News item

Trading standards warn businesses of marketing scam

Businesses have been put on alert by Croydon Council’s trading standards team about a sham company operating from a mailbox address in the heart of the borough’s commercial district.

Over only three days, officers received 72 complaints relating to a company called Slom Solution Ltd, operating from a virtual rented office mailbox space in the Lansdowne Building, Lansdowne Road, adjacent to East Croydon station.

The address provided for Slom Solution Ltd is only a mailbox, with no persons present.

The complaints have come from all over the UK - from as far north as Orkney, all the way south to Brighton.

The company is sending out deliberately misleading invoices implying that advertising on a web-based directory - www.britishintheweb.co.uk - has been ordered, and seeking payment of £298.68.

Croydon trading standards regularly warns businesses about marketing scams; it’s most recent Business Bulletin warned about almost identical invoices from a company called MAVA Concepts Ltd. Slom and MAVA appear to be linked, with the latest Slom Solution invoices being sent in envelopes stamped with a return address back to MAVA.

Councillor Simon Hoar, cabinet member for community safety, said: “There are multiple versions of this scam known to be operating at the moment, many appearing to be based in Latvia and elsewhere in eastern Europe.

 “Often, the scammers set up a limited company to give it an air of authenticity, and then rent a virtual office mailbox in a well-known or prestigious-sounding address. They don’t submit returns to Companies House, and rarely pay for the rented office facilities.

“Thankfully, none of the reported complaints involve a company that has paid, however it may be that many have, and are not aware they’ve been scammed.

“If these scams didn’t make money they wouldn’t be so popular with criminal organisations.

“We’d recommend businesses not to pay to advertise on these sort of web-based directory sites, which are often poorly designed and temporary in nature. They’re often hosted outside the UK, making it difficult to prevent.

“A quick check on the internet will often highlight these scams - and prevent businesses being tricked.”

Businesses are reminded to check all invoices carefully, especially if they are unsolicited or from companies that they have not heard about. These scams rely on businesses under pressure, or with insufficiently robust payment processing checks, paying these fake invoices automatically without realising.