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Thursday, 26 January 2006

DTI publishes scam-busting guidelines

THE DTI has issued guidelines to prevent businesses getting caught up in cold calling charity publishing scams.

Fake publishers have been calling UK businesses asking for donations or to place adverts in publications including charity booklets, emergency services magazines, and children’s hospital activity books.

The reality of these approaches is that very few of these adverts ever get printed.

Common scam tactics include:

  • Catching victims unawares by making unsolicited contact by telephone – often using numbers from telephone directories;
  • Tricking victims into agreeing with statements, sometimes unwittingly signing them up to a campaign. A standard questions is: ‘Do you agree that children need better drugs education?’;
  • Pressurising victims into feeling guilty if they don’t offer money; and
  • Offering a smaller (cheaper) sponsorship/donation opportunity if businesses first say no.

The DTI’s new guidelines suggest scam-busting tips such as:

  • Always check credentials;
  • Ask as many questions as possible;
  • Don’t send money or give out personal details to anyone until you’ve checked them out; and
  • Contact your local trading standards department, Citizen’s Advice Bureau or police station for advice.

The DTI’s Company Investigations branch takes action against companies operating publishing scams. Examples of companies wound up by investigators in the past year include Cavendish Black and McAllister Stone.

Gerry Sutcliffe, DTI Consumer and Fair Markets Minister, said: “The actions of these people are truly reprehensible. They are preying on the goodwill of honest businessmen and women and diverting much needed money away from good causes. Our investigators won’t hesitate to shut them down.

“Our advice to all businesses is: Please don’t hesitate to support charities but do think twice before parting with money without checking credentials first”

Andrew Hind, chief executive of the Charity Commission said: "Business and the public can play a big role in reducing this kind of abuse by making sure their money goes to a genuine fundraiser and not to crooks.

“It's easy to check if a charity's genuine or not - check our online register of charities at www.charity-commission.co.uk."

Stephen Alambritis, head of parliamentary affairs for the Federation of Small Business, said: "Over four million small business proprietors are consumers in their own right and need as much protection as they can get from scam operators.

“It is encouraging to see the government taking action on this trend and the guidelines will prove useful to small businesses."

Full scam-busting guidelines are available at http://www.dti.gov.uk/cib/publishing_scams.htm

 


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