The posh London address 4,000 firms call home: But it’s not their real office, they pay £24 a month for a forwarding service – and it’s a scammers paradise.
Aspiring entrepreneurs know that an impressive office address can be a powerful asset.
Customers assume that if a business can afford to be based in an affluent area, it must be successful. But a Money Mail investigation today shows why you should think twice before trusting a grand-sounding location.
Number 207 Regent Street is a smart Portland stone building in central London, with five floors based above a shoe shop.
You might assume the rent would be eye-watering. Yet floor three could be yours for just £24 a month — as long as you don’t mind sharing with 3,900 other companies.
That’s because 207 Regent Street is what’s known as a virtual office.
It means that none of the firms’ staff are based at the address, and any post is just forwarded on to their ‘real’ location.
They are paying to be able to use the address on business cards and websites.
As the firm that rents out the space, Hold Everything boasts on its website: ‘Having a virtual office on London’s Regent Street exudes the height of professionalism and ensures your business looks established and trustworthy’.
Companies purporting to be based at the address range from retailers to private investigators. U.S. businesswoman, Jennifer Arcuri, who claims to have had a four-year affair with Prime Minister Boris Johnson, uses the address for her firm, Hacker House Ltd.
But while most businesses have a justifiable reason for wanting a virtual office address, some unscrupulous owners are exploiting the system.
Fraud and cybercrime reports have rocketed during lockdown, with individuals’ losses totalling around £148.8 million just last month, says Action Fraud.
And City watchdog, the Financial Conduct Authority, has issued about half a dozen warnings about unauthorised firms claiming to be registered at 207 Regent Street.
These include the now-dissolved Coombes and Kiwonski Investments and a loan firm, Sky Quid, which conned victims out of about £20,000 by convincing them to pay deposits for loans that never materialised.