“EU Business Register” spam: what happens if you do not pay
Maybe you got that spam too. The subject line may vary, but usually includes a variation on EU Business Register. Attached is a PDF form most often titled “Company Data Control”, sometimes accompanied by the current year. At first glance, it looks like an official letter from one of the EU offices, using blue font and gold stars arranged in a circle.
The letter is not from any office, it is sent by evil people. Behind the apparently official correspondence is an advertising order worth thousands of euros.
I have been working on this article for over a year. What happens if you do not pay for the advertisement? What happened after the penalty fee increased and the debt was handed over to a debt collection agency? And who is the secret operator of the EU Business Register?
By submitting to the EU Business Register, you order advertising for €2,985
Let’s go back to the beginning. The form invites the recipient to send the completed questionnaire to Eu Business Register, P.O.BOX 34, 3700 AA – Zeist, The Netherlands. This is not official writing, as it is in small print on the side of the form.
Behind the form is an order for advertising on the meaningless EU Business Register website (www.EUBusinessRegister.eu). There is a fee for publishing a company’s profile, but subsequent updates are free, as the form mentions a little underhandedly. The subscription is for three years with an annual automatic renewal of one year, the cost of advertising is $1,068€995 per year.
To terminate the subscription; the catalogue operator must receive at least two months’ notice. (The term “receive” is worth mentioning in itself, as it may happen that “the post office does not deliver the notice”.)
What to do if you receive a form from the EU Business Register
Delete the email with the form or mark the message as spam. Then, you have nothing to worry about. However, in the worst case, you will receive the email again.
If you have returned the completed EU Business Register form to P.O.BOX 34, 3700 AA – Zeist, The Netherlands and paid, you will never see your money back.
What to do if you have submitted a completed EU Business Register
Input for lawyers: The information below is not a how-to guide, but the experience of the person who submitted the completed EU Business Register form. Always consult your legal department for further advice.
The directory operator does not verify the form has been submitted by a person authorised to act on behalf of the company. In theory, this could lead to a situation where one company fills in the form for another company in the context of competition. The aggrieved company is then repeatedly asked to pay the fee.
This may be the case for a reader for whom someone submitted a completed form in mid-August 2021. We obtained access to all communications. As we have verified, the information in the form does not belong to any business entity. Furthermore, the telephone number length does not correspond to the format used in the Czech Republic.
Letter 1: Invoice for services (September 2021)
The first response from the EU Business Register catalogue operator was an email in mid-September 2021. “Ms. Andreea, Account Manager” from email@example.com sent a document marked as an invoice.
The same document arrived a few days later by conventional mail. Both the email and the letter arrived after the so-called invoice due date.
The invoice states in small print that “Neither EU Business Services Limited nor EU Business Register are in any way associated with organisations or institutions of the European Union or the European Commission”.
The catalogue operator does not verify who filled in the form and whether it was a person authorised to act on behalf of the company. All indications are that the persons behind the EU Business Register do not even verify that it is a real company.
Our reader replied at this stage that he was unaware of any form or order. Either it was a person without authority to act on behalf of the company or the form was sent in error.
Letter 2: Reminder and late payment penalty (October 2021)
Arguments about sending the form by a stranger did not work. The catalogue operator continues to communicate with firstname.lastname@example.org under the name Andreea and requests payment of the invoice. Otherwise, it will “involve the legal department” to resolve the situation.
The IP address of the sender of the email indeed corresponds to Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
A second letter will arrive in mid-October 2021. The reminder threatens a fine of $106€99 for late payment and an administration fee of $38€35 if you do not pay within twenty-eight days of the date stated in the letter.
Arguments about sending the form by a stranger did not work.
The payment is to be made to “SEO DIGITAL MARKETING BV / EU Business Register” from Nieuwegein in the Netherlands. Furthermore, they will discuss this later. The account NL04ABNA0101884826 is with the Dutch bank ABN AMRO Bank N.V. However, catalogue operators can use more than one bank account.
The mailing address of the sender is P.O. Box 2021, GA Utrecht, The Netherlands.
Letter 3: Second reminder and fine (November 2021)
The argument that the form was completed and sent by an unknown person does not work. Ms. Andreea ends the email communication, stating that she will involve the legal department in the case and asking for our reader’s attorney’s contact information.
The mention of involving the legal department is apparently to pressure the business involved to pay the invoice. This is even if it is not known whether the order was sent by a person authorised to act on behalf of the company.
The reader soon received a second written reminder. SEO Digital Marketing BV demands payment of a one-year subscription fee of $1,068€995, a late payment fee of $106€99 and an administration fee of $38€35. Total $1,211€1129 excluding VAT, which is passed on to the entrepreneur.
Payment is to be made within five days of the date on the reminder. The letter appeared in the mailbox twenty-one days after the date on the reminder.
Email communication in November brings nothing new; it is spinning like the wind in a box. From email@example.com, Andreea informs of the alleged late payment, the alleged debt, and the penalty for non-payment.
She still needs to prove that the EU Business Register form was completed and sent by a person authorised to act on behalf of the company. However, developments will soon gather pace. They will initiate legal proceedings, a new character, debt collectors, will enter the communication, and the letters sent will have a new colour. Read on!
Description 5: Last call for payment (February 2022)
In February 2022, another letter from the operator of the EU Business Register appeared in my mailbox. The last call for a payment of $1,211€1129 arrived fifteen days after the due date for payment. After the deadline, they will transfer the debt to a debt management and recovery company.
Waldberg & Hirsch Global Collections Ltd., whose only contact is the email address firstname.lastname@example.org. Along with this, the letter mentions an additional court fee of $322€300, which will increase to $536€500 after four weeks.
The content of the letter more or less replicates the email communication. Interestingly, the “legal notices” for payment are sent by Dana from the email address email@example.com. No Waldberg & Hirsch electronically responded.
It strikes me that the opposing party has resigned to playing the dual identity game at this stage.
Description 5: Waldberg & Hirsch Global Collections Ltd. (February 2022)
Email communications with Ms. Andrea continue to spin in a vicious circle until February 2022:
- Andreea: Including penalties, you owe so and so much.
- Our reader: The alleged order must have been sent by a person who was not authorised to act on behalf of the company.
- Andreea: Our legal department will take legal action against you; please provide us with your attorney’s contact information.
- Our reader: The form was sent without the knowledge and against the wishes of the company’s directors.
- Andreea: Happy New Year! The current amount owed is $1,211€1129. If you do not pay it by such and such date, we will start debt collection.
And then it came. A yellow letter on hard paper from Waldberg & Hirsch Global Collections Ltd.
The text on the densely described A4 page tried to give the impression that a debt collection agency sent it. The letterhead mentions that Waldberg & Hirsch is involved in debt recovery, fraud investigation (a hidden joke?), credit report analysis, and risk management.
The footer of the letter lists the countries around the world where Waldberg & Hirsch Global Collections Ltd provides its services. Botswana, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, and Syria. It tries to give the impression that this is a respected and successful company with a global presence.
However, the list of countries includes Yugoslavia, which broke up in 2003. Russia is again listed right after the Russian Federation. These pieces of the puzzle give a clue to what Waldberg & Hirsch is all about.
As you will learn by the end of the article, there is no Waldberg & Hirsch Global Collections Ltd. The people who send out the EU Business Register letters send the yellow paper notices; this is a psychological pressure method, where the fear of litigation and other charges makes the recipient pay.
Description 6: Collection of an unpaid bill (March 2022)
Nothing substantial happens in the email communication other than assurances that “the order was for three years and they will collect the full subscription”. The odd thing is that this message came from an email address from which, until now, only messages mirrored letters from Waldberg & Hirsch Global Collections Ltd.
Again, it seems as if the opposing party has failed to play both roles and admit that the operator of the EU Business Register and Waldberg & Hirsch are the same person.
There is one more interesting thing about the yellow letter. The header mentions EU Business Services Ltd., which is supposed to be the creditor.
However, there has been no contract or order. The explanation is simple. Operators of similar catalogues change their names once people catch on. Therefore, if the catalogue listing were fully legitimate, it would have been placed with an entity other than the one for which Waldberg & Hirsch Global Collections Ltd is recovering the debt.
This letter was also the last one our reader received. The counterparty also ceased email correspondence in March 2022, stating that further communication was unnecessary until September 2022.
What is Waldberg & Hirsch Global Collections Ltd?
There is no such company as Waldberg & Hirsch Global Collections Ltd. I have all kinds of evidence for that.
☎️ Phone Number
The phone number listed, 0031 20 890 8145, is untraceable. It would be traceable to a trusted, reputable company. According to one reference, it belongs to a company that sends out information about bogus debts. We called the Dutch number repeatedly, and the call always went to voicemail.
🖥️ Waldberg & Hirsch Ltd website
The WHGCollections.com website (we are deliberately not providing a link) was last updated in 2013 and does not give the impression that it belongs to a functioning, respected company. For example, no registration details, contact details, any people, or other information to verify the company’s credibility.
📜 Waldberg & Hirsch Ltd. is not on the commercial register
🏠 The company is in an apartment in Amsterdam
The company’s website lists Herengracht 518, Amsterdam, as the contact address. The “worldwide debt collection company” is thus based in an apartment building in the wider city centre.
🏤 Both versions of the letters come from the same post office
Both the white letters from the EU Business Register operator and the yellow letters from debt collectors Waldberg & Hirsch Ltd are from the same post office. Furthermore, both envelopes have stamps to be returned to the same logistics centre near Vilnius, Lithuania in case of non-delivery.
Are the catalogue operators from Lithuania? I do not think so. All emails were sent from Amsterdam and without using a VPN. I suspect that the Lithuanian post office is used by the robbers simply because it offers better postage rates than the Dutch post office. With large volumes of mail, this can be an interesting saving.
In addition, Lietuvos paštas provides printing of letters and their insertion in a branded envelope. This brings additional savings in the financial and time costs of sending letters. The sender only needs to upload the recipients’ addresses, choose a letter template, and pay the postage.
The operator of the EU Business Register is SEO Digital Marketing B.V.
The company SEO Digital Marketing B.V. from Nieuwegein, the Netherlands, repeatedly appears as the payee in the calls from the catalogue operator and Waldberg & Hirsch Global Collections Ltd.
All indications are that this is the actual operator of the EU Business Register. However, although they list EU Business Services as the operator on the catalogue website, it cannot be found in the Dutch Business Register, even among dissolved companies.
SEO Digital Marketing B.V. appears in the commercial register. The company was only founded on 15 April 2021 with a share capital of $64€60. It has the identification numbers KvK-number 82538115, RSIN 862510296, and VAT number NL862510296B01. The company is in the city of Nieuwegein in a building with shared offices.
The company’s sole owner is one Cornelis Boot, born on 6 March 1952, according to the extract from the commercial register dated 28 September 2022. However, it is possible that this is a white horse and someone else is actually behind the EU Business Register catalogue.
The background of the catalogue before the establishment of SEO Digital Marketing B.V. also remains unclear.
Scam, spam, and catalogues are a long-term business
The EU Business Register was formerly operated by a pseudo-company, EU Business Services Ltd, with a mailing address of P.O. Box 2021, Utrecht, the Netherlands. Sometime after 2010, the name and address changed to Amsterdam, and the directory operator neglected to update the information in the letter. As a result, EU Business Services Ltd. is untraceable in the Dutch commercial register, even among the dissolved companies.
However, the trail leads elsewhere: Malaga, Spain. The company EU Business Services Ltd., which registered the domain name of Waldberg & Hirsch, is at C/Capulino Jauregui Nº2. Cees Boot is the contact person.
Also, in some of the older letters, the creditor is the Spanish-registered company SEO MARKETING SL. The sole managing director of the company is again Cornelis Boot. The catalogue then operated under the name European Company Network.
Sometime around 2020, another variation of the catalogue name began to appear: the World-Business-List operated at the domain WorldBusinessList.net. The form should be sent to World-Business-List, Postbox 34, 3700 AA Zeist, The Netherlands. The scenario seems to be the same; only the name and design of the catalogue has changed. In September 2022, it had at least 7,035 registered companies.
Your experience and current developments
The EU Business Register catalogue has an estimated sub-tens of thousands of companies from all over Europe. In addition, it displays businesses that still need to pay their invoices. What is your experience with the catalogue operator? Has a debt recovery for a listing in the EU Business Register gone to litigation?
If you have experience with the EU Business Register, please comment below the article or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. The more up-to-date information we have, the better we can describe the practices of the catalogue operator to the public.
This article on EU Business Register was originally published in Czech by the same author. This post is a translation of it. The facts described in the article are based on the author’s experience with scams in the Czech Republic. In other countries, details or procedures may differ.