A scrap metal trader is warning other companies to be vigilant after discovering his company’s details were being used to allegedly swindle overseas traders out of their deposits.
Midlands-based Metal Interests, which trades in ferrous and non-ferrous secondary metals domestically and internationally, was alerted to the con when it received a call from the British High Commission in India. It was enquiring about the company which it thought had invited Indian scrap traders to visit the company’s scrap yard in the UK.
However, Metal Interests knew nothing about the correspondence, and found that it was actually a company trading under the name Metal Interest which had contacted the Indian traders.
Not only is the supposedly fraudulent company using a similar name, but it is also advertising the full Chichester site address and AQSIQ [export number] of the original Metal Interests on global trading forum Alibaba.com. The only way the company can be contacted is by an email address in Metal Interest’s name and a mobile number. The supplier’s name is given as McDonald Gordon.
Metal Interests director Ian Payne said: “We’re assuming he is doing it for the 30% deposits [that traders put down to secure material] because he certainly hasn’t got any material. As far as we know, he hasn’t got any money from anyone yet. It is an easy way to make money out of our name.”
When MRW tried calling the allegedly fraudulent Metal Interest the phone rang using a foreign ringtone but no-one picked up. The second time MRW called several minutes later the phone was switched off.
Payne said that two months ago he had received calls from several Japanese and Indian traders who were interested in the material they had been offered by the company. But it was soon realised that the companies had been offered the material by Metal Interest and not the legitimate Metal Interests.
“The material that had been offered to the Japanese company was such a low price that I was surprised it was following it up because, personally, I would have been suspicious. It had been offered brass swarf for $1,500 a tonne,” explained Payne.
He said the police are unable to do anything until the said company actually takes another company’s money fraudulently.
“It is very frustrating for us. It hasn’t affected our business yet, but that’s not to say it won’t in the future. We might get a call from someone who does end up paying a deposit and receiving no material, thinking we’re the false company. I’m sure we’re not the only company that has had this problem.”
A report by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) published earlier this year found that small companies are losing up to £800 a year to fraud and online crime, with 54% of them a victim of such crime in the past 12 months.
Speaking when the report was published, FSB home affairs chairman Mike Cherry said:“The internet is a huge and unregulated area, but businesses have to have confidence that there are at least some structures there to support them.
“It is important that the Metropolitan Police’s E Crime Unit and the National Fraud Reporting Centre work hand in hand to set up an effective system to gather intelligence and use it to investigate and prosecute when this crime occurs. Businesses are currently simply being left very exposed.”