Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Corporate Scam Warning – University purchase orders. Be aware!

Goods ordered via our company www.coachandpeshop.com

People and businesses in the uk need to urgently make sure they are aware of this scam doing the rounds. We discovered prior to actual delivery of the goods that it was a scam so never actually lost the stock. But this process caused us significant commercial and financial inconvenience and as we are so frustrated at the police response to it, we feel that it’s vital for companies to work together to at least make it difficult for these people to gain more victims. In fact, we actually worked out the whole scam ourselves and attempted to trap them, on our own. It could have been successful had we received any amount of interest from the police who made the process arduous, complicated and don’t seem to have the ability to get past red tape and out of date computer systems to be able to go out and catch these people.
With what we now know it feels that the police services are very reluctant or tied up with bureaucracy that would enable them to actually do anything about some fraud. For me, £11,000 is £11,000. Whether that money exits your bank account with a paper trail fraud or over the counter in an armed robbery it’s still the same value of loss. So why is it treated on such a low scale? The truth is it seems that it’s the perfect crime. Because the police are mostly unable or unwilling to do anything about it. So perhaps the only thing left is for the business community to work together to dismantle and prevent these people as best we can. When I googled the fake email addresses they used for example, nothing came up. We need to work together to help and protect small companies. We are a small family business and this would equate to major loss. Others are being caught out to.
Our delivery to the scammers

So what happened?
We received a request to quote from the ‘University of Greenwich’. The quote is sent from email address that are created to pretend to be real people from the university. V.m.john@gre-edu.co.uk is the email used. Vincent John is indeed a real person at the university. He is completely innocent and also should receive more help from police to stop his name being used in this way. The university are aware of this and informed us that the scammers also use other fake email addresses. They use v.m.john@netscape.com and v.m.john@netscape.co.uk These emails are all fake. There is then communication from the ‘finance department’ of the university who raise and 'official purchase order' from i.a.pacheco@gre-edu.co.uk If you check these people out you will find that they are real and genuine and this helps make the scam believable. As it transpires the latter finance lady left the university at Christmas. People should also be aware of Telephone number's they use. +44 (7) 0319 83789 & +44 (7) 024089890 The products ordered also make it more believable. In this case, blood pressure monitors. Quite a normal product for a university to order and not typical multimedia devices stolen to resell in the back streets. The quote also requires you to agree to net 30 day terms. Not unusual in education. But an essential element to the scam.

What the scammers do then is chase a delivery address and in particular a tracking number. Two things alerted us to an issue, one the desperation to get a tracking number. I've dealt with universities for years and this has never happened. Secondly, the delivery address was peculiar. The address Greenwich Surrey Division Centre, Access House, 141 Morden Road, Mitcham, Surrey, CR4 4DG. When we manually checked this ourselves we could see it was serviced offices and storage center. In the meantime the scammers chased a precise delivery time and we now had very heightened concern. In our last process we would always do last checks to prevent fraud. Our feeling was now that although we had these goods ready we were not going to deliver until we were absolute confidence it was genuine and also, we would not use any third party courier, instead we would deliver ourselves. We then went online ourselves to get a genuine phone number for the university and within five minutes we spoke to the procurement department who told us they knew about this issue. They had previously reported it to police.

At this point we contacted the police. I felt that this was a great opportunity to actually catch these people and stop them doing this to other people. I was sure the scammers would need to go to the depot to meet the consignment and could be caught. In total I made circa 15 phone calls to police on 101 and other numbers. What I found was firstly, each force seem to not know who should deal with it. We contacted the Metropolitan police thinking it was them as the delivery address is London and its Greenwich University being targeted. The first issue was the computer systems. They don’t seem to be able to easily find linking crimes and University of Greenwich gave us a crime number they didn’t recognise. This was last Thursday I was thinking we can catch them. I gave up and found a taskforce team in the Met called The Falcon team. When you read what they do on the website and under operation Sterling. "Preventing economic crime”. Perfect, these will love this. My enthusiasm was soon dampened. The guy there didn’t think we could do anything about this for a number of reasons. Time, paperwork, authority, stepping on another officers toes, wrong county etc. Nice understanding guy though, but another 45 minutes wasted. They also said that it maybe a waste of time becasue typically in cases like this, it wont be the actual fraudster at the receiving end. More likely a runner they can sacrifice and when stopped they don't get anywhere. But to me, i thought, well, don't approach him then, follow him? A runner starting at point A still needs to go to point B to make an onward delivery? I was told at this point about human rights and red tape restrictions. He said we should contact Bedfordshire police and Action Fraud. I contacted Bedfordshire police for a second time. They had a different view, they couldn’t do anything. Well into the afternoon I finally got a call from Wimbledon Police station. A sergeant there. Actually, he was great. He said things like, “I know, for a small family business to be targeted like this is terrible and we should try to do something”. I told him that I was in two minds to go to the delivery address myself to try and meet these people. Of course he advised against that. As we now ran out of time I tried to delay the ‘customer/scammer’. I convinced them that we had issues with the delivery and would deliver tomorrow (Friday). I wanted more time to get the police to set something up. I then followed the advice given by the met and Bedfordshire police to contact Action Fraud. They said that it could then come back to them to deal with. I called them, spent another hour or so on the phone for them to finish telling me that they are a civilian organisation and actually, they can’t do anything. They just record it and pass it on.
Friday came and after more failed calls to action I decided to go to the delivery address myself with the customer (scammer) thinking we would indeed go ahead and that we were a courier. I got there at the agreed time and went into the company reception at Access Storage Depot, Croydon. This was the delivery address on the purchase order. It quickly was apparent that they are in no way in on this scam. They told me that only that morning TNT had attempted another delivery for this fake company name ‘Greenwich Surrey Division Centre’ at that address that morning and he had refused it because they have no storage or office customer of that name. That baffled me further until the penny dropped and the scam process was completed in my mind. They know the tracking number and are so keen to get it. Because they know the parcel will be refused and taken back to the courier depot. They simply go to the local depot when they know the driver is due back. They show a fake photo ID with the fake company name and collect the goods. The supplier invoices the University and expects payment in 30 days. Which of course never arrives as the university never ordered the goods in the first place. 
This makes the lack of police action even more frustrating, because me a civilian have managed to get to the end game of this scam and could just as easy go to the parcel depot and trap and catch them red handed collecting the parcel.
Today I decided to update ActionFraud and pass onto them my sense of the police acceptance of this crime and my frustration at the ease of which these people can operate without feeling the threat being caught due to the broken systems and communication breakdowns between forces/taskforces and ActionFraud. For me they should be called NoActionFraud.

In the end, I did send these people a delivery, I sent them a box of broken polystyrene and a nice poem instead of the goods they tried to steal. I hope they like it. In the meantime, keep your business safe and share information like this to stop these scumbags taking from our hard working small companies.