/ Money, Shopping

Scam watch: how to sniff out a phoney company

Made-up companies will go to extreme lengths to appear legitimate – as Charles discovered when he lost £269 paying for a dishwasher by direct bank transfer.

Charles told us: I­ tried to buy a dishwasher from an online electronics company. It has a sophisticated website which says you can pay by credit card, but the firm contacted me to claim that my transaction had failed. They requested to be paid via bank transfer instead. Like a fool, I transferred £269.

They tried to convince me that the bank transfer hadn’t gone through either. That’s when I began to smell a rat. I’ve­ informed Trading Standards, which confirmed the company is phoney. The address shown to the public is a residential one occupied by someone unconnected with this fraud.

I ­have ­also informed the police, Action Fraud and the price comparison website PriceSpy, which has since removed the company from its database. I accept I won’t get my money back, but don’t want others to suffer the same fate. How can I avoid falling in to this trap again?

Our advice on fake companies

Sadly, you’re correct to assume there’s little you can do on this occasion. You should only ever use a bank transfer with someone you know and trust, and should be extremely suspicious of any company asking you to transfer money in this way.

If an unfamiliar company is selling products at a significant discount, it’s worth searching online for reviews of its service. In this case, you would have found many warnings from others who have been stung by the same company.

It’s good that you have already reported this company to all the appropriate bodies. This case highlights that even the most clued-up consumers can be caught out.


I have a strong dislike of any story where the central “character” is anonymous. You deny me the chance to look at the on-line warnings which are educational – so please provide the info.

Secondly the role of Price Spy is rather glossed over as it would appear partly responsible for giving an authenticity to the rogue site.

The article would be stronger if the scam company was named so please please provide the detail.

I agree and also think Price Spy is liable.

If I buy from an unknown company I always check them out.

First stop is to check the address on goggle maps. Very often it turns out to be a residential house. Depending on the business it may or not be a bad thing. A building with the company’s name on it is a good start. Many industrial estates won’t let you goggle walk around them but there is usually a sign at the front where you might be able to read the names or there might be a website listing all the companies that trade there. If you can’t confirm the company is where is says it is, that could be a warning they are fake.

Search reviews, the company name, address, email address, phone numbers, people, vat number if there is one, anything that might give you information.

Sometimes the search confirms a legitimate company, other times it unveils a whole nest of intrigue and is probably best left alone.

There are many companies that trade under different names across the internet.

Sometimes they have different websites for different types of product, other times they sell the same products at different prices and a product will have a high price tag on one site and a low price on another site.

I assume the reason for having different company names selling the same products is so a company appears to only have a small turnover so avoids taxes.

I have bought from one company website, payment has gone to another company name, and emails have had a different name again. Can all this be legal?

We all keep quiet about it as we have got what we wanted or got a good deal but internet companies are killing off bricks and mortar shops as they manipulate the system to sell cheaper products. Given the choice, I would much rather go and inspect a product before I buy but many products are only available on the internet these days.

It is time internet selling was better regulated to protect purchasers from fraud any maybe save some of our High Street shops.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

First thing I’d do would be to do a domain check of the URL, its amazing how much info criminal types put into their registration details.

Then as alfa says use google maps to see what at the address they use.

It seems Charles paid his £269 by bank transfer. The scammer must have given a bank sortcode and account number. Setting up a bank account involves jumping through multiple authentication hoops.
So I am surprised that the fraudster could not be traced and brought to book. That would mean that the banking system is not secure, which would be worrying- or perhaps tracing is possible but it is not worth anybody’s while to do it- which is also worrying.

I particularly came here to comment on what you already stated. If there’s lack of legislation (eg Data Protection Act hold back banks from releasing their details), it makes a very good case for Which? to take it so banks should supply contact details of a suspected fraudster in order to issue proceeding and bring them to justice.
(Unless, of course, the seller has been located overseas)

Mike says:
28 January 2016

It’s very simple. Do not pay until goods received.

Margaret says:
28 January 2016

I’m very surprised that Charles can’t get his money back because if you pay by Credit Card and can give your bank the details of the of the transfer bank details to their Fraud Department he should get every penny back. I did after I was defrauded of a large sum of money by a bogs Wine company