The WSTA is launching a fraud prevention unit to lead industry efforts to crackdown on fraud in the wine and spirits sectors.
The unit will work with police and customs in combating a range of issues affecting consumers and the trade, from identity theft and counterfeiting to wine investment fraud.
The new unit meets the requirements of the Information Commissioners Office and Data Protection Act for the sharing of information amongst businesses. It will enable WSTA member businesses to legally share information about actual or suspected fraudulent activity within the wine and spirit trade and where necessary liaise with police, customs and regulatory agencies.
Operation Sterling, the Metropolitan Police Service's economic prevention and disruption unit, is working closely with the WSTA to help it achieve its goals.
Acting Detective Superintendent Nick Downing, who heads Operation Sterling, said: "Our work with industry is crucial to combating fraud so we welcome this initiative set up by the Wine and Spirit Trade Association.
"We would advise those considering investing money, whether it be a small or large amount, to do their research and be sure that the companies or individuals they are dealing with are reputable and legitimate. We would further advise that care should be taken with personal details when entering into any financial agreement so as to avoid being conned out of your hard earned cash or having your identity stolen."
Only this month the WSTA stepped in after a member company became victim of corporate identity theft, costing in excess of £10,000. The fraudsters used fake email addresses to obtain a wine order from one of the company's French suppliers before suspicions were aroused and the WSTA alerted the police and others in the trade.
WSTA Chief Executive Jeremy Beadles said: "It's not just consumers who suffer from fraud, it's also damaging to legitimate businesses within the trade and we want to ensure we are taking every possible step to combat the problem.
"Our new unit provides a real focus to our work in this area and enables responsible businesses to legally share information so that we can help the authorities."
Notes to editors
WSTA fraud prevention unit
Membership of the unit is open to WSTA member companies. They agree to abide by the data protection principles set out by the Data Protection Act 1998, in respect to safeguarding customer information. The unit meets the requirements of the Information Commissioners Office and follows best practice in other industries, including the travel, telecoms and automotive sectors.