TT258: Beware! More Fraudulent fee scams! EU VAT registration scam!
You might have been previously aware of fraudulent letters being sent from Eastern Europe to UK businesses in regard to Intellectual Property registration fees. These letters look like official letters from the Intellectual Property registrar in Europe. They imply that in order to be properly registered in an official directory you need to respond to the letter. However, if you read the small print on the rear (which is often in a very faint font!), you will see that by replying to the letter you are agreeing to be listed in a private directory and paying an exorbitant fee for the privilege. This is, of course, completely unnecessary as the online Intellectual Property database is completely free to access. This is sharp trading and probably fraudulent as it misleads the consumer, but many people are caught by it.
Today we received a new twist on the same scam in the post.
This new letter explains that all companies are required to provide their VAT registration number on various documents under European law (which is true, you must provide your VAT number on certain official company paperwork) and the sender, as a publisher of the Internet portals, is required to update its database. They then invite you to check the information on an attached form and sign and return the form to them. They go on to say that the data will be published on their corporate portal on the Internet. However, reading the small print (which is not in the covering letter) by signing and returning the form you are agreeing to a £797 annual fee. The fee is renewable automatically unless you opt out by registered letter three months before the next annual renewal date. You are bound to German law in trying to enforce your rights.
Despite the official tone set by this letter you have no obligation to register on a private Internet directory to display your business information or VAT number. In our opinion, this is another version of the old scam whereby somebody would telephone your office and ask to “check your address details for our directory” and then invoice you, claiming you (or whoever had answered the phone) had entered into a contract for advertising by having your name in the said directory.
We advise that you should ignore any such letters received, and if you can be bothered you might report them to trading standards at http://www.nationaltradingstandards.uk/
Finally, we have just become aware of a new phishing email purporting to come from HM Revenue & Customs. This email is titled “Your 2016 tax report”. These emails are confirmed as being fraud attempts and should not be opened and any links or documents within them should also not be opened.
As ever with these things, if you have any doubt then you are probably correct!Talk to Barnes Roffe today