Recommendations for action: Business inquiries from Russia

In recent months, various inquiries with fraudulent or dubious intentions from Russia have occurred in Swiss companies. Clarify these points before responding.

Swiss companies need to clarify various issues before responding to a request from an unknown business partner from Russia.
Swiss companies need to clarify various issues before responding to a request from an unknown business partner from Russia.

For "spontaneous" inquiries from Russia, Swiss companies should check a few questions about these potential buyers before investing too much in processing. This is especially true if the requesting company or person was previously unknown to the Swiss company and if it concerns deliveries in the construction sector, such as wooden houses, windows or similar. Often it is "scam", i.e. an attempted advance fee fraud, for example payments for certifications, visa, commissions or similar. This can be prevented with some safety measures.

First, check if any of the following applies to the situation:

Checklist for first business inquiries from Russia

  • Request is spontaneous: no contact before the request to requesting company

  • The order volume is rather large for the Swiss company

  • There are no or only short discussions about technique or price

  • The Swiss company: is rather small (family business)

    • is a handicraft business in the construction / sub construction work (for

    • example, window or furnace builders, timber construction)

    • has little to no export experience

    • has never exported to Russia

  • The Russian company / person:

    • acts as an intermediary to investors (for example in construction projects)

    • speaks and writes very well German or English

    • announces visit, which may possibly be realized

    • builds up time pressure in the course of the negotiations

    • has a great (English) website - or none at all

    • promises an uncomplicated handling of:

      • Delivery ex works from Swiss company

      • accepts payment conditions, even prepayment

      • promises to take over certifications

      • offers assistance with obtaining a visa

      • and more oncoming gestures

If more than one of these criteria are met, we recommend that you taking extra care when further processing the request. We also advise to contact S-GE - Michael Kühn, Consultant for Russia, is available at any time. contact now

Touchstones for potential business partners

The following points should be checked before proceeding seriously with the request. If necessary, further inquiries must be obtained.


1. Company Check:

The Swiss Business Hub Russia has access to a Russian company database. The Swiss company should ask the INN number (Russian tax number) of the company, so that the company can be identified beyond doubt. Thereby, all information available in the database can be put together for you.

2. Further enquiries to the client:

If the Russian customer or agent is unwilling to provide information about the actual client, it is very likely that it is not a legitimate request.

3. Obtain references from the company

The Swiss company should obtain references from the Russian customer about projects in the same field. It can be concluded from the Russian answer whether there is an open communication or not.

4. Submission of an offer / draft contract

If the Swiss company wishes to submit an offer or draft contract despite any doubts, it should clearly state all sorts of issues, especially terms of payment, logistics, financing, certifications, etc., including the respective responsibilities and assumptions of costs. This is especially true for certifications: The offer or the draft contract should describe who carries out and pays for the certification. We recommend doing the certifications yourself, not the Russian customer. S-GE can determine what type of certification is needed and what cost to obtain based on the tariff number of the products concerned. S-GE works with reputable certification providers who communicate in German or English.

5. Backups

The following points should be considered (list not conclusive):

  • Terms of payment: work with prepayment, as high as possible, so that at least planning, material, etc. are covered

  • If necessary, work with letter of credit or documentary credit or cover export insurance; for this contact the Serv

  • Delivery conditions: use only Incoterms

  • Execute deliverables and deliveries only when agreed payments have fully arrived on the account

  • under no circumstances react to time pressure

  • In no case accept claims that do not comply with the contractual arrangements

  • Under no circumstances pay commissions or (usually invented) fees, for example for certifications before the project is completed

  • Conclude contracts in two languages ​​(two columns in Cyrillic and German / English), certify by a bilingual law office. S-GE can put you in contact with reputable providers.

  • other possible industry-standard backups

6. Too good to be true!

If the handling and negotiation until the submission of the offer is very straightforward and the Russian customer accepts (almost) all specifications of the Swiss company without much discussion or even proposes it himself, the utmost caution is required. An order processing with Russia is usually associated with considerable bureaucracy. Not later than after a possible signing of a contract, the mood of the Russian «customer» changes quickly and financial claims arise.

Are you not sure how to proceed?

Michael Kühn, Senior Consultant Russia, CIS and Nordic Countries, is available for initial information and discusses the further steps with you. contact now

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