Typically, the letter requires the addressee company to provide its VAT number and become liable to pay £797 per year for at least three years; after completing the form. The IPA understands that the company then receives an invoice requesting payment to a Bulgarian bank account with non-payment resulting in legal action.
The example seen by the IPA appears to come from a German address with a signature but no name given and merely the title of “Managing Director”. The letter also contains various typos and non-native phrasing which, all taken together, should immediately mark it out as suspicious.
Whilst there have been discussions at EU Commission level about an EU VAT portal, the IPA would like to point out that this is for a different purpose and that this letter is a scam and not a UK legal requirement.
Says IPA Finance Director Tom Lewis: “There is no evidence that UK advertising agencies are being specifically targeted in this relatively unsophisticated fraud, but it does serve as a reminder of the importance of being alert to such scams.”
The IPA recommends the following:
Be wary of, and encourage all staff to question, any combination of the following:
- Badly-written letters / clearly non-native speakers
- Purporting to be from official bodies
- That the business has not dealt with previously
- Based overseas
- With a bank account in a third jurisdiction
- Where few contact details are provided
If you are unsure whether the letter is genuine, check the requirements with either your usual business advisor or the IPA.
Last updated 12/01/2015