Trading Standards officers are warning local businesses to beware of a high-pressure advertising scam which has been operating in Cambridgeshire.
Businesses have been ‘cold-called’ with an offer to advertise in local authority and business directory magazines – including a County Council publication which ceased to be produced more than two years ago.
The Your Cambridgeshire Magazine was discontinued for financial reasons, but a marketing company claims that it has advertising spaces available, even though the publication no longer exists.
The business directory scam tends to take one of two approaches, either starting with a call implying someone at the business has already agreed to advertise (when no such agreement has been given) and asking for the businesses details, or in the form of a letter asking the business to return an order form even if they do not wish to advertise which then binds them to place an advertisement.
The business directory scam in particular has been around for some years, but recently Trading Standards has seen an increase in the number of complaints about this type of bogus selling activity.
County Council Cabinet Member for Enterprise and Skills, Councillor Mathew Shuter, said: “Sadly it appears that business scams are on the rise, and the nature of the scams means that as quickly as the authorities crack down on one, another one starts. The best advice for businesses is to be vigilant. If anyone has any suspicions or concerns, seek advice and encourage your employees to do the same.”
This month alone, Trading Standards has received four complaints about this type of scam – including one relating to the former County Council publication.
Nikki Pasek, Head of Supporting Businesses and Communities, said businesses should always check out the advertiser and the publication before agreeing to take any advertising space and always check any claim that the marketing company is working with a local authority, charity or other similar organisation.
She said: “We would advise local businesses not to get into a conversation on the telephone with marketers who they are not familiar with, but instead ask the company to send them the information in writing so they can make an informed decision.”
For more information about current business scams, advice on what action to take if you have been affected by a scam, advice on prevention or to report a scam, visit the Action Fraud website - http://www.actionfraud.police.uk/node/295