Do they have a Facebook and/or Twitter account? If so, how long have they had it? How active are they online. Do they and their friends appear professional? Do their messages and photographs make you suspicious? If they have no account, why is that?
- Every entrepreneur and business person in the UK from the talented teenagers to seasoned senior citizens know that incorporating a company is the first step to success. A high flyer may be a founder or director of tens of companies. Does the person in question have companies or directorships? If so, how are they doing? Are any dissolved or in liquidation? Are they a disqualified director? Search the register here:
- If there’s no record of them on companies house or anywhere on the internet, why is that?
- If you believe you are dealing with a company and are then given details that are those of a personal bank account rather than a business one be suspicious.
- Lastly, if the professional gives their mobile number, run it through Google and see where it pops-up. If they give an address, take a look on Google Earth and see if it matches their description. If you have a photograph of them, right click on the image, copy the URL and search for it in Google images or www.tineye.com to see if it appears anywhere else (especially useful if dating online).
Start checking free of charge by visiting these websites:
- Persons Subject to Sanctions in the UK
- VAT number verification
- Corruption Perceptions Index by Country
- International Company Search database
- Linkedin network
- Companies House
- ICIJ’s Database of leaked offshore accounts
- HM Land Registry
- Private Eye Registry
- Authorised Financial Services firms
- Unauthorised Financial Services Firms Register
- Financial Conduct Authority fines imposed
- Insolvency Service
- Individual Insolvency Register
- Insolvency Register Scotland
- Insolvency Register Northern Ireland
- Check a law firm is regulated
- Check a Solicitors Record.
- Register of Medical Practitioners
- Register of Nurses and Midwives
- Register of Dentists
- Accountant misdescribers
- Free Register of UK Births, Marriages and Deaths
- HMRC advice on how to spot and avoid VAT scams
- D&B D‑U‑N‑S® Number Lookup
- Higher Education Degree Datacheck
Remember, with £1.73bn to spend, it’s small wonder the fraudster has a big smile and can afford a nice suit
It’s easy to see why victims fall prey to the sharply dressed con-artists, they invest a lot in building their image. According to official figures, last year (Oct 2013-Sep 2014) more than £1.73 billion was reported to Action Fraud that had been lost to fraudsters by 5,252 investors across the UK, lured into handing over anything from a few pounds to several hundreds of thousands of pounds. The City of London Police, which is the National Lead Force for Fraud Investigation and home to Action Fraud and the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB), uses its expertise, advanced software and access to millions of reports of fraud to calculate that each City-based boiler room is making, on average, almost £1.25 million.
Investment fraud victims are lured into schemes with the promise of being able to make high percentage returns on investments when the truth is their cash is simply used to cover the costs of the boiler rooms and fund the fraudsters luxury lifestyle and build that veil of respectability.
Corporate organisations also fall prey to this
Like Individuals and smaller businesses, larger firms are not immune to the hypnotic charms of the most talented bogus professional. They too can fall foul and must be wary of additional tricks that are used to appear legitimate and disguise fraudulent activity. An emerging trend is to hide identities and other facts behind a complex web of international businesses. Facts such as directorships can be hidden within the small print of huge documents that are in multiple languages. The Bogus professional will leave clues that exposes them or raises red warning flags. Careful examination of these documents will reveal those inconsistencies. Experts in regulated professions know what to look for and the AMLiss™ is a useful tool to mitigate this tactic being used by criminals.
Reporting fraudsters before they vanish with your money
The police encourage those who suspect a fraud has been committed or is about to be committed to report the incident to www.actionfraud.police.uk or call 0300 123 2040.