The Unofficial Official Newly founded GmbH beware
Nobody likes to be taken advantage of, and certainly not when you are starting a new business or expanding abroad. Many think that they are more likely to fall prey to scam artists when they are faced with business in a foreign language or in dealing with foreign authorities. Not so, unfortunately.
I recently incorporated my business in Germany, Hull Speed Associates GmbH, and soon after the company was registered I was inundated with forms to fill out, questionnaires to send in, etc. Welcome to paper-full Germany! Before receiving forms from the Finanzamt, the German IRS, to register for a tax number I received two very official looking invoices asking Hull Speed to pay EURO 500+ for each invoice. A bell rang in the back of my mind and took me back about 11 years when I first encountered this, so I took the time to read the fine print on the official letters. These so-called invoices came from private companies specializing in collecting company names and related data to place in their database for resale. The fine print went on to basically say that your company information will be placed in our database but we cannot guarantee any benefit will come of it So for EURO 500 my company has the privilege of adding its company data into a database of a company I have never heard of with no guarantee of benefit. Does that sound like a good deal? I dont think so.
Yet due to the official look and feel and terminology of these letters can you imagine how many law-abiding and rule following Germans blindly pay this? My guess is more than we would think. For example, my former colleague and close German friend also recently founded a GmbH, received three such letters and because Bill, I just had a lot to do.. blindly paid the invoices. After payment was made and having some time to read the fine print he discovered he was hoodwinked and swindled out of over EURO 1,500. Stupid? No. Careless? Yes.
Swindlers are everywhere, so read the fine print. And when in doubt, ask a colleague or us at Hull Speed Associates to read it over for you, just to keep you out of some puddles of troubled water that could turn out to be more expensive than you think!