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11 Mar

„Grandparent scam“ at Companies

Even crooks value habits. For years they have been knitting the same stitches over and over again in order to steal people's money in a dubious way. In doing so, they do not just deprive old people of their cash with the infamous "grandchildren" trick. In addition, they cleverly manage to achieve disreputable mastery on other levels. They are very fond of reaching into the pockets of even seasoned entrepreneurs - and unfortunately many of them often only realize that much too late.   

I have got used early, always check payment requests of all kinds for plausibility and details. With a little practice, I also found out about the rascals among the billers. In the meantime I even know when they will send something to my company address: For example, promptly if something happens in the commercial register, for example. An official invoice from the registry court is due for this. In the slipstream of such official events, the tricksters take action. Mostly they ask for bold invoices several hundred euros for similar services.

In the case of start-ups or in large companies, such “fake bills” are more likely to go undetected - and get paid. Papers like this are often "processed" if they are just a little plausible. The fraudsters have success with “deception and fraud” (this is what the Federal Court of Justice calls this “advertising mail”). Research on the Internet for the sender's imprints and their background costs time and does not always provide the desired information right away - and is therefore usually not done.

In my experience, the “fake mail” can often be easily deciphered. Stay away when invoices for entries in the commercial register or exhibitor directories for trade fairs come and include a transfer slip. Local courts or trade fair organizers who send such letters do not print a form for the payment processing. A look at the bank details of the “invoice recipient” is often revealing too - especially if a transfer to a foreign account is planned.  

Also, pay attention to the fine print. Sometimes it says that it is an optional (possible but not mandatory) fee or that it is just an “offer”. After all, fraudsters want to protect themselves legally. So pay No way!

Anyone who has doubts about the mostly "official" letters are not on their own. Show the questionable paper to your competent Chamber of Commerce and Industry or speak to the local court or trade fair organizer. Your notary or lawyer can also help in case of doubt.

As an entrepreneur, we repeatedly receive requests for payment of this type and other sophisticated variants, which we can literally save ourselves only by paying attention. We therefore have an iron rule: Invoice verification is not a routine matter! - We look at all payment requests with the really big magnifying glass. On top of that, it sometimes helps to have four instead of two eyes.

With Best Regards

Walter Thieme
WTH Managing Director