Are you being harrassed for money by Expo-guide?

demands

UPDATE: An Expo Guide insider has informed me that Expo Guide cancels accounts referred to it by the following body:

PROFECO: Procuraduria Federal del Consumidor, Av. Jose Vasconcelos
208 Col. Condesa, Del Cuauhtemoc, Mexico D.F.
Internet: http://www.profeco.gob.mx/

Welcome! You’re probably here because you signed a form thinking you were going to get a free entry in a business guide that suddenly turned into a demand for a lot of money. Well, you’re not alone. If you scroll down to the comments at the bottom of this page, you meet hundreds of other people like you.

You can also head over to Facebook to the ‘Stop EU Business Guide’ (another variant of this scam) group.

The good news is that you don’t have to worry. Expo Guide is a scam – and there’s nothing they can do to make you pay, except bully and threaten in the hope that you’re so afraid or ashamed that you’ll pay to get them off your back. It’s THAT simple.

Once you’ve read the following post and you’ve reassured yourself that you don’t need to pay or worry any more, then please consider joining our LinkedIn ‘Stop Expo Guide’ group. We need your help (and the help of your networks) to raise awareness about this scam to stop people like you getting caught up in it in the first place.

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Original post:

Like World Business Directory, World Business Register and a surprisingly long list of similar scams, Expo-Guide sends out a form designed to deliberately fool you into signing a minimum 3 year contract for an entry in their directory (at a cost of around £1000 a year) when you’re under the impression you’re signing for a free listing in their business directory.  Wrong.

expo-guideClick on the thumbnails (left and below) to see the whole misleading form and a summary of the vital ‘small print’ that you’re supposed not to notice. (And, yes, Expo-Guide, I have edited the close-up version of your small print so people can see what they’re missing.  For the full text, use the full version of the document).

pertinentPointsThis scam was raised in the European Parliament in 2006 (see the Busutill report_on_the ‘European City Guide’ ) but despite that, it’s still out there and it’s still big business.

It’s taken until now (9 or more years) for one of the companies behind one of the earliest versions of this scam (European City Guide) to be ruled against in the Swiss Federal Supreme Court.

That’s good news, but not good enough. These people just move their base, change the directory name and carry on.

If you’re one of the many people who have made that mistake of returning a signed form, the first you’ll know about it is when you receive the demand for payment, followed swiftly by letters from collections agencies piling on the ‘costs’ day by day.

It’s clear that the modus-operandi of the organisation behind these scams is to trick you into signing for 3 years contract, threaten you relentlessly until you pay the full amount or they ‘generously’ let you off with just having to pay 1 yr or it.   The success of this scam depends entirely on you being frightened enough to get into communication with them.

Why? Because people contacting them is their way of ‘qualifying’ prospects for their scam.  When you contact them, they know you’re frightened / ashamed enough to want a way out – and then they’ve got you.

Jules Woodell estimates that some 80% of the estimated 250,000 businesses that signed the European City Guide (just one of the many variants of this form) didn’t / won’t pay.  That leaves 20% presumably who will.  But even if only 1% of that 250,000 paid just 1 year of the 3 years fee, we’re still talking around about £250,000 extorted from small businesses.  This is a very big scam – and all it takes is the ability to email huge lists and employ ‘debt collectors’ to chase.

A quick Google search for ‘Expo Guide’ turns up plenty of evidence against these scammers.  The same applies to World Business Directory – although they’ve been a bit cleverer and made sure they flooded the first couple of pages of Google with their own innocuous references.  This search will show you what you really need to know.

If you want more detail, then this scam and a range of variants are fully documented on Jules Woodell’s excellent http://stopecg.org/ – an absolute must-read if you’ve been affected.

Sadly it seems we can expect more and more of these scams – particularly while banks seem completely indifferent to the nature of their clients’ activities in this field and so long as certain web hosting providers continue to turn a blind eye as well.

So. Expo-guide: scam or not?  You decide – and use the comments (below) to help you make up your mind.

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