Having been in the Insolvency Profession for about 28 years I thought I’d seen it all. But then something comes up that sends a powerful message to all professionals as well as members of the public.
In late April I was appointed Liquidator of a company that advertised a 50%-off summer special for solar panels. The catch was that consumers had to pay the full cost of the product upfront – before any installation had occurred.
The logo of a major international brand was used in all the company’s marketing materials and correspondence. Believing they were dealing with a reputable company, people promptly deposited amounts ranging from $7,000 to $35,000 into the nominated bank account.
Unfortunately, it was a scam. No deliveries or installations appear to have occurred.
As soon as I was appointed and gained access to the bank accounts, I could see that money had been swept from the company’s bank account to another entity outside of Australia.
I soon became suspicious that the company representative with whom I’d been dealing, who’d purported to be the director and had provided me with a driver’s license and passport, was not who he said he was.
Sure enough, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade confirmed my suspicion that the passport was not a genuine document.
It appears the purported director had stolen the identity of a real person who appears to have nothing whatsoever to do with the company. Further, the registered trading address as per the ASIC register was found to be four stories above the top of the building in which they were said to reside – giving a whole new meaning to “in the cloud”.
So while the company itself is real, it seems to have been set up with the express purpose of defrauding the public.
As there were issues with the identity of the director, it brought into question the validity of my appointment as liquidator. Accordingly, I approached the Supreme Court for directions.
Understanding the extent of the scam and the risk to the creditor-victims of not being represented, the Court ordered that my appointment as Liquidator is valid and should continue.
The message to the public is that if something sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
The message to professionals is to take whatever steps you can to verify the identity of anyone you deal with. Identity theft in the computer age is becoming more and more prevalent. Be careful!