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I'm from Sweden and considering opening a "Internet" company on Cyprus with a (valid EU VAT number), because of better tax benefits compared to Sweden and the UK (where I have other companies).

I've found this accounting company, CCLogic which looks pretty serious judging from their website, however, if you dig deeper, e.g. searching for the people giving the testimonials or just looking up people working for that company you don't find much information if any.

While this is a very specific scenario, I'm actually interested in the more generic question on how to verify that a company you work with somewhere abroad is actually a legit company and not a scam.

(Also I wasn't sure if this is the right StackExchange site. If there's another more appropriate one, please let me know and I'll move the question)

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See the consumer protection referendum on meta. This certainly looks on topic to me. –  C. Ross Feb 19 '13 at 20:24

2 Answers 2

It depends greatly from place to place, but nothing beats the Internet reviews' research. If you can't find anything digging slightly deeper than the impressive home page, then you probably should be worried. As it seems that you are.

Specifically, I do these:

  1. Search the government registration data. The site you mentioned has a direct link to the Cyprus companies registrar site, but when I click it - the list comes up empty. That's a clue that something is probably wrong. In the US, for example, you would check the relevant State's Department of State or Corporations or something similar. In other countries it is usually the Department of Interior or a similar governmental agency (in the US "Interior" deals with land and environment, not people and businesses).
  2. Search review sites. Usual suspects: BBB, Yelp, Yahoo Answers, etc. You're from the EU, you're probably aware of European sites similar in nature.
  3. Google "reviews < company name >". You'd be surprised what you can find by a simple search. Webutation ranks the site you mentioned at 40%. For comparison, my site (that only hosts my blog) is ranked at 80%. Amazon is ranked at 100%.

@JohnFX mentions a valid point: check for physical presence. Check that the office address is a real office and not a PO box or residential; call the number and see who answers it (if you call several times during different hours and the same person answers - that's probably a one-man operation).

But that doesn't always help because short-term renting an office is not all that hard and getting a call-centre outsourced to a third-world country doesn't cost all that much. It definitely helps if you're dealing with someone local, but if you're in Sweden and checking out a suspicious operation in Cyprus - this is definitely not enough.

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This is good research. If you ask for references, or if references are provided, doing this kind of research on them might help you discover if they are real customers or straw men. –  MrChrister Feb 20 '13 at 17:53
    
Yes to all of this. Additionally have a look at the whois data for their domain registration, which can be surprisingly revealing - how long have they had the domain, is it owned as a business domain or a personal one, etc. –  Vicky Feb 21 '13 at 11:46

If you are trying to weed out companies that are fronts for scams, one way is to look for a physical address that checks out with the phone book and a phone number posted on the site that connects you to an actual person.

By itself this isn't a guarantee that the company is legit, but it will weed out a large number of fraudulent companies hiding behind PO boxes. That is, companies that defraud a lot of people don't usually make it very easy to track them down or contact them to complain or sue them.

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