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WSTA and police warn wine producers about identity fraud

Published:  17 October, 2011

The WSTA and the Metropolitan Police have warned that using identity fraud to obtain wine without payment is on the increase, and producers should be on their guard.

The WSTA and the Metropolitan Police have warned that using identity fraud to obtain wine without payment is on the increase, and producers should be on their guard.

In the past six months the WSTA has catalogued over £600,000 worth of goods defrauded from wine companies by the use of false email addresses and identities, usually involving impersonation of existing companies and their employees.

The recent spate of crimes has involved fraudsters registering email addresses that are similar to establised importers, then placing orders for speedy delivery to a new address calling for payment within 30 days and claiming to be covered by export insurance. Once delivered, the goods disappear and the bill remains unpaid.

Working with Operation Sterling, the Metropolitan Police Service's economic crime prevention and disruption unit, the WSTA is issuing a set of guidelines for producers to guard against this form of fraud:

  • Ask for immediate payment and wait for the confirmation from your bank that the money has reached your account even if it means delaying the order. If the potential client is serious and genuine, they will be able to wait.
  • Check the contact details of the person placing the order and follow up with a phone call if possible.
  • Check the email address has the same format as addresses normally used by the employees of that company
  • Verify that the delivery address is the company's head office, one of its branches or warehouses (use Google Maps or Streetview if necessary)
  • Be wary of urgent orders
  • Be wary of non-personalised and high value orders which are usually sent to any producer regardless of their range of products.
  • Be wary of credit card payments - these are rarely used in export transactions. Emailed bank transfer confirmations also often turn out to be fake
  • If you are unsure about the details of a UK-based business, please contact the WSTA ( in London - 0044 2070 893 880 or by email
  • Check the VAT and Excise numbers by visiting -

  1. VAT:
  2. Excise:
  3. Before dispatching any goods under bond, you will be asked to confirm the customer's excise details. Goods may not be dispatched without it.

The guidelines are available here:

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.

"It's vital producers are aware of the pitfalls and take steps to guard against this form of fraud."

Robin McMillan, chairman of the WSTA's Distance Selling Panel and chief operating officer at Berry Brothers & Rudd, said: "This is an issue affecting the whole trade so we all have to be vigilant. I would urge all wine importers in the UK to send the WSTA guidelines to their producer database and encourage those producers to forward the information on within their respective countries to ensure they are not being caught out. With this in mind we are making the guidelines available in several European languages."

DCI Nick Downing, head of Operation Sterling, said: "The Metroroplitan Police is dedicated to tackling the ever changing threat of ID fraud. Businesses and members of the public can help us do this by taking simple steps to protect themselves."

National Identity Fraud Prevention Week kicks off today, October 17.