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Wine fraud through identity theft on the rise

Some £600,000 of wine has been obtained through identity theft in the UK over the past six months, police have warned.

The Wine and Spirits Trade Association and the Metropolitan Police are urging wine producers to carefully check on orders to combat the increasing use of identity fraud as a means of obtaining goods without payment.

Since May 2011, the WSTA says it has details of over £600,000 worth of goods defrauded from wine companies through use of false email addresses and identities, generally involving impersonation of existing companies and their employees.

Companies targetted are mostly French, for wines in the mid-price range of around £9, the WSTA told Decanter.com.

Fraudsters typically identify an established UK importer, and register an email address similar to a senior employee. They then place an order asking to be allowed 30 days to pay, claiming they are covered by export insurance.

‘Once delivered, the criminals disappear with the goods without settling the invoice,’ the WSTA says.

As part of National Identity Fraud Prevention Week, which begins today, the WSTA is working with Operation Sterling, the Metropolitan Police Service’s economic crime prevention and disruption unit, to issue a set of guidelines for producers to guard against this form of fraud.

These include asking for immediate payment, checking all details of the person placing the order, checking the email address against known email addresses from that company, and checking that the delivery address is that of the head office or one of the branches or warehouses of the company.

Producers should also check VAT and Excise numbers, and be wary of payment by credit card as these are seldom used in such transactions.

WSTA Chief Executive Jeremy Beadles said, ‘The feedback to the WSTA’s Fraud Prevention Unit, launched in May this year, shows that criminals targeting wine producers are increasingly using identity theft as a means of securing goods without paying for them.’

Written by Adam Lechmere

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