Written by Craig Evans
Posted on 24/08/2018

Fraudsters spoof university email addresses in six figure supply fraud

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Not a new fraud, but highly efficient and more sophisticated than before. Latest commercial financial crime trend is seeing an increase in fraudsters registering domain names to look like they belong to UK university email addresses. 

UK and European supply companies are being defrauded out of vast sums of money as a result of this. 

Fraudsters imitating one university’s address lead to a total victim loss of over £350,000.

How the fraud works

This type of fraud, known as European distribution fraud, happens when a company from overseas (usually from Europe) delivers products to the UK, but isn’t paid for the goods or the cost of shipping.

Fraudsters are registering domains that are similar to genuine university domains such as, and These domains are used to contact suppliers and order high value goods such as IT equipment and pharmaceutical chemicals in the university’s name. 

Suppliers will receive an email claiming to be from a university, requesting a quotation for goods on extended payment terms. Once the quotation has been provided, a purchase order is emailed to the supplier that is similar to a real university purchase order. The purchase order typically instructs delivery to an address, which may or may not be affiliated with the university. The items are then received by the criminals before being moved on, however no payment is received by the supplier.

Director of Action Fraud, Pauline Smith, said:

“This type of fraud can have a serious impact on businesses. This is why it’s so important to spot the signs and carry out all the necessary checks, such as verifying the order and checking any documents for poor spelling and grammar.

“We know that there is a lack of reporting by affected companies and without this vital intelligence, a true picture of EDF cannot be reflected.

“If you or your business has been a victim, report it to Action Fraud.”

Protect your business against European distribution fraud

Graydon are soon to announce the launch of a new anti fraud commercial product. Underpinned by the expertise of our data science and technology teams, combined with the predictive capabilities of Graydon’s data, Graydon will expose, prevent and combat fraud, by providing accurate, real-time insights, and draws upon Graydon’s deep domain expertise in high-risk industry sectors.