Beware of scammers in the market

Beware of scammers in the market

BLOG · BY TTF CEO, DAVID HOPKINS · 03 May 2021

Amidst high demand and restricted supply for building materials, we have been made aware of some scam emails being circulated, with timber placed at prices and with lead times too good to be true. We advise members to make absolutely sure they know who they are dealing with electronically before sharing company information

It is an unfortunate fact that unscrupulous and dishonest people will seek to make the most of imbalances in the market. If you have ever had the displeasure of dealing with ticket scalpers you may have interacted with this lot before. Worse yet are scammers, who seek to empty the wallets of the unwary or desperate through base deception.

Amidst high demand and restricted supply for building materials we have been made aware of some scam emails being circulated, with timber placed at prices and with lead times too good to be true. This should immediately set alarm bells ringing and while at a glance these emails may appear to be legitimate a closer inspection will often reveal its true nature. This week we have seen a particularly sophisticated Birch Plywood scam which makes a very credible offer using the correct terminology and attaches marketing materials from a genuine but entirely blameless manufacturer.

It is important for our members to keep wary of scams, particularly in the current market. We would always advise members to make absolutely sure they know who they are dealing with electronically before sharing company information such as bank details or sending any form of payment. Some dead giveaways of a scam will be an unusual email address behind what looks like a genuine sender name, a misspelled domain name, spelling errors, suspicious attachments or links, or that the message creates a sense of urgency.

In the case of the Birch Plywood scam, none of these obvious marks applied and it took quite a bit more investigation to establish the truth. With some research a canny member found that no person at the supplier company had the name from the email, while the address itself was slightly altered from the regular domain name. The scammer had even altered legitimate supporting documents in the email to show the fake domain.

If you have received an email which you’re not quite sure about, make sure you do your homework, and if you think it is a scam please forward it to the Suspicious Email Reporting Service (SERS), run by the National Cyber Security Center (NCSC): report@phishing.gov.uk. For more tips on staying safe and scam alerts, you can subscribe to the recently launched NCSC newsletter for small businesses.

Another note for our members is to be mindful of the Competitions Act, with the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) this week publishing an opinion piece in Construction News giving warning to construction businesses. Those in breach of the Act risk large fines, disqualification from being a director, and criminal convictions.

The CMA ‘Cheating or Competing’ Construction Campaign now features a new collection of construction case studies alongside advice for the sector. We advise you to check them out – trust must always be at the centre of all that of our actions.

As the newly appointed co-chair of the independent review of the system for testing construction products Paul Morrell said this week, the construction sector must rally together to fix its failings, in all areas. The Grenfell Tower inquiry shows some of the potentially appalling consequences of, to use the Secretary of State’s words, ‘gaming the system’.

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