How to check if a company is legitimate | Creditsafe
Business

How to check if a company is legitimate

3 Mins

If you are worried about the authenticity of a company, it is always worth checking they are legitimate before you engage with them.

Fraud is an ever growing risk with big cost implications and can no longer be written off as a ‘bad experience’ within our digitally enabled world. In recent survey results carried out by the banking trade body UK Finance, it was revealed invoice fraud cost firms almost £93m in 2018. They also stated that from the results of their survey, the average loss per fraud case was £28,000.  It is no longer seen as an annoyance for companies to carry out due diligence and enforce compliance measures; it is now a core business issue that companies are stepping up on, and rightly so. 

Fraud is a reoccurring risk that can result in loss, so we look at how you can establish whether you can trust a company or should avoid them at all costs.

Chapter 1

Check the company's website

Look for specific things on the company's website that may give away whether or not they are truly legitimate.

 

Check spelling and grammar

If you notice poor English or poor grammar used frequently on a website that appears to be trading as a UK company, the company may be based overseas. This should appear as a red flag if the company proclaims it is a local business trading near you for example, therefore investigate further before doing any dealings with them. 

 

Check for a business address and landline number

Every website should have a business address and a landline for potential customers to get in contact with them. Check them both, try phoning the company and searching google maps to verify it is an office and not a fraudulent address. 

 

Check for a Privacy Policy

You should also look for a privacy policy and company history on the site - this may state how long the company has been in operation, their ethical stance and their mission statement. Typically, a privacy policy will also confirm their registered business address and company name, allowing you to do an official company credit search through a trusted credit reporting agency like Creditsafe.

 

Check for a company number

This could either sit within a company’s privacy policy or its terms and conditions. Every limited company within the UK has a registered company number, and it should be displayed along with the place of registration on their website as a result of legislation (First Company Law Amendment Directive) that was implemented in 2006.

 

Check the WHOIS database

www.who.is allows you to check the domain name registrant information and sometimes confirm a business address and contact name. It will also provide you with useful information like when the domain name was registered so you can understand how long the website has been running. If the website has only recently been registered or the registrant information is protected, this could be a sign that the company is not genuine.

Chapter 1

Check official sources

Check whether the business exists on an official company register such as Companies House or get a detailed report from a credit reference agency such as Creditsafe.

 

Companies House

If you are dealing with a limited company then they will be required to list quite a substantial amount of information to Companies House. They would have to register their business there and their annual accounts. Companies House can show you the registered office address, company status, and company type. It can also show you things such as incorporation date and previous company names. You can see who the directors are and persons with significant control. It also allows you to look at individual director’s profiles to see all their previous appointment history.

 

The Financial Services Register (FCA)

If a company offers financial services or associated products then you should be able to find them through a quick search on this site. If they do not appear on this site but fall into an industry that would need to be regulated by the FCA we would advise you to avoid working with this business.

Chapter 1

Run a company credit check

If you are unsure as to the solvency of a business or want to know if they have the funds or credit to meet your fees then it may be worth running a credit check. Creditsafe is amongst the most popular of all systems and will allow you to check those big contracts and agreements to make sure you do not walk into any trouble.

A company credit report can show you: 

Company Verification

Check the company name is registered, the company address, company number, and shareholder information. Where applicable, a company credit report will also show you the company website and the industry code that the company lies within. 

 

Director Details

Every company credit report will give you director and shareholder details, you are then able to view individual director reports that will display current and previous appointments, including appointment and resignation dates. You can also view those companies’ credit reports whether they are still trading or not. Find out how to run a director search here

 

A Company Credit Score

Going beyond verifying a business, a company credit report will also provide a company credit score. A company credit score is an algorithm equation (which in Creditsafe’s case) determines the likelihood of a company becoming insolvent in the next 12 months, with 0 being very likely and 100 being very unlikely. The higher the credit score, the more stable the company. As many factors influence a company’s credit score, a change to any of these factors can influence the overall credit score. For example, if adverse payment behaviour is filed (such as a CCJ) then this will be taken into consideration and would change the score.

By checking the company credit score you have a basic understanding of how well the company is performing on top of verifying the business. The algorithm does all the hard work for you and provides a baseline answer, but we always recommend looking deeper into a company credit report to make a truly informed decision about a business.

 

Group Structure

Being able to view a group structure on a company credit report is another benefit of running a credit check. You will then be able to verify not only the business you are thinking to deal with but also any companies within its group structure. For example, the company you are dealing with could be a sister or child company to a bigger operation.

The group structure aspect of a company credit report allows you to see all related companies including the parent/head office company and check their company credit reports for the bigger picture of how that group is performing and how stable they are.

If one company in a group structure runs into trouble, it could have a knock-on effect on the other companies within that group. 

There are many ways to check if a company is legitimate, but if something still doesn’t feel right always trust your instincts. If you don’t feel comfortable dealing with a business, don’t deal with them. Fraud is a common and damaging problem for SMEs and the more vigilant business owners are the more they can protect their company. 

Always carry out your due diligence on potential customers and suppliers to ensure you are dealing with legitimate businesses. 

Check if a company is legitimate

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