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Distribution fraud

What it is

When a company from overseas (usually from Europe) delivers products to the UK, but isn’t paid for the goods or the cost of shipping.

Fraudsters pretend to be from a well-known company or business name to make their order look authentic.

Protect yourself

  • Check the delivery address, phone number and email domain name is genuine if someone has place an order with your business for the first time. Find the company’s website using a search engine and phone them to confirm details.
  • Do some extra research on the Internet. Are there any news reports of criminals imitating this before? Can you see their address on Google Street View?
  • Ask for upfront payment for first-time orders. If you have an online checkout, get them to use it.

Spot the signs

  • Your business gets an email for a large order to be sent to a new address. They buyer says you’ll be paid on delivery.
  • Your business is pressured into making the delivery quickly.
  • Their documents and emails have poor spelling and grammar. If English isn’t your first language, find someone who can check for you.

How it happens

Fraudsters make an order to a company outside the UK by email. They claim to be from a well-known retailer, supermarket or manufacturer based in the UK. They may use an email address that looks very similar to a genuine company and steal their logo.

Orders are usually for a large quantity of expensive products such as food, alcohol or electrical products. They avoid paying for the goods themselves by using fake bank transfer confirmation forms, or by giving the company’s genuine address for the invoice.

They ask for the delivery lorry to send the products to an address that doesn’t belong to the company. In some cases a genuine company delivery address is given on the order, but the driver is contacted while they’re travelling and asked to change the delivery address.

The delivery is picked up by the criminals without payment, and any invoices your business sends to the company’s genuine address can’t be paid.

How to report it

Cancel any orders to the UK address. Contact your delivery driver and tell them to stop their delivery. Find the genuine number for the company the criminals are pretending to be from.

Don’t contact the fake company again, but keep any records of their details and contact with you.

Call us on (+44) 0300 123 2040. You can also report it to us online; write XXXEDFXXX at the start of the free-text box.

Report it to your local police station. If you’re a member of a trade body, tell them so that they can warn others.