As technology improves, entrance into a globalized marketplace has become easier. With the right tools, even the smallest of companies can market to just about anyone, and now they can do it while making consumers believe they are doing business from some of the most prestigious places in the world.
Virtual offices are exactly what they sound like: It’s a company office, but not in the traditional or literal sense. A virtual office functions more like a timeshare with mail forwarding capabilities. Depending on the agreement, a company can advertise a more prestigious address than a P.O. box and occasionally use office space in a professional atmosphere.
The virtual office industry is a more elaborate and evolved version of the executive suite industry which was popularized in the 1990s. Like its predecessor, the virtual office industry offers companies the ability to impart a corporate and well-established image while keeping a much lower overhead than offered by a traditional lease.
The concept seems perfect for small businesses that work out of a home or larger corporations that are in the beginning stages of moving into a new market.
However, in recent years, virtual offices have become a breeding ground for fraudsters. The appeal of prestigious corporate addresses at dirt cheap prices has given scammers and questionable businesses an advantage not previously available with traditional P.O. boxes: a greater sense of legitimacy. It’s apparent that 21st century boiler rooms have become much more attractive.
A simple online search shows that a company can quickly become a tenant of New York’s Chrysler Building, Chicago’s Sears Tower, Hong Kong’s BOC Tower, or Taiwan’s Taipei 101.
What about an address on Wall Street? No problem! Earlier this year, investment scammer, Robert Sucarato, admitted to defrauding investors out of $1.6 million while using a virtual office at 67 Wall St.
In 2010, the BBB Dallas became concerned about Johnson & Armel Consulting and Staffing Services, an employment agency claiming to be located at 5956 Sherry Ln. Dallas, TX, the same address as President George W. Bush’s new office space. Consumers complained that the company solicited them to attend online universities and that the jobs didn’t really exist. In the end, the company failed to provide BBB Dallas with substantiation of the existence of the 1000 jobs posted on their website.
BBB warns consumers to be mindful of companies using virtual addresses. Although there are plenty of legitimate companies using virtual offices, their popularity with scammers is notable.
Unlike P.O. boxes, it isn’t always obvious that a company is using a virtual address. If you become concerned that a company may not be located at their advertised address, a quick online search of the address may provide evidence that the company is using a virtual office space.
Have you been fooled by the use of a virtual address? Let us know.