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21 March 2012

CONTINUED VIGILANCE NEEDED

We have sent out a number of alerts recently in an attempt to continue to build awareness of fraudulent activity when it becomes known to us.

We are extremely pleased that a recent alert about some individuals posing as BBC Worldwide worked, and it alerted a large supplier to the fact that a hire enquiry was indeed a fraudulent attempt to obtain equipment and led to some arrests.

We are also aware of a number of other companies who have been approached by the same individuals, still using BBC Worldwide as a front, quoting the same names and quoting the same telephone numbers and purchase order numbers.  It would appear they are bombarding the industry as a whole in the hope someone else might fall for it.

Please note that this scam continues to be prevalent even though some arrests have been made and Police investigations continue.

In addition to the above situation, we have also heard from two existing clients who have discovered that someone has been attempting to set up hire 'accounts' in their company name without their knowledge over the last few days.  These false accounts have been discovered when the hire companies have been looking for additional information and signatures etc to formalise the accounts.

Luckily, their checking procedures have meant that the accounts were never set up or activated.  In both circumstances mobile numbers rather than land lines were provided and email addresses were "hotmail" type accounts, which should always set alarm bells ringing.

Rigid checking procedures on new accounts is of vital importance, please see our website for details of hire checking procedures.

 
Kind regards


John Claffey
Commercial Director

 

21 March 2012

HIRE CHECKS GUIDELINES

Under our "Focus policy scheme", those Companies that hire out technical equipment within the Media Industry have the option of extending cover for their equipment to include whilst out on hire on a dry hire basis.  This cover is subject to the hire company having hire terms and conditions in force with the Hirer taking reasonable precautions and checks when hiring out the equipment.  Over recent years, there have been a number of fraudulent thefts by Hirers, with a number of elaborate schemes and deceptions having taken place.

By ensuring a suitable number of checks take place "pre hire", and that all hire staff are trained to undertake these procedures, the likelihood of a fraudulent hire is significantly reduced.

There are a number of procedures outlined below which we recommend be incorporated into your systems of check.  We also recommend a minimum of 48 hours notice for hires, to allow sufficient time to process the "hire" and all the checks.

Credit Reference Check

It is possible to carry out a credit reference check on limited companies, trading partnerships or sole traders, utilising the services of a recognised and registered credit agency. 

Credit Application/Trade References

Obtain a completed credit application form for all hires, obtaining full personal details of individuals or Company Directors.  This should include at least two trade references from companies known within the industry which they have dealt with, including contact names and telephone numbers.  These references should be checked and not just recorded, checking is essential. Get written confirmation of the hire on the company's letter headed paper.

Proof of Identity - Private Clients

Private Clients must supply a minimum number of forms of identification (recommend a minimum of three), with their name and address showing.  These forms of identification should be original  documents and not photocopies.  These could be bank statements, driving licence, utility bills etc.  If a driving licence is shown, it should be accompanied by the paper part of the licence as well as the plastic card.  With the exception of the driving licence, these identification forms should all be dated within the last three months. Passports should only be accepted as an additional check, as there is no address in it, if an applicant cannot produce a passport then you should be concerned.  Please note as utility bills etc can be easily forged, they should not be relied on heavily (or alone) as proof.  Please ensure at least one form of ID is Photo ID and check it against the hirer.  If a hirer forgets their Photo ID do not proceed with the hire at that stage. 

Contact Details

A Landline telephone number should ALWAYS be provided (and verified), a mobile number should not be accepted alone.  Please be very wary of Company email addresses which are hotmail (or similar) addresses and not a proper Company email address.  Do not accept PO Box addresses.

Cash Deposit

Consideration should be given, particularly for first time Hirers, for a sizeable cash deposit to be requested and held over for the duration of the hire.  This is common practice within other industries such as vehicle hire.  It should be a reasonable size sum, which is immediately refundable upon return of the undamaged equipment.  The deposit can be held as a credit card payment.  If this procedure is used it is obviously essential that the authenticity of the credit card is checked. It is recommended that consideration is given to holding photo ID (i.e. passport) for the duration.

Overseas Applicants

It is suggested an additional precaution is taken for any overseas applicants requesting the hire of equipment for a UK location shoot, in this situation it is strongly recommended that at best one bona fide UK based reference is obtained and verified.

Delivery Location

It is commonplace for equipment to be delivered to the premises of the Hirer or a studio/film location.  This delivery should only be to the registered or recognised business address of the company or to the personal home address of an individual and not to any other premises or third parties, if this can be avoided.  This will allow the delivery driver to at least check credentials and get the feel for the authenticity of the hire, suggest the driver checks inside to ensure they are fit for purpose.

Insurance

For first time hires particularly, it is suggested that you insist the Hirer takes out a short term "All Risks" policy on the hire equipment and you should insist on proof of cover prior to the equipment being released.  Confirmation of cover directly from the Insurance Brokers should also be sought.  Where the Hirer is unable to obtain insurance coverage serious consideration should be given to whether the hire takes place.  If the insurance cover for the job is to be added to your own policy, a charge should be made to the Hirer and the hire invoice clearly noted that insurance is included. This latter option should be avoided if possible, as if a fraudulent hire; it will affect your future insurance terms.


Photographic Evidence

At present there are very few companies who take photographs of the Hirers but this is becoming more commonplace within other industries.  With technology as it is, consideration should be given to taking an instant digital downloadable photograph of the Hirer (where an individual).  Hopefully this will be off putting to any potential thieves.

Signatures

Signatures on hire invoices/terms and conditions should be obtained in all cases.  They should be compared with those on the proof of identity such as passport, driving licence, credit card etc.  It is also important that the Hirer signs in the presence of the hire company's staff so that signature can be checked correctly.

Minimum Occupancy

It is suggested, for home or office addresses that have been occupied for less than twelve months, alternative identification should be sought and additional checks made on the validity of the individual or company.

General Manner of Hirer

If suspicions are aroused at the time of hire, it would be prudent to ask the Hirer some technical questions in relation to the equipment being hired, to ascertain whether or not the Hirer is genuine and they know what they are talking about.  Go with your gut instincts if you fell slightly uncomfortable don’t do it, turn away the business.

Cross Hire

In a Cross Hire situation where you are not in direct touch with the end user.  Please do not take for granted that the client’s hire company have properly checked the customer.  Often there may be a disclosure problem for trade protection reasons, but you should at least make sure adequate checks have been carried out and the client’s hire company has adequate hired-in insurance cover themselves, including fraudulent hire.

Sudden Changes to Hire Equipment Orders/Hire Grooming

Please be aware of the ‘small time’ applicant that may initially request the hire of lower value/budget equipment, perhaps arranging hire on several occasions to build up a level of trust, then suddenly out of character, request the hire of expensive top end/state of the art specialist equipment, even if the ‘budget’ relationship has existed for a couple of years.

Experienced Operators

With regard to high end/state of the art equipment which essentially requires an experienced and trained operator, the client should ensure that a suitably qualified and knowledgeable person will be in charge of/using the equipment.  You should establish contact with that ‘expert’, perhaps arranging a pre-shoot testing at base.  You should be very suspicious if an applicant could not put you in touch with a knowledgeable operator. This is relevant to potential equipment damage in any case. 

Equipment Collection

Take customers full vehicle details at point of collection.

Bank Account Statement (Proof of ID)

Check they look credible.  Is it a new account (check statement number) or has a low token balance.  If new ask additional questions.

Web Search

Google (or equivalent) search of name and address it can sometimes throw up odd activity, always worth checking.

Where is Kit going to be used?

Ask for full details of where and how the kit is going to be utilised.  If possible contact the venue directly and confirm the event.  Be suspicious of any customer that can’t give a straight response to this question.

THESE ARE ONLY GUIDELINES IN AN ATTEMPT TO REDUCE THE CHANCES OF ANY FRAUDULENT HIRE. EFFECTIVE CHECKS AT PRE HIRE ARE ESSENTIAL AND COMPREHENSIVE RECORDS OF ALL CHECKS SHOULD BE RETAINED AS THEY WILL BE REQUESTED IN THE EVENT OF A CLAIM.

15 March 2012

FRAUDULENT HIRE UPDATE

 We have again been advised of a hire company in West London being approached by someone claiming to be from the BBC and wanting to hire some DSLR cameras.

The Company's booking team were suspicious and contacted the BBC to check that the individual worked for them.  The BBC had not heard of him.

We would reiterate again the importance of thorough hire checks, in particular on new customers to your company.  Please advise all relevant staff to be vigilant.

6 March 2012

FRAUDULENT HIRE ALERT

In the spirit of passing on information that becomes available to us, we have been advised of a recent fraudulent theft.

We understand that a substantial amount of camera equipment was hired recently from a company in West London.

The hirer gave the names David Jones & Michael Drake and claimed to represent BBC Worldwide.  The hirer was able to provide BBC purchase orders and telephone numbers which appeared to go through to the BBC.  We would like to make it clear that whilst we have named a David Jones and a Michael Drake it was because these names were used by the fraudulent hirer.  We can confirm that there are current employees of the BBC with both these names and they were in no way involved in the fraud. 

Other hire companies have reported similar approaches as reported in Broadcast Magazine on 2nd March 2012.  Suspicion was raised as a generic email address was used by the hirer.

The Police are investigating and unfortunately that is all the information we have to hand.

I would reiterate again the importance of thorough hire checks on all hirers, but also in particular on new customers to your company. 

Kind regards


John Claffey
Commercial Director