Reporting fraudulent 'agencies' in the creative sector

Recently I reported somebody I believe to be a fraudulent company director to companies house & the insolvency service. It's the first time I have ever done this, but, looking back over my years spent working in the creative sector, there have numerous occasions where I should have done this previously.

Anyone who has worked in the creative industry for any length of time will have, at some point, been ripped off. This is an inevitable learning curve. In these instances recovering your monies through the small claims court, is something I would encourage everyone to attempt. But aside from recovering your monies, ask yourself: has the conduct of the director(s) been illegal? If you think there is a chance that it is, you have an ethical and honor bound duty to our little community to grass them up accordingly.

Failure to do so means others could fall into the same trap. It could even directly come back to bite you again in the future, as I recently discovered.

What happened to me: then

As a young, enthusiastic freelancer, I took a job from a company based in Leicester. I was provided a design by the "Creative Agency" and asked to code it. Which I did, thus concluding our arrangement. However the end customer (of the Agency) decided they didn't like the design, and my client (the agency) told me if I wanted to get paid, I was going to have to code it again for free. Naively, I coded an entirely new design. They tried to pull the same thing a third time, but I said enough is enough and refused to do any further work.

Months of subsequent chasing ensued, promises made, ample chances given. But the long of the short; I never got paid - it was about £1000 worth of work.

So, I began the proceedings to take my grievance to small claims court. I also started looking into the possibility, of petitioning the courts to windup the company upon the basis it couldn't pay its debts, and, was taking on work it knew it could never provide.

Upon discovering this, the director of the agency became extremely hostile. But eventually calmed down and gave me a sob story about how he was broke, had lost everything and was leaving the industry and closing the business up. Telling me if I didn't petition for the companies winding up, I might get some money in the liquidation. Alternatively, if I continued on my route "going for the jugular" I wouldn't get anything as the company was already in ruins.

Being somewhat soft, I decided to opt for the kinder of the two options. I waited for the liquidation. I never got paid.

What happened to me: now

Fast forward five years. I was consulting with an old friend on a web build. When working with them, we were sharing screens and a message popped up on their screen from none other than the individual who ripped me off and the situation my friend was in, was almost identical to the one I was in five years previous.

So I started doing some research on this individual. It turns out he had liquidated as he had promised me he would. It also turns out he almost immediately started up again. Same business, different name, again that company had massive debts run up on it, and it was then liquidated. He had then started another business and companies house is showing that company as having debts. Quelle Surprise: he is now the director of another startup with a similar name.

This behavior in itself is illegal - it can lead to jail time. But unreported companies house can struggle to detect it. So I did my civic duty and reported the shyster.

How to look up a director / agency

The two sites I use to query a director or agencies they are associated with are

Between the two of them, you can piece together quite a bit of free info to build up a picture on a person. You can then also pay for more advanced, in-depth credit reports and company checks.

Companies house can also be a good way to get further information for free.

Before starting any project, i would urge everyone to do their due diligence. It can save you so much time and hassle in the long run, hopefully meaning you never find yourself in a situation like i have described.

How to report someone

Got stung yourself and wondering how to report someone? Using this form right here.

It's a small industry, and there are a lot of unsavory people in it who look to take advantage or freelancers and startups. I felt it was my duty to report this individual; it also felt petty darn good too. I would encourage anyone reading this to know, that they do have the means to do the same thing.

Edd Smith

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