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Commercial Register Scam – what to do if they chase you for payment

I first wrote about this particular issue in February of this year in an article entitled 10 reasons why Commercial Register is a scam and it seems that they haven’t gone away.

What is the Commercial Register Scam?

For those of you new to this, the scam is simple; pre-populate an official looking letter, send it to legitimate companies across the UK and ask them to confirm that their company details are correct. Sometimes it’s from the England Commercial Register or the Wales Commercial Register but in all cases it’s the same thing.

Very few people bother to read the small print which commits them to £863 a year for three years and no real way of cancelling.

A simple search on Google will uncover a number of companies who have been hit by this particular scam and all have the same tale; of receiving letters effectively demanding money with menaces.

Following a conversation with one of these companies this week I now have a copy of the letter that they send which I can show you. On top of this, there are some suggestions below as to why you shouldn’t pay them any money at all.

In this particular case, the letter was dealt with by one of the admin staff in the business and the form duly returned. Even worse, once the invoice arrived for the first year it was paid by the Accounts Team but when it was raised as a query to one of the Directors they realised that it was a scam.

Sadly, this is an all too familiar tale. To try and limit the damage they sent a cancellation email immediately to the company.

This is the letter they got back (Please note that in this letter and all others I have redacted the company name and other identifying details).

Commercial Register Scam Letter 1

A few things stand out clearly on this.

  • The letter appears to come from the ‘Legal Department’ although we very much doubt that such a department exists. This is supported by the fact that there is no named individual at the bottom, only ‘Legal Department’
  • The signature is illegible so you cannot enter into a conversation or correspondence with an individual
  • The official looking handstamp in the middle actually contains a spelling mistake [Note to scammers – always check your spelling, it’s a giveaway…]
  • They have a disclaimer at the bottom telling you that they have moved their web address for ‘commercial reasons’.
  • There are a series of characters arranged vertically in the right-hand margin which is supposed to look official but their purpose, other than that, is not immediately obvious.
  • Finally, it threatens to pass you to their ‘debt recovery and litigation firm’ if you don’t pay up.

The next page is slightly more interesting as it gives you some more information about the business.

Commercial Register Scam Letter 2

We can see that they have a bank account (which means that any fraud agencies reading this should be able to nail them quite quickly….) stating;

Account Holder: Direct Publisher S.L.U.

Bank: Ibercaja Banco S.A.

BIC: CAZRES2Z

IBAN: ES87 2085 9285 6703 3035 2169

You could also send a cheque to this address;

Direct Publisher S.L.U.

Calle Fuencarral 160, Entpta. 7

28010 Madrid

Espana

This is crucial evidence;

The address is an apartment in a block in Madrid which looks like this;

Calle Fuencarral 160, Entpta. 7 28010 Madrid Espana

In all probability, it’s a rented apartment and the chances of finding anyone there who will admit responsibility for this scam is slim but…. as we will see later, they could actually be in here.

We now also have their complete bank account details which should make it fairly easy to pinpoint.

In this case, the firm disputed the charge, not for the first year which they had already paid but for subsequent years.

They received an email back from someone calling themselves Ella King from the Customer Service Department, highlighting the fact that as they had paid the first instalment they were liable for the rest.

Commercial Register Scam Letter 3

It’s worth noting that they were using what appears to be a dubious email account drp133-1@emaildp.com which hardly seems legitimate.

The email suggests that there is no getting out of the contract and that the company must pay up or else. It also suggests that by paying the first invoice you are liable for all others which is incorrect.

If you don’t pay up then they send another letter saying that it will be placed in the hands of their International Debt Collection agency. This threat of debt recovery frightens many people into paying up.

Before we drive a wedge into this scam let’s be clear; you should not pay them a penny.

In the case of the business we spoke to, then even if this was a legitimate advertising scheme there are significant holes in this agreement. Specifically, we note that;

  • The form is not signed by a director or authorised signatory of the company, therefore, it cannot be an official order.
  • If you read the small print the contract is virtually impossible to cancel. According to the small print in point 1, it states that “To be valid, cancellations must be effected in writing by registered mail with confirmation of the receipt”.
  • The big problem with this is that even if you were to send a Registered Letter via Royal Mail, as soon as the mail is passed to Correos in Spain it is completely out of Royal Mail control. Correos cannot guarantee a signature and so neither can Royal Mail. Without the signature, according to their T&C’s, you don’t have a valid cancellation. On this basis, you will never be able to comply with their condition which makes it unreasonable and therefore invalid.
  • They have not delivered what they promised. The original contract and letter was for com-reg but they have mysteriously moved to comm-reg and the original com-reg domain has vanished without a trace. There is no valid explanation for this nor is there any redirection on the old site to the new one.
  • Payment for year one does not make you liable for all subsequent years, especially if they cannot deliver what we first promised (an advert on com-reg)

Now, if we use a UK based example to draw a parallel, imagine if you entered into a contract with yell.com and suddenly overnight, the website disappeared but there was a new website called yelll.com on which your advert appeared.

Imagine then if they didn’t put a link between the old and new websites and offered no explanation on the old website as to why they had moved. Would you still be happy to pay for your advertisement?

What are your options if they demand payment?

Just say no.

No one can be sure what will happen and it could end up with debt collectors as they promise. Given the size of the debt, however, it’s unlikely that they will pursue you, especially as if they do and you take it to court they will have to reveal who and where they are.

Report them to Action Fraud on 0300 123 20 40 and keep a record of doing so. The more people who do this the bigger the requirement for them to take action.

Don’t enter into correspondence with them. Ignore their letters and they should go away. There doesn’t appear to be a single instance anywhere online of anyone who has been pursued for this ‘debt’.

If you have already started corresponding with them then stop it immediately.

If they persist then get the best Lawyer you can to send them a letter threatening them with legal action unless they cease and desist.

Keep a record of the time you have spent dealing with this. If it ever did come to court then if you have tracked the time spent you can make it clear that you will invoice them for your time spent dealing with their fraudulent claim

If they persist tell them that you are involving Trading Standards and the Police. There’s more about this on the Companies House website

Who is behind this Commercial Register scam?

The original domain had all its details hidden but since it has disappeared the good news is that the registrant’s details have miraculously appeared online.

They are as follows;

Domain Name: COM-REG.COM

Registry Domain ID: 1955882685_DOMAIN_COM-VRSN

Registrar WHOIS Server: whois.godaddy.com

Registrar URL: http://www.godaddy.com

Update Date: 2015-08-28T09:39:19Z

Creation Date: 2015-08-28T09:39:19Z

Registrar Registration Expiration Date: 2017-08-28T09:39:19Z

Registrar: GoDaddy.com, LLC

Registrar IANA ID: 146

Registrar Abuse Contact Email: email@godaddy.com

Registrar Abuse Contact Phone: +1.4806242505

Domain Status: clientTransferProhibited http://www.icann.org/epp#clientTransferProhibited

Domain Status: clientUpdateProhibited http://www.icann.org/epp#clientUpdateProhibited

Domain Status: clientRenewProhibited http://www.icann.org/epp#clientRenewProhibited

Domain Status: clientDeleteProhibited http://www.icann.org/epp#clientDeleteProhibited

Registry Registrant ID: Not Available From Registry

Registrant Name: Fernando Mancho Palacios

Registrant Organization:

Registrant Street: Fuencarral n.160, Entreplanta, 7.puerta

Registrant City: Madrid

Registrant State/Province: Madrid

Registrant Postal Code: 28010

Registrant Country: ES

Registrant Phone: +34.656314215

Registrant Phone Ext:

Registrant Fax:

Registrant Fax Ext:

Registrant Email: email@gmx.com

Registry Admin ID: Not Available From Registry

Admin Name: Fernando Mancho Palacios

Admin Organization:

Admin Street: Fuencarral n.160, Entreplanta, 7.puerta

Admin City: Madrid

Admin State/Province: Madrid

Admin Postal Code: 28010

Admin Country: ES

Admin Phone: +34.656314215

Admin Phone Ext:

Admin Fax:

Admin Fax Ext:

Admin Email: email@gmx.com

Registry Tech ID: Not Available From Registry

Tech Name: Fernando Mancho Palacios

Tech Organization:

Tech Street: Fuencarral n.160, Entreplanta, 7.puerta

Tech City: Madrid

Tech State/Province: Madrid

Tech Postal Code: 28010

Tech Country: ES

Tech Phone: +34.656314215

Tech Phone Ext:

Tech Fax:

Tech Fax Ext:

Tech Email: email@gmx.com

Name Server: NS45.DOMAINCONTROL.COM

Name Server: NS46.DOMAINCONTROL.COM

DNSSEC: unsigned

URL of the ICANN WHOIS Data Problem Reporting System: http://wdprs.internic.net/

>>> Last update of WHOIS database: 2017-06-23T11:00:00Z <<<

Even though this website no longer exists the registrants’ details are now in plain sight and we now know it is Fernando Mancho Palacios who, surprise, surprise, lives at Fuencarral n.160, Entreplanta, 7.puerta, the very same address to which you can send a cheque for payment.

Perhaps we have our “Entrepreneur” at last?

Meanwhile, the new website has its details still hidden but there are some contact details including a phone number. The registration appears to be in Barcelona so it could be their new web hosting company.

Domain Name: comm-reg.com

Registry Domain ID: 2108868468_DOMAIN_COM-VRSN

Registrar WHOIS Server: whois.entorno.com

Registrar URL: http://www.entorno.es

Updated Date: 2017-03-28T14:50:35.0Z

Creation Date: 2017-03-28T10:23:49.0Z

Registrar Registration Expiration Date: 2018-03-28T10:23:49.0Z

Registrar: Entorno Digital, S.A.

Registrar IANA ID: 696

Registrar Abuse Contact Email:

Registrar Abuse Contact Phone: +34.935942101

Domain Status: ok https://www.icann.org/epp#ok

Registry Registrant ID:

Registrant Name: Entorno Digital S.A. (Whois Privado) .

Registrant Organization: Entorno Digital S.A. (Whois Privado)

Registrant Street: C/ Santa Anna, 32

Registrant City: Cerdanyola del Valles

Registrant State/Province: Barcelona

Registrant Postal Code: 08290

Registrant Country: ES

Registrant Phone: +34.935942101

Registrant Fax: +34.5921445

Registrant Email: entorno4621982@servicio-whois-privado.com

Registry Admin ID:

Admin Name: Entorno Digital S.A. (Whois Privado) .

Admin Organization: Entorno Digital S.A. (Whois Privado)

Admin Street: C/ Santa Anna, 32

Admin City: Cerdanyola del Valles

Admin State/Province: Barcelona

Admin Postal Code: 08290

Admin Country: ES

Admin Phone: +34.935942101

Admin Fax: +34.5921445

Admin Email: entorno4621982@servicio-whois-privado.com

Registry Tech ID:

Tech Name: Entorno Digital S.A. (Whois Privado) .

Tech Organization: Entorno Digital S.A. (Whois Privado)

Tech Street: C/ Santa Anna, 32

Tech City: Cerdanyola del Valles

Tech State/Province: Barcelona

Tech Postal Code: 08290

Tech Country: ES

Tech Phone: +34.935942101

Tech Fax: +34.5921445

Tech Email: entorno4621982@servicio-whois-privado.com

Name Server: ns1.entornodns.com

Name Server: ns2.entornodns.com

DNSSEC: unsigned

URL of the ICANN WHOIS Data Problem Reporting System: http://wdprs.internic.net/

Summary

It seems unlikely that this cam will be going away anytime soon. Businesses all over the UK will still receive these letters and be fooled into a £2,500 contract for a tiny advertisement on a nondescript and invisible website.

If you have received one of these, don’t fill it in and return it.

If you have done so then ignore any demands for payment

And finally, if in doubt, get a good lawyer on the case. Given that this scam emanated from Spain the chances of them actually pursuing you through the UK courts is tiny.

If we hear anything more about this we will write another article to update you.

 

 

Commercial Register Scam Letter

10 reasons why Commercial Register is a scam

[UPDATE June 2017 – we’ve just added a new article about this here which tells you what to do if they demand payment. Summary; it’s still a scam but we’ve identified the man behind it!]

If you’ve been unfortunate enough to receive a letter in the post from something called Commercial Register you could be forgiven for thinking that it was something official. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.

It’s a scam. Pure and simple.

Everything about this form screams ‘official’ and the language used within it is specifically designed to make you take action. Immediately.

The inclusion of simple words like ‘deadline’, ‘promptly’ and ‘compliance’ all lead you, at first glance, to believe that you must do something with this form.

Take our advice and put it in the bin.

Commercial Register Scam Letter

Here are ten good reasons why this is nothing more than a modern-day confidence trick.

1. The Name Commercial Register

If you check the name ‘Commercial Register’ on Google you will find that currently, the first result is a Saudi Arabian Government website and the next result down talks about the Commercial Register of firms in Switzerland. In fact, the more you look down the list of page one results on Google the more you would think that this is something official. Everything on that page is about official Government departments.

The truth is that the name has been chosen to deliberately confuse you. It is NOT to do with any Government department at all.

2. There is a barcode on the letter and the form

Barcodes on letters aren’t common. They are however quite prevalent on letters you may receive from places like HMRC or other Government departments. The inclusion of these ‘barcodes’ are simply there to visually suggest that this is an official letter.Bogus Barcode

Of course, if it was a real barcode then there would by a series of numbers underneath it and their absence tells you everything you need to know. In reality it’s not a barcode at all, it’s just a series of lines. So, the proclamation at the top of page two which says ‘This form is designed to be read by machine’ might actually be true, but it certainly won’t be reading the barcode.

3. There is a big green box saying ‘Filing Deadline’

This is another example of some very clever design. The word deadline is a trigger word for many people. We are all used to deadlines and we all know the consequences of missing a ‘deadline’ when filing an official Government required form like the VAT or PAYE.filing deadline

This form has the deadline in it’s own box to stand out and just above it is the clever wording ‘Please amend and confirm your changes on page 2 and return the form to us as soon as possible’.

Clear instructions there to ‘amend and confirm’ and ‘return the form’ with the final command being ‘as soon as possible’. It’s easy to see how this might be taken as something you have to action immediately.

4. There is a reference number

In a further aping of official letters, it includes a completely bogus reference number. No one uses reference numbers on anything other than ’official’ letters so logically the inclusion of this number is supposed to give it some real importance.

5. The first paragraph commands you to take action

In a continuation of the ‘official’ language the first paragraph clearly says “Your company’s details need to be updated by the above referenced date. Please revise and approve your company’s details promptly”.

How would any of us react when faced with what looks like an official form and it is instructing us to take action immediately?

6. It is ‘signed’ by the Compliance Department

To reinforce the formal language used through the letter and to further frighten you into completing this, the form is ‘signed’ by the Compliance Department. And we all know what compliance departments do, don’t we?

7. The form enclosed already contains your company details

Who on earth sends you forms with all your company details already completed other than official bodies? The fact that it has your business details correctly listed means most people will immediately think that this is something official. And this is the irony.

They are sending you your publicly available business details and asking you to pay them to include them on a website you have never heard of.

8. They don’t use the £ sign

Very clever this bit. The price of the service is hidden in plain view. But what they do is write it as 863GBP which is of course not a way anyone would write a price. You or I would write or type £863 but by adding on GBP after the numbers it is an unfamiliar presentation of the price and deliberately designed to confuse.

Cost

9. There is no contact telephone number

Very helpfully they include a fax number at the bottom of the letter but of course, most of us don’t have a fax machine these days. In fact, other than the fax number the only other piece of contact detail worth anything is the email address which is not available on their website and may simply go to a dead email box. The chances of you being able to turn up at their offices are non-existent as they claim to be based in Madrid.

10. You are committed to paying £2,589 +VAT but they don’t tell you what for

Actually, what you are getting is detailed in small print on the reverse of the form in small letters. It is an image, probably of your logo of just 600 x 350 pixels. For three years as a minimum! Point 5 on the small print suggests that this can be extended beyond the three-year period (presumably if you don’t cancel) and what’s more you have just three weeks to pay them. Or else.

If you visit their website and look for ‘Trades’ you will see the sort of thing they provide and no doubt a list of the companies that have been caught out by this.

Commercial Register Scam Letter

This is the form they want you to complete (company name redacted for the purposes of this blog). DO NOT FILL THIS IN AND SEND IT BACK TO THEM!

Commercial Register Scam Letter

This is the small print that pretty much no one bothers to read…

If you do read the text in the letter, all seven lines of it, you will find the truth of what this is all about. The wording is so condensed that most people simply will not read it, especially as it has been written to deliberately confuse. If you do manage to wade through it though here are the takeaway nuggets;

  • You can see their website online at com-reg.com
  • You can update your basic details for free
  • The form they have sent you contains what they call ‘enhanced data’ (though as it is only your company’s basic data it’s hard to see what is enhanced about this) and if you return the form they will charge you to include this on their website.
  • The Commercial register is not affiliated with public authorities
  • If you return the form, you will be charged
  • You must be a business (as they would never get this scam past the legals if they were targeting individuals).

There’s nothing new with this particular scam. We’ve seen it many times before except previously it used to be done with small printed directories.

The move into the online world now opens up enormous possibilities and there is nothing legally stopping them doing this.

The form, if you read the detail and small print, makes it clear that you are signing up for advertising. The price is clearly stated, twice and the term of the contract is also stated. They could and I’m sure no doubt will, claim that this is purely voluntary and if you choose to return the form you are legally bound to pay for the advertising.

The fact that the advertising is on an obscure website and is ridiculously small is irrelevant. They will claim they are doing nothing wrong.

Summary of Commercial Register

Being a Digital firm we thought it would be interesting to take a slightly deeper look at their website to see if it threw up any clues. Here’s what we found.

  • Their domain is registered with GoDaddy
  • Their IP address is 2.139.237.19 and is in Barcelona, Spain.
  • There are only six domains on that server, com-reg.com, com-reg.org, direct-publisher.com, regitaliano.com, com-reduved.org and regitalia.com
  • They have very few backlinks and nothing from any reputable website.
  • Their domain name ownership is hidden under private registration
  • If you do visit their home page you will see some adverts for companies that have clearly been caught by this scam already.

If you receive a letter from Commercial Register, please do yourself a favour and throw it away immediately.

If you’ve receive one of these letters or have been caught out buy this then feel free to leave a message below.