Thursday, 3 December 2009

Company Directors now can use Service Addresses

Now that the latest implemenation of the Companies Act 2006 is in place, company directors can now request to use a service address rather than a home address as the public record at the Registrar.

Quote:

"From 1st October 2009 every director must provide Companies House with both their usual residential address, and for each directorship they hold, a service address. The service address will be on the public record and will be public information but the residential address will be protected information. A director can choose any address as the service address including the registered office address of the company. The address must be where documents can be delivered and an acknowledgement or receipt can be provided if required. The address can not be a PO Box or a DX number. If the director chooses to use his residential address as the service address the fact that the two addresses are the same would not be apparent from the public record."

And, importantly:

"Q. If a company is in default, will any letter addressed to the directors go to the Service Address or residential address?

A. Letters will be sent to the Service Address initially."

This is handy for the Directors as it prevents fraudulent use of their details by scammers. However, it may create an upsurge in fraudsters creating companies using completely false addresses and as I posted on Twitter the other day, there may be a case for the Government to review this.

The Registrar is only a place of record and little checking of details is performed on submitted documents. While the rest of us struggle on with banks and other institutions wanting to KYC (know your customer) check us every time we need a new account or credit card, it is entirely possible to create a fictitious company at a false address.

Please take part in our poll (see right hand side of this blog) and tell us if you think the service address is more or less likely to increase fraud. You can sign in to use the poll using a Google, Yahoo or even a Twitter account and share the poll results using your twitter page.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Watch those links...

UPDATE 04/12 - No reponses from any of the potential miscreants....I'll have to name them soon.

Had an interesting tip off yesterday. One of our competitors, a household name, sends out emails similar to our monitor emails.

The problem is that they include links to take you back to the website to buy documents but the links are insecure and allow anyone with access to those links to use, change details or even delete the account belonging to the person who they sent the link to.

Sent in the format of the url and a unqiue identifier, for example :

http:/bigbrandcreditcompany/something/alerts/id=KJHJGHGKJHSFGJHF this link passes anyone to the clients user account without any requirement to know the password.

Worse still, note the http:// part of the url. Not being https:// this string will be held in proxy servers around the world depending on where you view it from.

Technically, the string of letters at the end make it hard to guess these but it would not be impossible to attack this and try to delete any user account you get access to.

You have to hope, if you are a customer of this company, that this string is time limited. Otherwise that flaw is available for a very long time.

Sometimes, it helps to have developers who have a vested interest in making sure that your clients are safe and are almost OCD in their approach.

Like we do.

p.s. if you are bigcompanybrand and want to know if it's you, drop me a line and I'll give you the details.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Company Liquidations up 14.6%

There were 4,716 compulsory liquidations and creditors’ voluntary liquidations in total in England and Wales in the third quarter of 2009 (on a seasonally adjusted basis). This was a decrease of 4.7% on the previous quarter but an increase of 14.6% on the same period a year ago.




This was made up of 1,301 compulsory liquidations (which are down 9.8% on the previous quarter and down 12.9% on the corresponding quarter of the previous year), and 3,415 creditors voluntary liquidations (which are down 2.6% on the previous quarter but up 30.2% on the corresponding quarter of the previous year).

In the twelve months ending Q3 2009, approximately 1 in 114 active companies (or 0.9%) went into liquidation, which is up slightly on the previous quarter when the figure was approximately 1 in 120.

Additionally, there were 1,578 other corporate insolvencies in the third quarter of 2009 (not seasonally adjusted) comprising 410 receiverships, 974 administrations and 194 company voluntary arrangements. In total these represented an increase of 9.3% on the same period a year ago.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Company Fraud

The Met have asked us to link to new pages they have put up in regard to company fraud and impersonation:

Main page
http://www.met.police.uk/fraudalert/

Company Identity Fraud
http://www.met.police.uk/fraudalert/section/company_fraud.htm

Money Transfer Fraud
http://www.met.police.uk/fraudalert/money_transfer.htm

Buying and Selling Vehicles
http://www.met.police.uk/fraudalert/news/buying_selling_vehicles.htm

Please take the time to read these if you suspect you may be a victim of company impersonation or you suspect you may be being scammed by an impersonator.

More help on our pages here: http://www.ukdata.com/help/fraudalert.php



Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Sneaky Peak 2

Managing your company reports is going to be totally overhauled.

Rather than having a long list seperated into pages with ten companies on each we are making the whole page easier to use. A single page will list all your companies and you can choose to view 10, 20, 50 or 100 companies and sort by Company Name, Risk Score and Recent Changes.

Without leaving the page you will be able to edit your monitor options for each company and to download view and print the reports just by clicking on the company name.















This layout should help you do what you need to do more easily and allows us to add new features later such as 'export to CSV' for the financial information from a set of company accounts.

It also allows us to remove the 'My Monitors' section so that you don't need to navigate to two different sections to manage your companies.


Thursday, 16 July 2009

Pie in the Sky+

Or, how not to do Customer Relations.

Having had an order problem with Sky - to do with the fact that the 'sales team' is different to the 'online sales team' - the (very friendly) operator couldn't help me. She put me on hold to see if her manager could help, the manager didn't speak to me but told the (very friendly) operator that there was nothing they could do and if I wanted any further action then I had to contact Customer Relations.

And this is the fun bit. You cannot telephone the Customer Relations team, nor can you email them. Or Tweet. Or IM.

If you, the customer, wish to speak to Customer Relations, you cannot. You must write to them.

That is not Customer Relations, unless you go back a couple of decades.

We don't want you to have an experience like that, so if you want to contact us at ukdata.com, all you have to do is pick up the phone, write an email to us, send us a tweet @ukdata and we will help you. No hassle, no 'managers' and certainly no stamps involved.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Can you print on demand?

We are building a new product to allow businesses to quickly and easily identify new business prospects and create mailing lists. Scheduled to go live in September our 'Marketing Lists' application allows clients to select from a real world list of company activities and not SIC codes which are unreliable.

From there the client can filter the list of companies by postcode sector, postcode, town or county.

So far, simple and straightforward. What we would like to do is add a further feature so that having purchased a mailing list our clients can then send a postcard or letter for next day delivery.

For example, a client comes to our website to buy a list of companies they wish to target (i.e. Graphic Designers in Surrey), they buy the list and then receive a CSV file of the contact names and addresses. The way the mailing list industry currently works that would be the end of the relationship.

What we are developing within the website is the functionality so that after buying the list a client can choose to 'Send a postcard/letter' to the contact list they have just purchased. This application will function within the browser and be very user friendly.

The client will be able to choose from a range of postcards or create their own by uploading images and writing text. For A4 letters they can upload a PDF template of their headed business stationery.

Couple of points to note, all our data is already MPS checked so we only send out legal marketing and we will launch in phase 2 a B2C service to allow consumer based businesses to contact local consumers who fit within the required profile of their audience.

An example of this would be for an attraction such as Denbies Vineyard in Dorking could choose to send a postcard to all couples without children earning over £30k who have expressed a preference for English wine and within a 3 mile radius to promote an event. (Clever Stuff!)

We will be spending significant resource on taking this to market and are looking for a business partner to manage the printing and fulfilment of this area. If you are interest please email alastair[@]ukdata.com or call me on 01372 750800.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Sneaky peek at new layout

The new design is in development now - and all the changes are aimed at making the website easier to use by allowing grouping of reports and documents in 'My Reports', a single 'My Account' page for you to manage payments, orders, invoices and account details, and an 'instant monitoring' button to add companies with the click of the mouse and without the need to navigate three pages.


















In addition, more of our website will be interactive with 'on page' actions to reduce the time you spend navigating and to help new users get the most from the website.

Less time on our website to get the same work completed = more time free for you to do something else!

Friday, 15 May 2009

Website Features - Update 2

In addition to the layout and basic function/design changes mentioned in Update 1 there are going to be some changes within the 'My Reports' and 'My Monitors' sections.

These two sections are going to be merged into one 'My Companies' area where you will be able to view the documents and reports purchased on companies and edit the monitoring alerts you wish to receive in the same place.

All purchased documents will be pre-sorted into company order with all documents relating to an individual company listed by company. So, if you have purchased multiple reports on company, it will be easier to find, sort, view, print or share these documents.



(this image may not be how the final version appears but it is a good indicator)



A new simple Monitoring On/Off button will appear beside each company name and clicking the 'edit settings' will cause a drop down box to appear where you can edit your monitoring preferences for that company.

The 'share' functionality will be improved but more on that in a later update.

Any feedback gratefully received to alastair[at]ukdata.com

New analysis from Google Ad Planner

Google have launched Ad Planner (beta) which lets you look deeper into a website metrics to see more about the visitors.

More useful for companies that buy online ad space but still some interesting user statistics on ukdata.com:






























And very impressive if you are Wikipedia.

Friday, 1 May 2009

Insolvencies Q1 2009

UK DATA: INSOLVENCIES IN THE FIRST QUARTER 2009

Statistics showing insolvencies in the first quarter of 2009 are published today (1 May) by the Insolvency Service.

There were 4,941 compulsory liquidations and creditors’ voluntary liquidations in total in England and Wales in the first quarter of 2009 (on a seasonally adjusted basis).

This was an increase of 7.1% on the previous quarter and an increase of 56.0% on the same period a year ago.

This was made up of 1,579 compulsory liquidations (which are up 1.2% on the previous quarter and 43.6% on the corresponding quarter of the previous year), and 3,362 creditors voluntary liquidations (which are up 10.0% on the previous quarter and 62.5% on the corresponding quarter of the previous year).



In the twelve months ending Q1 2009, approximately 1 in 130 active companies (or 0.8%) went into liquidation, compared to the previous quarter when approximately 1 in every 150 (or 0.7%) of active companies went into liquidation.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Website Features - Update 1

We will be spending the summer working hard to improve the website for you and to add new features, to make checking companies credit and monitoring their activity even quicker and simpler.

Our new release - which is due in July - is going to include a raft of new features to make using the website that bit easier and over the next few weeks I will blog about these so you can see what is coming up. Please email me alastair[at]ukdata.com if you have suggestions or feedback on any of the new features.

The main noticeable change will be layout. We are not changing the design but instead taking the current layout and making it wider to 980px and increasing the default text size to making reading the website easier. Don't worry though if you like your text small, there will be a -TEXT+ button to override the text size.

We are also adding 'print this page' and 'email this page' buttons to every page throughout the website. This will include all the 'Company Details' pages so you can share company information with others by email without leaving the page.

The same 'email this page' code will be used for the 'share this report' button in your My Reports area so that instead of being taken to a new page and filling in a form, a pop-up layer will simply ask for their email address and whisk the report off to your colleague.

more to come...

Monday, 6 April 2009

More fraud prevention

More emails and phone calls over the last few days from victims of fraudsters using UK companies details as a false front. Thanks to Chris over at scamchecker.net for allowing me to post his check list.


Main points to watch for:

The website is poorly designed.
Incorrectly spelt words, bad English grammar.
Uses cell phones or a redirection service - verify telephone numbers at International Numbers
They sell quality branded goods such as Nike, Rolex, Tiffany etc, that they claim are genuine.
They sell quality branded goods, Nike, Rolex, Tiffany etc..that they claim are replicas.
Prices seem too good to be true, such as half price iPods or Xbox Units.
They initiated contact with you via EBay messaging system or spam email.
They only have a web presence on B2B or Auction websites.

Website Registration

The website name address has no relevance to the 'company' name.
The website was registered in the last 3 months.
The website registration was only purchased for a period of one year.
The physical address provided in the website registration is too vague to be an actual address.
The phone number provided in the website registration appears fake. e.g. 12345678.
The email address provided in the website registration is using a free email service such as Yahoo or Hotmail

Seller Behaviour

Instead of referring to the goods as counterfeit or replicas, they use terms such as 'high quality' or 'A+'.
They are reluctant to accept PayPal, or make excuses why they cannot accept PayPal.
Once you have paid for the items they seem to ignore your emails and instant messages.
If a third party suggest they are a scam, they say this is because they are the competition
The seller uses heavy pressure for you to increase your order quantity.

Payment

Does not accept any form of Credit Card.
Only accepts Credit Card for local purchases.
Requires money to be sent by Bank Transfer, Western Union or Moneygram.
Only accepts Credit Card to fund Bank Transfer, Western Union or Moneygram.
After purchasing goods has asked you to send more money for goods to clear customs.
Offers no method of payment using a proper secure means.

Documentation

Once paid you are provided with a shipping number that is 'not found' or 'invalid' on the shipping companies website.
Provides 'documents' which have been produced by Photoshop.
A Google search finds their name associated with a scam.
The Local Administration for Industry and Commerce cannot confirm this company is legally registered, and has certificates for foreign trade.

Monday, 30 March 2009

Quite Interesting

Found this interesting graphic on Google Analytics today of the concentration of website visitors to ukdata.com for the 1st Quarter of 2009.

Within UK visitors - who represent 65% of all visits - there is a predominance of visitors from London and the South East accounting for 28% of all UK users.

The second and third highest concentrations are along the corridors of the M40 and M4 motorways with a small cluster in the North East.

Quite interesting but perhaps not surprising?

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Understanding Company Identity Theft

We have been asked many times how to verify a company on our database who 'claim' to only have 'free' email accounts and wish to use Western Union for payment.

The majority of these questions are coming from individuals wishing to buy electrical products as a result of finding special offers online on mobile phones, DVD players etc. 

In most cases the company being namechecked does not know about the posts or the offers and is being scammed itself. Click here for more background on this.

We have answered this question on our forum and in our help pages but this link to fraudwatchers.org forum post  is very helpful and they detail an excellent outline of the methodology of the fraudster and what to watch for."

If you wish to report a fraud and save someone else becoming a victim please post on our forum and on the fraudwatchers forum.

If you post on our forum we can then add some detail (example) to the company in question in our database and contact them to inform them that they may also be a victim of impersonation.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Accountants claim 23,713 company liquidations

Wilkins Kennedy predict the highest number of company liquidations since 1992/3 in a news release on their website.

The accountancy firm took data from Companies House and forecast the number of liquidations for the year ending March 2009. Their prediction of 23,713 is 17% up on 2007/08.

Keith Stevens of Wilkins Kennedy say that the lack of credit combined with falling demand is having a major impact on the ability of business to continue trading.

From our data collected from ukdata.com we have seen a 100% increase in company monitoring comparing Jan & Feb 2008 against this year and a 130% increase in visitor traffic to the website.

From talking to a sample group of clients who called the office it seems that they are watching and waiting to see what happens next. Monitoring for new CCJ events and and double checking that Annual Returns and Accounts were being filed on time were the key indicators that our sample were particularly keen to monitor.

Most stated that late (or later than usual) filing of accounts or annual returns would cause concern and instigate a discussion with the company in question. Any new CCJ events would certainly trigger alarm bells.

For companies it seems now is the time to be on top of your filing dates and making sure that any disputes over payment are resolved before they get near a County Court.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Advertising on ukdata.com

We are now running a Beta test of 3rd party advertising on the website.

With 2,000,000 page impressions and over 500,000 unique visitors per month, the majority of whom are well educated, and initially profiled by Quantcast as B2B and SME it is an excellent opportunity for a non competing business to business website to attract visitors and sales leads.

We are applying fixed pricing with discounts for longer commitments to move away from the auction style ads seen across other websites. The deal will also be exclusive to one advertiser and and we will offer the complete run of our company listings pages. If the Beta proves succesful we will look at a more granular approach where you can advertise within specific sectors, Accountancy, Legal, Retail etc.

As this is a Beta I would love to hear your feedback or ideas - simply drop me an email at alastair[at]ukdata.com

More information and contact details are available here.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Company fraud - now its personal - Alastair Campbell Ltd

We have been warning companies to monitor the internet for mentions of their company name and directors names using Google Alerts for some time now.

At the same time we have worked with other data providers to try and clamp down on fraudsters impersonating UK companies. By sharing the information and informing the genuine directors of the company they at least could do something about it. See Gamecasta Limited page for an example.

More on the history of this here and here.

But, now it is personal. In the last few weeks a fraudster has been referring to a non existent company 'Alastair Campbell Ltd' and had the front to pretend it was based at our office address here.

So, a little competition, can we beat him to the top of Google for the term 'Alastair Campbell Ltd'? In essence, anyone checking his company out, should then find this post or this page - Alastair Campbell Ltd and realise that sending cash by Western Union is probably not their best bet.

If you want to help stop him defrauding others, please link back to this page using the anchor text 'Alastair Campbell Ltd' - it might not stop him but it will reduce the number of people who fall for his scam.

Monday, 23 February 2009

A new client breaks a record

A new client broke all previous records today by requesting that we monitor all his clients using the monitoring service.

Nothing unusual about that apart from the fact there were 10,843 companies on the list.

This is now the highest number of companies monitored by a single client.

Please note that if you wish to monitor more clients than you would be happy to add manually to your monitor account you can simply visit this page, look for the section titled:

"
What if i want to monitor several companies?"

and look for the link to download a spreadsheet you can complete off-line and email to us.

We will do the hard work for you.

Visitor Traffic Doubles as Credit Tightens

As credit controllers become stricter about handing out credit and companies start to check out who they are doing business with before they even open a conversation, traffic at ukdata.com has almost doubled in recent weeks.

Traffic in the 3rd week of February was double the 3rd week in December!









This pattern started in the new year after the holidays and has not stopped since. If the current rate of visitor traffic continues, by the end of July ukdata.com 2009 visitor traffic will surpass the TOTAL number of visitors for 2008.

There may be other factors behind this however - googlebot has been spending more time on the site (see diagram below), crawling more pages, more often and while we can guess at some of the reasons behind this, some of it must be down to the jump in inbound links to ukdata.com and the number of new users signing up to the free monitoring service.








New users to the monitoring service in Jan 2009 is double the number of new users in Jan 2008. February is looking even stronger. So caution seems to be the word of the moment.

New logo for ukdata.com

We have a fancy new logo this morning.

Our website was looking a bit drab and with all the business news being so depressing we thought we would brighten up the website.

Out with the old:



And in with the new:



Any comments or feedback much appreciated.

Monday, 9 February 2009

New Partner Program

We will be soft launching our new Partner Program on 2nd April 2009.

If you have website visitors that could require company credit reports or free company monitoring you will be able to add all the features of ukdata.com to your website.

What's more, we do all the behind the scenes work and manage the entire process for you including payment processing, telephone/email support, backups, nightly updates and sending out monitor alerts.

In return for your on-line promotion we will pay you an excellent % of total revenue to you on a monthly basis variable on your sales and new monitor sign ups.

More information is available here and if you want to be alerted when we go live please email support[at]ukdata.com with the subject line 'partner program alert'

Company liquidations up 50%

On Friday the BBC had a sobering news item on their website that led with the fact that the fact that corporate liquidations (the end stage of a company going under) in the last three months of 2008 were up 52% on the last three months of 2007.

But more importantly, actual liquidations and receiverships were up 220% on the same period to the year before.

This accounts for one in every 150 trading companies.

As you can see from the graph below from The Insolvency Service , there has been a significant jump in company failure during quarters 2,3 & 4 in 2008.



What does this mean for all of us? No one is going to be unaffected and all companies and those responsible for credit control should be checking and double checking all the available information before opening or extending a line of credit.

This is why we offer a company monitor service for free and want you to use it. If you have any questions or need help setting up an account or adding/changing the companies that you monitor please contact us.

Reasons to use our forum

We had an email today about this forum post:

http://www.hondacarforum.com/acura-technical/67075-fs-nokia-n96-16gb-350usd.html

The questioner wanted to know how and why we had verified the company mentioned and apparently posting their mobile phone prices.

As always, we explained that we don't verify the ability of a company to do business or their ethics or anything that is subjective. All our information is objective and based on financial data we source from a number of agencies.

Even more importantly, a forum posting such as the one above may be legitimate or not and the fact that the company is on our website is not indicative of whether this posting is genuine.

We always recommend you look for a land line UK telephone number and an email address that matches the URL of a company website not a free Hotmail, Live or Google email account.

You can find out more about verifying a company here and more information on common mobile phone scams here.

Friday, 30 January 2009

Test forum established

We receive many questions about trading with individual companies and hundreds of emails asking about the validity of companies on our database.

Our new forum allows you to communicate share information about companies between other ukdata.com users.

We will answer any questions you have and also will participate (*if we can*) in solving any problems you may have.

In the near future we will be using this blog and the forum to demonstrate ideas, new features and products we would like to integrate into www.ukdata.com - we would love your feedback on these as we showcase them so that all and any changes we make to the website benefit you.

The forum can be found here - http://www.ukdata.com/forum

Note:

You will need to create a new user id for the forum - we don't intend to tie in your ukdata.com username and password to the forum for security reasons. If you wish you can use the same email address just don't use the same password!

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Company monitoring on the increase

Fear of company failure is fuelling an unprecedented rise in company monitoring.

Our monitoring service, which offers free and unlimited access to changes in company credit score, has seen an increase of 175% of new users wishing to use the service in January 2008 compared to January 2007.

Random telephone sampling of these new clients has pointed to a fear of losing clients with any outstanding credit, which is not a surprise, but also that they wish to monitor suppliers - even the largest ones - for fear of being left unable to continue trading.

It seems that at the moment, no company is perceived to be immune from the credit crisis and that everyone from the smallest SME to the largest corporations are all wary of being exposed.

For more information on monitoring please visit this page.