Is Renting A Virtual Office Duping The Customers?
Recently it was found that a Canadian based company that advertised a businees address in the USA but it was an address for a virtual office. The Website advertised its phone number which waas the same as their Canda physical location.
There is at least one and maybe more companies based in the USA that advertise intrnational offices when they, too, are virtual offices.
Is this fraud or duping an unsuspecting public?
Read about these Virtual Office Companies and make up your own mind up.
Time to shut these dodgy offices for the dodgy dealers
by Patrick Collinson
It’s the prestigious address that gives an air of authenticity...
It only costs a few hundred pounds to rent a “virtual office” that redirects mail and phone calls. What could be more respectable than, say, an office in Tower 42, still better known as the former NatWest Tower and an icon of the London skyline?
One (person), though, had her suspicions. She decided to do a bit of her own investigating, and rang the number in Tower 42.
The office was managed by Regus, the self-styled “world’s largest provider of flexible workspace”. By doing her research, she found thay had a mail forwarding facility and not a physical presence in the sksycraper. But the Regus person answering the phone gave her the impression that the company had a team of people occupying level seven of the tower.
(But she) persisted. Had there been other calls? Had there been complaints? She was again assured by Regus that there had not been “any sort of complaints”.
But our caller was cruelly deceived. However, and rather brilliantly, she had the sense to tape the conversation – and it has provided vital evidence for prosecution.
(Recently), Regus was found guilty at the City of London magistrates court and fined £11,000 plus £16,600 costs.
But Regus – which made an operating profit of £104.3m in 2014 – was lucky to get off so lightly.
It turns out that four months earlier, Regus had been contacted by the City of London Corporation’s trading standards team, worried that their temporary tenant in Tower 42 had the hallmarks of a typical “boiler room” investment scam, involving the sale of worthless or nonexistent commodities like diamonds and wine, or “carbon credits”.
There are rules about mail forwarding services (yes, I’m surprised they exist) and for once they are being enforced. Office providers are required by the London Local Authorities Act 2007 to hold detailed records on their client firms. Regus did not – and was found guilty of four breaches of the act.
Servcorp, another multinational provider of temporary offices, has been little better. In December last year the City of London police and trading standards offices called in at its “stunning skyscraper” Dashwood House, just minutes from Liverpool Street station in the heart of the City. They asked to inspect the records Servcorp held on clients, a significant number of whom were suspected of fraudulent activity.
The act required Servcorp to keep records open for inspection at all reasonable times. But it couldn’t comply with the request for another two months – and, when it did, its records were inadequate. A fortnight ago it was ordered to pay £21,000 in fines and £11,500 in costs after pleading guilty to seven offences under the act.
Of course, not every occupant of Servcorp’s space in Dashwood House or Regus’s offices in Tower 42 are crooks. But in both instances Servcorp and Regus were the enablers to fraudsters hoping to dupe the public with prestige office addresses. A quick search of the Financial Conduct Authority’s database unearths seven official warnings about dodgy firms in Dashwood House, and 14 in Tower 42. We can’t say if every one of them were Regus or Servcorp clients, but it’s not a happy record.
The City of London trading standards has said it will “not tolerate office providers which allow suspected boiler room operations to develop in their sites”. In a statement, Regus said these were “isolated incidents” and “enhanced safeguards have been put in place to prevent any future repetition”.
So, why would a foreign background check comapny put a new company in a virtual office?