French scammers target UK companies

A number of British companies have reported being duped by French scammers claiming to be professional buyers for hotels and distribution firms.

Details of several examples of attempted fraud have been given to the Daily Mail where companies would be approached with orders on credit in an attempt to obtain the products without paying.

Anna McKay runs a company in Suffolk called Zeez, making electronic sleep aids. She was approached at a trade show in London by a French woman which was then followed up by a £44,000 order for the products on 14 day credit terms. Anna even contacted UK Export Finance, a government department, who ran checks and offered to insure the order.

However she began to have doubts. She told the Mail: “It was little things. Whenever I phoned, I often got through easily. It felt improbable he was rarely in a meeting or on another call.

“Then, at the last minute, he changed the delivery address to a nondescript Paris warehouse.”

She pulled the deal after phoning to speak with the man she was dealing with and someone else called back sounding nothing like him. The Mail later discovered the dispatch address was a storage unit rented for a month in cash and the client had since disappeared, while the address where samples were sent was actually an apartment block on a council estate.

Anna said: “They were exactly the kind of high-end business partner we were looking for, and we were sucked in. It’s heart-breaking.”

The company managed not to lose its stock but still spent thousands of pounds making the product.

Other lucky escapes include an interiors company that almost lost £100,000 on a bogus order for Italian marble tables by French scammers, and another supposed buyer claiming to be from a legitimate French distribution firm who instead had cloned the real company’s website and almost convinced a company in London to supply £100,000 worth of face masks.

UK Export Finance admitted to the Mail in a statement that they lack the powers to detect crime and urge exporters to be vigilant.

Conflict International can help exporters ensure the legitimacy of a potential client with a Due Diligence check, enabling you to find out whether people are who they say they are before wasting valuable time and money.

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