Cloned firms have been plaguing financial companies across the UK for years and they can be a real nuisance.
A cloned firm essentially ‘clones’ your business details and offers products like insurance, finance or loans under your name. Whether it is run by an individual or team of fraudsters, they will typically take money off a customer but eventually disappear or never end up offering the product – until the victim realises they have been part of a scam.
A lot of well-known UK companies have been victims of cloned firms or impersonation. Speaking to price comparison website, Lending Expert, we give an insight into what to do if your company has been cloned and what to do if you have been a victim.
How To Spot a Cloned Firm
Cloned firms can be hard to spot, because they will go out of their way to look legitimate or present themselves as the real, licensed and regulated company.
Some characteristics could include:
Receiving emails from hotmail, gmail or yahoo address (non-business addresses)
Receive offers for financial products via text messages
Receiving offers for financial products out of the blue
Promise of insurance policies and loans being paid out, guaranteed
Require money upfront to be approved for a loan
As a customer, you need to consider that a legitimate company will have a real company email address and will usually require you to fill in a lot of information before being granted a credit card or loan. This is the opposite with cloned firms or fraudsters, because they want to approve you quickly and get money into their account.
Be wary of unsolicited emails and text messages, especially if the name sounds overly Anglo-Saxon (Smith, Jones, Simpson etc) and you should never have any financial product guaranteed or be required to pay money upfront to receive a financial product.
With insurance, this can be trickier, since you have to pay for an insurance policy, but if you ever suspect something as not being quite right, always check things like companies house, the FCA register or BIBA (British Insurance Brokers Association).
What To Do If Your Company Has Been Cloned
If your company has been cloned, you might see someone else advertising your services through text messages, emails or you might receive a flurry of complaints to your own customer services from victims and unhappy customers.
The first thing to do is to report this to the Financial Conduct Authority (if this is who you are regulated with) and they will file an investigation. Use this link provided: https://www.fca.org.uk/consumers/report-scam/report-scam-unauthorised-firm
In addition, and very importantly, you should encourage any customers or victims to report this to Action Fraud (https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/), which is part of the police. Action Fraud will investigate on behalf of the victims and ideally you need to have testimonies from numerous victims for your case to be strong and for it to be investigated further.
Where possible, try to collate as much information as possible from the victims, using screenshots and any other correspondence.
Note that it can take several months for any action to be taken by the FCA or Action Fraud.
What To Do If You Are a Victim?
If you are a victim of a cloned firm, there are a number of things you should do, including:
Report this to Action Fraud immediately
Contact your bank and report this as fraud
Share any information with the legitimate company to help investigate it further
Being the victim of a scam is never easy, but do not blame yourself, since it is common for Britons to get caught by scams on a daily basis.
Will I Get My Money Back?
If your money has been taken by a scammer or through a cloned firm, it can be unlikely to get your money back, but it is not impossible. If you are quick to contact your bank, it could be refunded if you catch it in time – however, this will need to be very quickly.
If you have reported this to Action Fraud and by chance, the fraudsters are caught and sentenced, they could potentially be forced to pay back the money to you through court. This would be a long process, but it is certainly viable and highlights the important to speak to Action Fraud as soon as possible.