Fraud and international trade

Last updated: 25 July 2017

Contact Police Scotland on 101 if you've been a victim of fraud or you need advice.

What counts as fraud

Fraud is taking money or goods by deceiving others. Examples of fraud concerning international trade include:

  • pretending to pay for goods from another country by creating false documents, but not actually paying for them
  • stealing a business identity or creating a fake business
  • stealing 'intellectual property' – e.g. by importing pirated films or fake trademarked items
  • charging VAT but not paying it to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC)
  • trading in weapons or their components but pretending they're something else

Who to contact

The police can help with all aspects of international trade crime – apart from fraud about intellectual property.

For intellectual property fraud, contact Crimestoppers or your local trading standards office through Citizens Advice Scotland.


Before deciding to join an export market it's worth considering the level of corruption in a country. There are several ways to find out - for example using the Corruption Perceptions index by Transparency International.

A UK citizen or UK-based business that gives or accepts bribes anywhere in the world could be prosecuted in the UK. Even if that is someone working for you or your company's behalf e.g. your agent.

Further help and advice

Visit UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) for up-to-date advice on the risks involved in doing business in different countries.

You can check VAT numbers for companies within the European Union (EU) on the Europa website.

Money laundering

You may need to register for anti-money laundering supervision, depending on your business sector.

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