26 June 2016

Fraudulent Hire - An Industry Hot Topic

By Performance
The word fraud in the dictionary
Have you been approached to work for someone you don’t know, and to hire equipment on their behalf?

The film and media insurance industry have seen a number of claims that involve bogus Production Companies or Producers connecting with people like you with offers of work, where their motive is actually to get you to hire equipment for them for a fictitious production.

After you have hired the equipment, the ‘Production Company’ or ‘Producer’ will take the equipment from you (sometimes involving force or threats of violence) and simply disappear, leaving you in a very difficult and upsetting situation.

Whatever your role in a production, you should be considering the following before agreeing to any hire on behalf of someone else:

  • Should the hire and the hire insurance be in their name, as they are responsible for the production as a whole (and therefore responsible for the kit)?
  • Have you carried out checks on this person/company to confirm their identity? Possibly, a reference from someone who has worked with them previously or by some other means?
  • Have you met this person face to face and visited their premises?
  • Have you seen their previous work?
  • Consider visiting the location of the project yourself, and confirm the project that has been booked.
  • Try and meet other members of the production team/cast and confirm their identities as well.
  • Do you have a geographical landline / email address (not a Gmail or Hotmail account) for the third party?
  • Have a quick check of the associated website of the third party – Whois.net or DNS Stuff are good sites to use to check who owns the domain of the website.
  • Check Companies House information, if the ‘Company’ is ‘Limited’. Check that the company has been in existence since the stated time frame and has filed accounts.
  • Check social media to connect with the person.  Check that they have been on there a long time, have friends (who you can also use as references) and that they post regularly – after all, if they are legitimate, that’s probably something you’d want to do anyway!

It’s not just Hire Companies losing money when their kit is stolen.  You as an individual are affected by this dishonest behaviour.

‘Fraud affects 1 in 4 small businesses every year. Last year, fraud losses to SMEs were estimated at £18.9 billion’

Not only may you see an increase in either your insurance premiums or hire charges from the hire company, but be prepared for hire companies requiring more stringent identity checks from you, and more rigorous checks of your insurance documentation.   The question is whether the person asking you to hire on their behalf is having the same level of scrutiny of their ID… (probably a good idea!).

These individuals are often part of sophisticated gangs, whose “day job” is to acquire camera kit from people like you.  Thankfully, the police are starting to take notice, but we would be most pleased if the fraud didn’t occur, and you were not put at risk in the first place.