Red flags for TFG Crowd
UPDATE: I have received emails with more information from TFG Crowd, Cofediction, and Edeland, and I have inserted the explanations in the text below.
After the problems with Kuetzal and Envestio I have decided to have a closer look at the platforms I deem risky. The last thing I want is to lose that much money again. A more thorough investigation might help me identify the platforms that are either potential frauds or have an above-average risky business model. That allows me to put most of my funds in platforms I do trust, because I am still convinced the P2P market is a viable one for investments.
The first platform I decided to investage is TFG Crowd. This platform is faily new, and promises high return rates (17-20%). After Envestio and Kuetzal I have become a bit sceptical towards those high interest rates, especially when offered by a new and small platform. On the other hand, if the platform and the projects turn out to be legit and trustworthy, we will have a great means to increase our return rates.
The company behind the TFG Crowd website is TFGCROWD OÜ, registered in Estonia (registration number 14278391). The address is in Tallinn (Tuuki 19-216, Tallinn, 10152, Estonia) and the email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. TFG CROWD is a part of The Financial Group Limited.
The registered address is also listed on the website as the correspondence address (Tuukri 19-315, Tallinn, 10152, Estonia).
There are two people connected to TFG Crowd on LinkedIn:
Two people is uncomfortably low. Other platforms such as Iuvo (18), Fast Invest (21), Grupeer (28), Twino (141), and Mintos (186) have a lot more people behind them on LinkedIn.
The EDELAND GmbH Logistics (Transportation Company) project aims to borrow 150,000 euro for a year, and it will pay an interest rate of 17.9% for it. The purpose of the loan is to increase working capital. As with all projects, documents and photo’s are added to the project page:
The project description starts with the following text:
Edeland GmbH is one of the logistics companies signing contracts with European countries such as Slovakia, Poland, Georgia and etc. Companies management has the 25-year of experience and they have succeeded to gain the trust of their customers during this period. The company has fulfilled all the demands of customers and assisted them in finding the most suitable ways even in difficult situations.
The company is signing contracts with several countries? I assume that their signing contracts with multiple companies in those countries. If that is true then the company is operating internationally. But this seems to contradict a big quote on the project page by someone unknown. I assume it is a quote from TFG Crowd itself:
So this tells us the company is operating just in Berlin, and it only has plans to expand to the rest of the country. This is quite misleading for people that do not read all the project details.
When I look at all the photo’s, there are lots of vans in from of a futuristic looking building. Nothing weird for a transport company. What is weird is that these are all press photo’s from Daimler (Mercedes-Benz).
One of the photo’s on the Edeland project page shows a van with a big Edeland logo. But this is also a Mercedes-Benz press photo, and the logo is clearly photoshopped on the photo:
All photo’s on the project page are press photo’s from the introduction of a new Mercedes-Benz sprinter. The only logical explanation might be that the starting company, which is quoted to have a big growth rate, does not have its own vehicles yet. Maybe bought those new Sprinters, but they’re not delivered yet. But this contradicts the supplied documents that state they have 10 employees and 12 vehicles of their own. Another text from the project says they even have backup cars:
Edeland GmbH has already gained the trust of customers and business partners alike through such innovative process improvements like backup cars, incentivizing courier punctuality, and software integration.
The Edeland company website also shows the photoshopped press photo, but there are other photo’s with big trucks with the Edeland logo on the sides:
But a search for this picture reveils that this photo is also plucked from the internet, and the logos are photoshopped:
According to the Edeland website the company started in 2019. This can be verified in the German company register:
Here it can be seen that the company was added to the register on June 11th, 2019.
So the company only exists for half a year, has it’s own website and claims to have 12 vehicles of their own. But all photo’s are either taken from the internet, photoshopped, or both. I guess they do not actually have those wehicles, or they’re too busy or lazy to get those photographed.
According to the project documents Edeland is owned by W&E Forward, a transport company founded in 1992 in Azerbaijan. The address of this company also raises a few questions: the website only shows computer renderings of the company location, see the website of W&E Forward:
The website lists the address of the company: “M. Jafarov 10 st., 188 apt., Baku, AZ1102“. This appears to be a residential appartment, and Google thinks so too as there is a large residential building there:
Response from TFG Crowd
I have sent separate emails with questions to both TFG Crowd and Edeland. I have received two emails directly from TFG Crowd. This is a part of the first email:
Replies received from a representative of Edeland: Our web designer and our web page developer advised doing so. Due to the recommendation – the reason was to make it look beautiful. All photos used are preserved. However, the design is done according to our partner company – We Forward. While we are working with them together.
The other email from TFG Crowd has the following explanation for the pictures:
Replies from a representative of Edeland: We already use MB cars in our fleet and plan to add the same brand of car. Just like in most modern websites, pictures are used for illustrative purposes.
Both emails contained the same explanation about operational information, W&E Forward, and the addresses:
Operational information – we can provide our investors with all the necessary information – turnover, contracts and others. All technical papers on cars, with plate and registration numbers. In order to do so, we need to sign an NDA according to German law. If you would like to receive the data then we need to process this process. Edeland, is managed by the leading staff of We Forward, and are getting official consulting, international negotiations with them. Regarding this point, we have provided a contract signed with the founder of W&E. At the same time, the founder of Edeland Gmbh has gained his experience also by working at W&E.
The Adresse issue – it’s simple, it’s common to use residential buildings and have an office there. Most of the buildings are residential, and 10% mainly first or second flow is used as an office. All around the capital Baku.
So it is possible to view all relevant data of the company and the vehicles, under a Non Disclosure Agreement and it is allowed to create an article based on the provided information, after getting consent to publish it. I have answered that I am prepared to sign the NDA, so now I am waiting for this process to start.
Response from Edeland
After a few days I received the following email from Edeland:
Sorry for the late reply, but I had to confirm that you were an investor.Yes, I am delighted with this opportunity and hope that just as I believe in my project, investors will believe and invest their money.As for the pictures, frankly, I don’t think the question is right, because I feel like I have to justify myself. But we find it modern and attractive.There is a difference between contracts and operation areas. Contracts – means the services of a logistics company provided by Edeland – where Edeland signs contracts with companies to provide transport services for its clients and – means of operation – where the company operates with its own vehicles.The company is operating already, the company has 10 employees and 12 vehicles operational, actual turnover and annual balance in Germany is available online. Please refer to those web portals. In the case of signing up with the NDA, we can open the balance of the company.We can share videos or photos of our fleet, but people – we are not sure if all will accept.We are a part of W&E Forward – a global company operating since 1994. The building where the Azerbaijan office is located has commercial and residential spaces.
I have responded To Edeland that I am willing to sign the Non Disclosure Agreement.
Update: I have received the NDA, signed it, and sent it back to Edeland. I am now waiting for their next step.
Project: Cofediction Coffee
A project I invested in earlier is “Cofediction Coffee – Phase II”. The company behind this project is Fivo Capital Ltd, which was founded in 2013:
What is really weird is the listed nature of business for this company:
So software development, IT and consultancy activities? Agreed, software developers drink a lot of coffee. But I do not see this company focussing on selling coffee.
A search on the internet for “Cofediction Coffee” only shows results related to the TFG Crowd project. According to the English Intellectual Property Office there is no registration for Cofediction. And the website of the company is also not in line with a company that tries to market a new product:
All of this is not what you expect for a company that is already in phase 2 of developing a new product.
Response from TFG Crowd
The first email from TFG Crowd had only a short explanation regarding Fivo Capital Limited and the coffee:
Fivo Capital Limited was active in various fields over time and its registered business had therefore changed. Changing the scope of the company in the register was one of the conditions for us. Thanks to your attention, we have contacted the company and re-ordered it.
I am waiting for a response from Fivo and TFG Crowd regarding progress and proof of existence of the Cofediction Coffee brand, products, and campaigns.
Update: TFG Crowd have forwarded my request for proof and a status update to Fivo. I then received an email from “email@example.com”:
There is something strange though: the subject is “Cofedition”, without the ‘c’. A few hours after I received this email, the same attached pictures were sent by TFG Crowd in a ‘Time for coffee’ status update. And the same typo can be seen on the paper bags in the middle, the ‘c’ is missing there too:
So are they in a hurry to get the product on the market, and missed the typo in the email subject and on the paper bags? Well, when you look at the project page on the TFG Crowd site, the same coffee bags and the paper bag with the typo are present:
This means that 4 or 5 months have passed, and there seems to be no new material and no actual progression.. The domains ‘cofediction.com’ and ‘cofedition.com’ are not registered yet, so is the email really coming from someone that holds one of those domains? It is easy to change the sender email address in any email client, so it does not have to reflect the actual address from which it is sent:
The email ends with “P.S. We can sell you coffee right now if you are interested.“. So I have replied to them that I do want to buy some coffee, so maybe the next update also includes a coffee tasting..
But it turns out the chances for a coffee tasting have dropped:
One other thing has changed though after my mail, Fivo Capital has changed their nature of business:
Update: apparently Cofediction has now completed the setup of their email account, because I have received a reply to my mail. They asked me which type of coffee I wanted to buy, and included the descriptions of the four types including this photo:
Of course I want to try them all out, so I sent an answer that I wanted to buy all 4 of them. Now I am waiting to hear how to proceed with that purchase.
During my research I found that another blogger, Kristaps Mors, also investigated TFG Crowd and several of the projects listed there:
- Real Estate in Yacht Club
- Wardrobe company
- IWardrobes Phase 2
- Modern Compact Houses
- Real Estate in Cambridge and London
I’ll give a short summary, you can read more about it in his blogpost.
The location of the project ‘Real Estate in Yacht Club’ exists, and there is a pledge registered to it. However, this pledge is registered to “CROWDESTATE COLLATERAL AGENT OU”, and here is the Crowdestate project.
One of the previous directors of the company from the Wardrobe and IWardrobes Phase 2 projects is Emils Kerimovs. This is the current director of TFG Crowd.
The company of the Real Estate projects is LEKS Group. On October 3rd 2019 the ownership of the LEKS Group was transferred to The Finance Group Limited. And the director of that company is Emils Kerimovs, who is also the director of TFG Crowd.
A previous director of The Finance Group is Aleksandrs Gluhovskis. And he is the current director of the company of the Wardrobe projects…
Response from TFG Crowd
Real Estate in Yacht Club is a private house building in the “Kapteinu Osta” area, but has nothing to do with company Kapteinu Osta SIA who has raised money for the spa complex. All information and pledge is sent to investors who have invested in this project.
Aleksanders Gluhovskis has once been a business partner, as evidenced by historical entries in the company register. At the moment, each one is working in different directions.The projects are not directly related, but some of the projects come from long-established partners whom we can trust and have ever worked with.Only in this way can we guarantee 100% security. Not every company, especially a new one, can have assets that can serve as collateral. In such cases, we take into account the personal solvency of the owner or guarantor – existing assets, movable and immovable property. These are third-party guarantees, that is why we do not list such collateral, even though the guarantee agreement is signed and collateral exists – that’s why we call it the Buyback Guarantee Extra.The amount of our guarantee fund can be found on our website. Upon request, this may be evidenced by a printout of the account to our existing investors.
The Finance Group
I have emailed TFG Crowd to ask them to clarify the relation between the TFG Crowd company, The Finance Group, and the project companies that The Finance Group acquired ownership of.
A few hours later TFG Crowd sent an email to all investors to clarify this:
The Finance Group Limited also invests in the companies and projects listed on our platform. In such cases, The Finance Group Limited purchases shares in the relevant company or establishes a wholly-owned new company specifically designed for a particular project. Therefore, don’t be surprised to see The Finance Group Limited or its subsidiaries as the whole or part owners of any of the projects/companies listed on our platform, as this is done to ensure safer investments for all parties.
In light of all of the above, we have taken all the possible precautions to make sure that we will be able to recoup your and our investments and will not lose money. In the unlikely event that any one of the borrowers default, the funds to cover their debts and interest to investors will only be needed temporarily and we stand ready to provide these via The Finance Group Limited. For that reason and for your safety The Finance Group Limited has recently increased its share capital from EUR 500’000.00 to EUR 700’000.00.
There are several things to worry about when looking at the projects on the TFG Crowd platform. Photo’s are plucked from the internet and photoshopped, information regarding guarantees and pledges is incomplete of incorrect. I do not find the indirect response from Edeland via TFG Crowd regarding the photoshopped pictures utterly convincing. I also do not like the fact that I don’t get a direct response from Edeland, only from TFG Crowd. I have notified TFG Crowd that I am willing to get more information under the mentioned NDA (Non Disclosure Agreement). So more information will follow.
I have also asked TFG Crowd for more detailed information regarding Cofediction Coffee and Fivo Capital. They say the project is in phase 2, so there must be actual work done in advertising and/or production, so there should be something to show for it. As it turns out, there is nothing new to show since the start of the project. The email from Cofediction originates from ettemail.com, a webmail site, and all signs indicate that the sender address was spoofed to make it look like it came from Cofediction.
The company behing the platform seems to have shady connections to the companies of the projects on the platform. The explanation by TFG Crowd that The Finance Group takes (part) ownership as extra collateral could be true, although other platforms usually register pledges on the shares instead of taking actual ownership. Isn’t it strange when a company is prepared to lose its indepencency to get a loan?
The projects seem non-existent or untrustworthy at the least. The answers from TFG Crowd are not yet satisfactory, hopefully the next responses will provide more clarification.
All in all it looks like there might be a risk of TFG Crowd becoming the next Kuetzal or Envestio. In March and April two projects will end, and I will probably withdraw most of these funds when they are returned. Of course it is up to every investor to decide for themselves how they want to handle this platform, but for me it feels like this platform is too risky.
All of this is reason for me to stop investing more money via this platform. I’ll keep a small amount of funds here, so I can stay up to date on the platform developments. Only investors can keep following the projects. And yes, there is still a chance that this platform is legit and not a scam. That is a reason for me to keep a small footprint in this platform, so I can stay up to date. Hopefully the extra information I asked for will shed more light on it all. To be continued.