A long-established road transport company based near Huntingdon says it has received a string of invoices and threats of court action from European hauliers relating to contracts of which it has no knowledge whatsoever. Last year, haulier Trans Orbis Forwarding Limited (‘TOFL’) received the first unexpected invoice for thousands of euros from a continental haulier. This was followed by more from other hauliers and then by threats of action in European courts.
Stole firm’s ID
A director of the family business, Dave Shaw, was able to establish that fraudsters had successfully registered a fake profile on Europe’s largest haulage booking exchange, TIMOCOM. By using TOFL’s identity they were able to perpetrate a lucrative con.
“The fraudsters started accepting bookings to transport loads from A to B around Europe,” Dave Shaw explains. “These were authentic haulage jobs for which the fraudsters would be paid by the third-party customer.
“On attracting a haulage job from a customer, the fake haulier posted it on TIMOCOM disguised as our company but with bogus contact details. A genuine haulier would then pick up the job on the exchange, collect and deliver.
“That unsuspecting haulier would meanwhile raise an invoice to our equally unsuspecting company, which obviously knew nothing about the job. In fact we’ve never been involved in any haulage work in continental Europe.”
Repeated the scam
When the fraudsters repeated the scam, TOFL received more high-value invoices for work that in no way involved them and, even more concerning, threats of court action abroad. At this point, Dave Shaw decided to seek legal advice and asked Tees Law for help.
Since then, Tees’ dispute resolution team has been steering TOFL through a tricky and stressful time. Senior Associate Polly Kerr firstly reported the fraud to the authorities and then set about resolving jurisdictional issues arising from fraud perpetrated in Europe.
Tees has written to numerous hauliers that had invoiced TOFL for work they believed the firm had ordered, as well as liaising with counterparts in Romania and Germany, where court proceedings against TOFL were commenced by two haulage firms.
Up to €50,000 a time
The fraud has seen almost 40 European hauliers defrauded and prompted to invoice TOFL for amounts of up to €50,000 each time. The financial impact on TOFL itself has been limited to legal costs incurred fending off the invalid claims for payment.
“This devious fraud has brought financial loss and distress to multiple hauliers around Europe” says Polly Kerr. “Nobody has issued proceedings in England yet, but it’s only a matter of time if fraudsters manage to exploit the German TIMOCOM platform repeatedly”.
“I’m working with TOFL to raise awareness of procurement fraud in the logistics sector to help other haulage firms avoid similar problems. We want TIMOCOM to sharpen up their due diligence and we’ve urged them to improve.”