Avoiding crime and fraud in international trade

Vetting business partners


Protect your business from crime and fraud, including money laundering, by checking your customers and suppliers. If a supplier or customer is reluctant to give you their details, it could be a bad sign.

If a business owes you money unlawfully or you suspect criminal activity, contact the Insolvency Service.

How to vet a company

You can check the details of another UK company on the Companies House website. For a fee, you can sign up to the Companies House monitoring system, which emails you every time a document is filed.

To check a company abroad, ask for original documents of incorporation or for references from other companies.

You should check a new customer's credit. Ask for references, or use an international credit-checking agency. You can also assess crime risks in the countries you trade with.

You can check a new customer's international bank account number (IBAN) to make sure that the code numbers are correct.

You can also check VAT numbers for companies within the European Union (EU).

Agreeing secure methods of payment

You should also agree secure methods of payment. These include:

  • payment on open accounts
  • documentary collection where the supplier draws up a bill of exchange, specifying when payment will be made - the customer becomes legally liable for payment once they accept the bill
  • documentary credit - customer arranges a letter of credit with their bank
  • electronic funds transfer using secure means