Online directory scam: welcome to the European Trade Register

Everything seems genuine until you start receiving damn threating emails. It is worse if you have a brand to protect. You feel the pressure as you get worried of the legal battles or parting away with your hard earned money for no value for it. These cyber criminals make life too difficult for you as if you actually owe them a penny. They have all the time to harass you. When you are about to think everything is ok, they send another email. And another phone call. And another letter through the post office. And another email. These criminals are very consistent. They will harass you remotely until you give in and send them the money. Do not make that mistake.


You are not alone.

The good news is, THEY ARE CYBER CRIMINALS. Treat them so. Don’t waste your time responding to them.

Below is my story. It is intended to help you manage those fraudsters. Read carefully and visit the other website links I have highlighted to help you get comfortable.  Many good business people like you have been duped by these scammers.

How it started

In June 2012, I received a well branded email from the European Trade Register, with an attached company registration form to fill so that my company can be listed in the European Business Register. It was too good to be true. I was like, ‘EU wants to list my business in their register. What an opportunity to tap into the European market.”

I must admit that these scammers were smarter than me that day. I downloaded their bogus form, read it and filled it personally. I also asked my colleague, Moses to complete for another company of ours. I told him to sign and email back, as soon as possible, adding: “do it as a priority.”

You need to click here and download this form to see for yourself, how this scheme works.

I don’t know about you. But if you are an entrepreneur, and you receive these people’s email. It is so hard to escape their scam. Reading that form, and completing it, I knew the registration for listing in the EU Trade Register was free of charge. The fact clearly highlighted on the top of the register.

Unknown to me, I was making one of the biggest mistakes of my life.

As a fraud examiner and forensic expert, my advise to clients, friends and colleague is never sign any document without reading it fully. Never sign any binding document in a hurry. Always take your time to read each and every word. If something is too detailed, stop and pause. Have a lawyer review for you. The message is, avoid signing unless you are aware of your benefits and obligations to that contract.

I had failed at my own principles. I did not know that until 12th November 2012. That is when I received my first demand notice of Euro 990 from one Ms Christine, Account Manager, of Tel:  0031 208 080 789; Fax: 0031 205 248 107; P.O. Box 2021, 3500 GA Utrecht, The Netherlands.

Below is the first email I received in full;

From: [email protected] [mailto: [email protected]]
Sent: Tuesday, December 11, 2012 11:24 AM
To: [xx]@[xxx].com (I’ve suppressed my email to protect myself from future spammers)
Subject: Due date for the Invoice no. 130353
Importance: High
Dear Mr [xx]/Accounting Department of [MYCOMPANY NAME],
We are hereby informing you that the invoice number 130353 in the amount of EUR 990, – has become overdue for payment (due date was 10/12/2012).
As such, we appreciate your transferring this payment as soon as possible.
In case the payment has been recently made, please ignore this message and submit by email or fax a copy of your proof of transfer so that we can rectify our records.
Thank you in advance for your time and cooperation.
Best regards,
Ms Christine, Account Manager

 

I must admit that email disorganised me that day. As a shrewd person,I found it as a day time robbery. I had no time to think over it. I just replied rightaway.

This is the second biggest mistake I made.  Below is my reply:

—– Original Message —–

From: [ [email protected]] (my email hidden to avoid spam)
To: < [email protected]>
Sent: Tuesday, December 11, 2012 11:36 AM
Subject: Re: Due date for the Invoice no. 130353
You said advertising was free.
No Local Purchase Order issued from this side.
Expect no payment. Thanks you.

 

I tried hard to ignore it the whole day unsuccessfully. I shared it with my team, and all of us felt duped. We agreed to ignore it, justifying that it was not clear that we had to pay. I did not know that my reply was a big mistake because what followed was a consistent torture to us.

I received an instant reply from the fraudster, which is below:

From: [email protected] [mailto: [email protected]]
Sent: Tuesday, December 11, 2012 2:36 PM
To: [ [email protected]]
Subject: Re: Due date for the Invoice no. 130353
Dear Mr Mustapha,
Thank you for your reply.
Our advertising services are not free, the cost for the yearly subscriptions being of EUR 990,-as clearly specified on your order dated 18/10/2012.
If there is anything else I may assist you with, do not hesitate to contact me.
Best regards
Ms Christine.

Now, this response got me damn worried. I thought I am finished. I had to make another reply. This was another mistake I made – making these fraudsters know that I exist and I am scared. Below is my reply to the above response:

From: [ [email protected]]
To: [email protected]
Sent: Tuesday, December 11, 2012 3:16 PM
Subject: RE: Due date for the Invoice no. 130353
You never said anything like that in the email.
You indicated advertising is free! Otherwise, you don’t expect me to advertise without telling me the costs. You cannot bill after the fact! Just discontinue the info we gave you and don’t publish since the order related to 2013.
Thanks and kind regards,
/MM
Now, I was beginning to open a can of worms. Because I got another instant reply below:
From: [email protected] [mailto: [email protected]]
Sent: Tuesday, December 11, 2012 3:58 PM
To: [ [email protected]]
Subject: Re: Due date for the Invoice no. 130353
Dear Mr Mustapha,
Please review the order as the main contractual details including the cost for the advertising services you have requested-are clearly stipulated.
We cannot discontinue as the services for the current year have already been delivered, the invoice no. 130353 covering your listing into the 2012/2013 edition.
Best regards
Ms Christine

 

I indeed went back to my documents and reviewed the form I had filled.  This time, I got a glass of water and read carefully, word for word. From top to bottom. I saw my signature there. My company stamp was missing (I felt thank God, at least my company stamp is not there, so no binding contract. You know, I was trying to see my defences in case these people indeed took me on for their payment.) I could not believe my eyes, deep in there, in very small print, was the statement that ‘this contract is effective immediately at a fee of Euro 990 per year for a term of three years.”

Now I was getting scared. How could I be duped to sign this kind of contract at this fee? I would rather advertise the local media.

My immediate reaction was to reply. Another mistake I made. Here is the reply;

 

From: [ [email protected]]

To: [email protected]

Sent: Tuesday, December 11, 2012 4:18 PM

Subject: RE: Due date for the Invoice no. 130353

What I am trying to tell you is that we cannot pay the fee.

Since you have not yet provided the service, there is no reason you can run an ad.

You do notice that you hid critical information in the details. That is not proper. The clear information is free.

I strongly advise you to stop the order. Unless you are running it for free.

By the way, in which publication are you running the ad? How can I pay for what I have not yet consumed or used?

You should adopt more better processes of contracting.

Thank you.

NB: Please stop processing any thing to do with my company forthwith. You run it at your own cost.

 

These fraudsters are damn smart. Within a short while, I received a response. I must admit that this issue preoccupied me that I could not do any other thing until I was sure it has been sorted. Below is the response I got.

 

From: [email protected] [mailto: [email protected]]
Sent: Thursday, December 13, 2012 2:02 PM
To: [xxx]
Subject: Re: Due date for the Invoice no. 130353
Importance: High
Dear Mr Mustapha,
The services have already been provided for the current year of advertising, your company being listed into the 2012/2013 edition:
http://www.europeantraderegister.net/summit-consulting-ltd-12910.html
As much as we regret any inconvenience, the invoice no. 130353 must be settled while is still in the initial amount of EUR 990,- so as to avoid the late payment fees.
Best regards
Ms Christine

Now the above response really scared me. I thought these guys could be credible. But how could they write critical advertising fee information in very small font. I clicked on the above link, and it was active. And as I write this, the link is still active despite my requests to have it down.

I did a quick Alexa traffic rank (http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/europeantraderegister.net#trafficstats) of their website, and found it so poorly ranked at over 3.9 millionth in the world (the lower the rank, the better. Google is the best and is ranked at 1st in terms of online traffic). In fact, my own website, www.summitcl.com is ranked far better.

I consoled myself that I would never place an advert on a website whose traffic is far below my own. Given this ranking, I decided to do some Google search on the European Trade Register.

I thank God for giving me that idea. Google did return a number of websites where I got to learn that these people are fraudsters.  See below this article for some links I think you would find useful.

I thought everything is ok and got back in shape. At last I’d found out  that these people of EU trade register are just like other fraudsters and they wont take my money.

I was wrong. I received another email on 22 January 2013. Thank God, I had found out the truth when I did a Google search. Had I received the email below before finding out from other on-line posts of this trade register scam, it would have taken a toll on me. Here is the email:

 

From: [email protected] [mailto: [email protected]]
Sent: Tuesday, January 22, 2013 10:16 AM
To: [ [email protected]]
Subject: Penalties for late payment / Invoice no. 130353
Importance: High
Dear Mr xx/Accounting Department of [MYCOMPANY NAME],

Despite previous requests we still have not received your payment of EUR 990,- for the invoice number 130353.

Please be informed that a reminder enforcing the supplementary fees as follows:
– Late Payment Fee in the amount of EUR 99,-
– Administration Fee in the amount of EUR 35,-
will be sent towards [MYCOMPANY NAME] on 28/01/2013 by post, increasing your debt to EUR 1124,-.
The payment of the initial amount of EUR 990, – which will settle your account should be made by the date of this postal reminder to the below-mentioned bank account.

Bank details:
BENEFICIARY NAME: WBM LTD.
Beneficiary Address: Sofia, Bulgaria
Bank: Allianz Bank Bulgaria AD
IBAN: BG37BUIN95611000303807
SWIFT: BUINBGSF
A/c#: 1000303807

In case the transfer was recently made, please contact our company as soon as possible so we can avoid unnecessary steps.

Best regards,

Ms Christine, Account Manager

 

Damn. These guys don’t give up.

I tried to do some foot printing and reconnaissance about the company, their domain and bank account information.  It was clear that this company is not genuine. I wondered how they operate a bank account if they are criminals.

The beneficiary address of Bulgaria gave me some comfort. I know that it is a source of most cyber crime activities, spam and syndicates.

Using popular foot printing techniques, organised cyber criminals scourge the internet looking for contact details from domain name servers, whois.com registers, system administers, company emails via email naming nomenclature, etc. They organise and sort such information to other people or criminals who use it to spam or send unsolicited emails or duping people to register for their ‘free’ services just like the European Trade register.  Using my own cyber intelligence and investigations, I got so much information about the criminals. Tried to report them to our local Interpol, but there was no motivation for them to pursue the case. The fact that I had not lost any money, justified their actions not to pursue the case.

With my findings, I decided to reply these fraudsters. It was becoming a war. Below is my response:

 

—– Original Message —–
From: [ [email protected]]
To: [email protected]
Sent: Tuesday, January 22, 2013 10:50 AM
Subject: RE: Penalties for late payment / Invoice no. 130353

I cancelled the order. Sorry!

I don’t think your company is genuine. You said you work with European Union. I visited the site, it is not on.

I waited for the print magazine of the publication you say you run the ad, in vain. I told you to cancel before you did anything. I know international law, very well , and we want internet to be safe for everyone. Only for folks doing great business!

Below is what comes when I searched about your email domain, www.eubusinessservices.com the website was off! [see Christine’s email, just search the domain name only in Google and see what comes].

European Trade Register search

Is this yours?

European Domain Name Search on Whois of the fraudsters domain

Send me your circulation figures?

From the above, I got to know the real owner of European Trade Register is one, [email protected]] and Alas, I had them. I knew that a genuine company would never use the word management in their email account. I found out more information that I cannot include here. The good news for you is, fear nothing. These people are not genuine. So, they will never sue you. They will just keep harrassing you. Your only safety net is to IGNORE them. That is all you have to do.

They would normally use their name ie. [email protected] or [email protected]. The fact that they used a cloud email, indicated something fishy.

FYI: to register a website, you must provide your contact information in order to meet the requirements of ICANN. Using a whois.com search to lookout their domain name, www.eubusinessservices.com, I was able to understand who is behind Christine, the lady at the centre of harassing me with emails.

After my response, I received an email from Christine. It is below:

From: [email protected] [mailto: [email protected]]
Sent: Wednesday, January 23, 2013 4:54 PM
To: [xxx]
Subject: Re: Penalties for late payment / Invoice no. 130353
Mr Mugisa,
Allow me to clarify some aspects which have been obviously misunderstood:
– as specified on each original document sent towards your company, EU Business Services Limited and The European Trade Register are not related to any organization or institution of European Union or Commission
– no printed magazine/ publication is available as you have requested online advertising into our directory:.http://www.europeantraderegister.net/summit-consulting-ltd-12910.html
In our records your order is valid, representing your official request for our services, delivered accordingly before receiving any cancellation request on your behalf.
Christine

I did email tracing of the above email header and discovered that the sender was based in Eastern Europe. I decided to ignore them. Before long, I received another email:

 

From: [email protected] [mailto: [email protected]]
Sent: Tuesday, February 26, 2013 10:10 AM
To: [ [email protected]]
Subject: Notice / Ref: Invoice no. 130353 – [my company name]
Importance: High
Dear [xx]/Accounting Department of [mycompany name],

The above referenced account is now due in the amount of EUR 1124,- (EUR 990,- + penalties added almost two months ago).

We have previously sent several notifications of the overdue status of this debt and, since we have not managed to settle your account so far, we have sent your legal file to our Lawyer.

We are now expecting for a confirmation of the date when the collection procedures of your debt will be initiated. The confirmation will be received by the 18/03/2013.

In accordance with our credit and collection policies, all costs of collection will be added to your account.

To avoid the increased cost of the collection expense, we ask that you pay your account in full (EUR 1124,-), with immediate effect.

Transferring the payment within the following days will save you substantial costs, valuable time and avoid any unpleasant situations created by involving our lawyers.

Best regards,

Ms Christine, Account Manager

 

By then I had got used. I had known a lot about the fraudsters. I decided to ignore them. Something that has been useful.

They once made a phone call at my company, thank God that I had briefed my team. What they did was fantastic. We agreed if someone called referring to European Trade Register, received the call and just hang up and place the receiver and play music for them.

Since then, they have never called.

We received a lawyers letter, and as usual, put it in the rubbish bin.

Cyber crime is on the rise. You must be very careful as you are always a target of cyber criminals as long as you access the Internet and use email or social networks.

Lessons:

  • If you are unfortunate and happen to fall victim of these people, never ever reply to any of their emails or phone calls. If they email, just ignore. If they post the letter, just rubbish it and burn it. If they call you, just receive and hung up. never waste your precious time on these criminals.
  • They will never sue you. They are involved in fraudulent schemes and are supposed to be arrested.
  • Before you take any action, do a Google or an Internet search. Don’t suffer alone. Make it a habit to find solutions to your problems on line.  I’ve come to believe that for any problem you are facing, someone out there has already gone through it and there could be a solution ready for you.
  • Don’t just sign documents you receive. This time you survived. Next time you could be a victim of other criminals that hide critical information in the details. That is why I prefer to rewrite each and every contract before I sign it. That way, I understand the contents. Remove anything you think you do not understand. After all, an agreement must be understood by both parties before signing.
  • Never ever be in hurry to sign any document. That is a business rule. You risk selling your entire business for a penny. Many people are out there to make money out of your sweat. Do not be the victim.

Hope I have helped you relax. Below are the links to other websites of the people who have been victims of these criminals. Great reading in the comments section.

http://www.mukaumedia.co.uk/european-trade-register-scam-usual-decide/

http://news.softpedia.com/news/Scam-World-Trade-Register-Business-Registration-Is-Free-but-it-Costs-a-Lot-280317.shtml

http://blog.mxlab.eu/2012/02/14/directory-scam-registration-for-the-world-trade-registers-20122013/

http://gameofbusiness.blogspot.com/2012/02/european-trade-register-scam.html

http://blogs.mirror.co.uk/investigations/2012/01/european-trade-register-proves.html

https://www.google.com/search?q=european+trade+register+fraud+on+facebook&aq=f&oq=european+trade+register+fraud+on+facebook&aqs=chrome.0.57j62l3.13168j0&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

http://www.scambook.com/report/view/228813/European-Trade-Register-Complaint-228813-for-$990.00

http://www.linkedin.com/groups/STOP-THIS-SCAM-EU-BUSINESS-4706185?trk=myg_ugrp_ovr

And finally, I would appreciate it if you left a comment below. I need your support. Tell us your story below.

Let me know how I can help you. Leave your post below. Ask, share your experience and let’s discuss how to put these European Trade Register people out of business. Your ideas are welcome.

Worry no more. Fear nothing. Let’s join hands to fight people making the Internet unsafe. Count on me.

Copyright Mustapha B.  Mugisa, 2013. All rights reserved.

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