Publishing, Marketing & E-Mail Scams focusing on BACP Members.
BACP have been made aware of various bogus scams taking place specifically targeting our members.
These are usually in the form of cold-calling or e-mail.
At the moment there seems to be an e-mails from the USA and the Netherlands asking to come to the UK for therapy. Members have found that if they respond, they are asked for their bank details. We would urge our members not to reply to this in any way.
Common publishing scams
The majority of publishers are reputable, providing valuable services to many businesses. However, a small minority will resort to dishonesty for illicit gains.
Rogue 'publishers' can make huge sums of money by inducing large numbers of victims to pay for adverts in publications that do not exist, or are not what people are led to believe. Although financial losses to individual businesses are not usually large, some of the tactics used by rogue publishers (particularly when chasing payments) often cause nuisance and, on occasion, genuine alarm or distress.
A typical rogue 'publisher' will consist of little more than a telesales team armed with a stack of telephone directories and other publications containing advertisements. Smaller businesses are usually targeted and operatives use deliberately misleading patter, that is often carefully scripted, to sell advertising space in various types of publications - wall planners, diaries, yearbooks, crime prevention or drugs awareness booklets, etc. Costs usually range from about ⊕100 to £1,000, depending upon the size of advert.
Rogue publishers may use one of the following methods and, often, a combination of several.
Bogus invoice scam
The simplest and most blatant scam is that, without any prior contact, bogus invoices are sent to businesses for adverts in fictitious publications. This is a very crude hit and miss approach but a surprising number of victims pay the invoice without question, particularly if the amount involved is relatively small.
Operative transfer scam
The business receives a call from a telesales operative who falsely claims to be from a legitimate publisher that the company has used before (contact details are often obtained from genuine publications in which they have previously advertised). If the targets of this scam express an interest, they are transferred to another person, allegedly in a different department. Victims often agree to place an advert because they believe they are dealing with a publisher they have used before and it is not until an invoice arrives from a publisher they have never heard of that they suspect anything. If attempts are made to contact the publisher concerned, however, they are usually told that the call in which they agreed to place an advert was tape recorded, which the rogue publisher then claims is 'evidence' of a 'verbal contract'. Of course, the conversation with the first operative (during which the victim has been deceived as to with whom he/she was doing business) is never recorded, only the conversation with the second operative who has actually done the 'selling' - and the caller is careful not to mention the name of the company that he/she represents.
An initial call is made to the target business and the operative asks for the details of two people who can authorise an advertisement to be placed. Later, a call is made to one of those people who is asked to authorise an advert that he/she is led to believe has been provisionally booked by the other person, who is referred to by name to make the story sound genuine. Often, the victim authorises the advert without checking with the other person.
Repeat business scam
The target business is contacted by phone or letter and the victim is asked if he/she wishes to place an advert in the next edition of a publication which he/she is falsely informed that the business has advertised in before (the likelihood being that there was no previous edition). In some instances where the approach is by letter, photocopies of adverts taken from publications like Yellow Pages are included to lend an air of authenticity. Many victims authorise the 'repeat advert' without checking any further.
What you can do
Below is some useful information and some actions you could consider taking which might prevent you from becoming the victim of a publishing scam, or if you believe you are already being targeted by a rogue publishing company.
Do not agree to place an advert over the telephone unless you are absolutely happy with the publisher with whom you are dealing and what you are being offered. Insist on seeing written details and a copy of the publisher's full terms and conditions before placing an order. Some victims have received a string of calls that have become increasingly threatening and abusive. Try to keep a record of such calls - time, date, name of caller, and a note of what was said.
Always know to whom you are speaking. By law, any callers should identify themselves and the company from which they are calling. Be particularly wary if the initial caller transfers you to someone else during the call and always ask the next person you speak to for his/her name, the name of the company, in which department he/she works and his/her contact number. If the person you are speaking to cannot, or will not, provide these details, or if he/she becomes abusive, end the call straight away. In relation to the recording of telephone calls, you may be able to request a copy of the recording if it is claimed one of your employees placed a definite order during a phone call.
If you receive demands for payments for something you believe you have not ordered, it is well worth taking a few minutes to send a written reply, stating clearly why you feel you do not owe any money. Always keep a copy for your records.
What can I do?
If you do not wish to receive unsolicited sales and marketing calls, you should register with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) which operates a central opt out register covering everybody from individuals to companies. It is a legal requirement that companies do not make such calls to numbers registered on the TPS. This service is free of charge. For further information visit the Telephone Preference Service website.
If you feel that the companies/organisations is acting fraudulently you may wish to contact 'Action Fraud' who is the UK's national fraud reporting centre and the place for you to report fraud and scams, or to get advice if you're not sure what to do. If you have paid for a service you could also contact your local trading standards who can investigate the matter.
Publishing/marketing company questionnaire
Here are some questions you can ask if you are 'cold called' by a publishing company you have never dealt with before. The answers will help you to decide whether you want to do business with them, and may help to protect you if they try to operate some sort of scam.
- How did you get my / our contact details?
- What is your name?
- What is your contact number?
- What is the name of your company?
- What is your company address (or, at least, where are you based)?
- What is the name of the publication in which you want me to place an advert?
- What type of publication is it (e.g. wall planner, year book, other booklet)?
- How many copies will be printed?
- Where will they be distributed/circulated?
- How will the publication be distributed/circulated?
- How can I get hold of a copy of your publication?
- Is the publication being produced on behalf of another organisation? YES / NO
- If YES, what is the name and address of that organisation?
- Is that organisation or your company a registered charity? YES / NO
- If YES, what is the registered number of the charity?
- If I agree to place an advert, what percentage of the cost will go to that charity?
- Make a note of the outcome of the call (have you agreed to place an advert or not?).
The BACP are limited with what we can do directly, as ultimately it's an individual's decision on where they choose to advertise their services. If they do choose to advertise with an organisation it then becomes civil agreement, so we are trying to alert are members to be careful on what they sign up to.