SMBs warned to watch out for ‘Corporate Portal New Zealand’ scam
The New Zealand Companies Office is once again warning organisations to watch out for fake correspondence that appears to be from ‘Corporate Portal New Zealand’.
The Companies Office has received reports from both companies and incorporated societies about the correspondence, which appears to originate from Hamburg, Germany. It is not the first time the scam has been spotted.
“There has been some confusion as to whether the correspondence is from the New Zealand Companies Office. The Companies Office advises that it has not issued this correspondence and that it has no connection with the company in Germany or the Corporate Portal (which uses the website address www.portal-nz.org),” a statement says.
The fake website appears to offer website optimisation and marketing services and features.
“Inscrease [sic] the number of visitors of your company's website, boost the turnover of online store and leave your competitors behind. We are intrigued to consult you: reliably, professional and target-oriented,” a statement on the site says.
According to a WHOIS domain lookup, the domain name appears to be registered by German company TVV Tele Verzeichnis Verlag GmbH.
In 2015, the Commerce Commission issued a warning about the scam and stated that those who fall for it end up in an annual $1411 subscription contract.
“We have received a number of complaints about the Corporate Portal and similar scams,” Kate Morrison, the Commission’s General Manager of Competition said at the time.
She explains that business owners were sent letters with an official-looking letterhead: “New Zealand – companies”. This wording could fool some business owners.
“The letter gives business owners the impression the ‘service’ is free, that the business is already listed and that their details need updating. In reality, filling out the form and posting back their business details signs them up to a $1,411 annual subscription to a basic online directory, for at least three years,” Morrison explains.
The Commerce Commission also says that once businesses have signed up, it is difficult to cancel the contract and the Corporate Portal can raise the annual fee at any time without warning.
“We recommend that all unsolicited correspondence of this nature is considered very carefully. If consumers are concerned about the authenticity of documents it always pays to do your due diligence first, including checking with the relevant government department if the letter looks like it is from them. It’s also important to remember that websites with ‘nz’ in the web domain are not necessarily based here,” Morrison says. MBIE provides the following advice:
- Limit the number of people in your business that have authority to make purchases or write orders.
- Keep written records of all orders and purchases.
- Reconcile all invoices against actual orders. Ask for proof of purchase and check with colleagues to make sure that you have received what you paid for.
- If an invoice seems to reference an advertisement or directory entry you genuinely made, make sure that all of the details add up. False billing scammers may use your real advertising as the basis for their fake invoices, eg company name, address and bank details.
- Deal only with people and companies you know and trust.