UK Allocations Office: the latest ‘prize draw’ scam?

Is the UK Allocations Office ‘prize’ draw just another one of those nasty premium rate rip-offs?

** What’s changed, OFT, since the High Court ruled McIntyre and Dodd’s promotions to be ‘unlawful’ in early Feb? Why are these individuals still flooding the country with their scamming ‘prize promotions’?

“My elderly mother, who is housebound and has mental health problems, appears to have rung UK Allocations twice and now believes she has won a holiday. She is totally convinced by these scams and it’s very difficult to intercept them” – Liz, March 4th 2011

When is British law going to actually enforce this ruling to protect the old and the vulnerable, OFT? **

If you’ve got a UK Allocations Office letter through the post, then you might like to compare it to Community Awards Register and take a look at the people behind most of these – ahem – ‘promotions’. Let us know if you think they’re ‘related’ :-)

The British Awards Council: scam or not? You decide

Is The British Awards Council prize claim ‘promotion’ another scam? As always, you decide..

But let our collection of comments about all McIntyre and Dodd Marketing Ltd‘s other recent rip-off promotions help you.

If you want to know about McIntyre and Dodd Marketing Ltd, click here.  You’ll see that this kind of promotion is their speciality – and they’re doing it as much and as fast as they can before the OFT manages to shut them down.

** WANT TO COMPLAIN ABOUT THESE PEOPLE?? Click HERE **

Since I’ve been tracking their rip-off promotions they’ve gone through several names – all designed to appear credible and worthwhile. They change the name as soon as the general public wakes up to the fact that this is a con. Community Awards Register was the first one I blogged about. Shortly afterwards came PDO Prize Distribution Office. Then there was NB: Notification Bureau. Now – probably speeded up by people like me blogging about these rip-offs – they’ve changed the name again this time to the grand (and trustworthy-sounding) ‘The British Awards Council’.

Please follow the links I’ve put here to see just how systematically exploitative this outfit is.  You’ll also see how lucrative this business is. The group of companies that’s behind this rip off is worth nearly £14m – of your money.

More importantly, read all the various ‘victim’ comments from ordinary, everyday people who have wasted their hard-earned money on these promotions and received little or nothing in return.

The British Awards Council: scam or not? You decide – and please feel free to share your experiences here to help others make up their minds too.

Cash for gold? You will always get ripped off

Despite being legal, these cash-4-gold companies will always rip you off

Why? Because they can.  And because they prey on people who need money quick.  The BBCs ‘Breakfast News’ ran a feature this morning.  They had some old gold jewellery valued at £200 and then sent it to each of three different ‘cash 4 gold’ companies.  Each offered around £60 and increased their offers when the reporter refused.

The report showed a horrified and disgusted young woman whose demeanour gave the impression she felt that someone had done something wrong to her by offering so little money for her gold.

Er, like, what did you expect?

The same goes for the explosion of ‘pay day loan’ companies you see advertising everywhere there are desperate, credit-unworthy people needing cash they can’t save from week to week.

They’re not here for your good, folks.  They’re here to take as much money off you as they can without breaking the law.

First law of common-sense: people go into business to make themselves rich, not you.  The gap between how much they can pay themselves and how little they can give you is the measure of how civilised we are (or aren’t).

Sky customer service 0844 rip-off

No wonder Sky customer service likes to keep you talking on its 0844 number

They’re making good money out of it!

I spent 2 and 1/2 hours continuously on the phone to Sky trying to sort out my parents’ rubbish broadband service, their incomplete phone package and – wait for it – get my dad an email address of his very own.

The first thing I noticed when I dialled the 0844 number was how overwhelmingly talkative the nice technical man was. Without any invitation he took it on himself to give me a lengthy lecture on the physics of copper wiring and broadband signals.

He just kept on…and on…and on…and on.

On the one hand, he was very helpful and was able to improve the capacity of the broadband connection a bit. On the other hand, I couldn’t help wondering how much money his monologue on copper telephone technology had earned Sky.

The good news ended there.

The www.sky.com website repeatedly failed to create a new email address for my dad.  Why? ‘Because it’s broken’ said the wee fella on the end of the phone.  And it’s still broken.  What use is a broadband package if you can’t create additional email addresses for the family?

And would you like to sell them the full phone package you inexplicably failed to sell them a few months ago? I enquired.  The response was 20 minutes of incomprehensible cock-and-bull and STILL they couldn’t sell them the package.  They’d probably made so much money on the 0844 that they didn’t need to.

This is so typical of the UK’s biggest companies.  No-one to complain to.  No management or supervisors to be accountable. No buck stopping no where.  Just a lame suggestion to put my complaint in writing.

I am writing, Sky.  Here in this Google-visible blog.

If you’re unwilling to accept Sky’s bad customer service and lack of accountability, here are a few useful contact email addresses from saynoto0870.com you could try:

Sky CEO Email Address:-                                                            jeremy.darroch@bskyb.com
Only Other Executive Board Member Email Address:-                andrew.griffith@bskyb.com

Director of Customer Marketing (not a Board Director)              mark.anderson@bskyb.com

High Level Escalated Complaints Address Used
by Sky To Respond to Complaints Addressed to
Jeremy Darroch’s Email Address                                                CRsupport@bskyb.com

Facebook ads: rip-off? You decide *yawn*

Oh, look.  The very next Facebook ad I clicked on seems dodgy…

You know the ad.  “British companies are looking for people like you to receive FREE samples of their goods…”. I can’t believe people are so uncritical they fall for this.

Actually, I can.

What I can’t believe is that no-one has anything to say about it.  The vulnerable, uncritical teenager doesn’t because he wishes it would come true.  ‘RealFreeSamples.co.uk’ doesn’t because it gets the uncritical teenager’s email address to sell on to someone else.  Facebook doesn’t because it gets the click-through revenue.

Who gives a shit?


Expo-guide: scam or not? You decide (we help you) *yawn*

Are you being harrassed for money by Expo-guide?

demands

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.

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 and a pretty good history of these scams. However, Jules and I disagree on one fundamental point: I do NOT recommend you write or engage in ANY dialogue at all with these scammers. Please read my numerous responses to victims in the comments (below) to see why. To put it simply: the only people who would communicate with criminals are scared people – and that is exactly the kind of people the scammers want to select for further bullying.

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.

World Business Directory: don’t sign the form

Don’t sign the World Business Directory form unless you want to lose £2940

This nasty piece of work arrived in my inbox today.

It appears to offer you the chance to ‘update’ your data for free on a business directory.

However, the small print says quite clearly:

THE SIGNING OF THIS DOCUMENT REPRESENTS THE ACCEPTANCE OF THE FOLLOWING……THE VALIDATION TIME OF THE CONTRACT IS THREE YEARS….I HEREBY ORDER A SUBSCRIPTION….THE PRICE PER YEAR IS GBP 980.

You might want to ask yourself – what possible benefit could this company give you that’s worth £2940?  A quick Google on the company name ‘EU Business Services Ltd’ leads to this informative site.

Still, these people would say, you were warned. And they would be right. After all, it does say ‘only sign if you want to place an insertion’. Mind you, it also says “please fill in the form completely” in bold in an attempt to get you to sign.

Those who know me know how much I dislike online directories at the best of times. With a bit of luck this post will zip to the top of Google for anyone wondering about this so-called directory – and maybe stop one or two people falling for this cynical piece of work.

Business directory rip-offs: the Emperor’s Newest Clothes

“If you don’t have anything good to say, then don’t say nuthin’ at all” – Thumper

I’ve had to gag myself tonight.

I’ve seen yet another ‘local online directory’ that’s started up, peddling its wares, inviting people to sign up and advertise their businesses.

The site is a mess. There’s almost nobody signed up on it, and it currently offers no Google visibility to the few who are.

I’m not going to name names, but its one of many. They come in all flavours: online business directories, local ‘portals’, community magazines. They all have one thing in common: they want you to advertise in them, promising increased traffic and Google visibility in return. Some of the big, well-known ones deliver (with varying degrees of success). A lot of smaller, local ones don’t

One such business in this region I’ve heard explicitly offering people increased Google visibility as part of its so called ‘benefits’. I’ve tested its claims backwards and forwards and found that it offers its top paying members NONE.

Another such venture quotes statistics to impress prospects how many people use the internet to buy things – and, of course, to imply that their product offers increased Google visibility. Guess what? It doesn’t.

I’m stopping short of naming these businesses because it’s tantamount to declaring war – and I’m still not sure why it bothers me so much that they do what they do.

In part, it’s because they depend on ignorance to sell their services. But I think the thing that really gets me is that nobody dares announce that the emperor, yet again, is wearing no clothes.

I suspect that if I named those businesses and challenged them, nobody would thank me for doing it. The businesses themselves certainly wouldn’t, nor would the people wasting their money on them. Why?  Because they want to believe in an easy fix.

The Emperor’s New Online Business Directory

I’ve lost count of the number of online directories that sell their directory listings in the following way (or a variation of).

“Want to promote your business on a Top Spot prominent display?
Want to achieve a page 1 presence on Google?
We can network local business to business through chamber of commerce meetings and local Network meetings”

Roughly translated:

1) “You’ll be exposed to HUNDREDS of thousands of people coming to our site!”

2) “We’ll put you on page 1 of Google!”

3) “We’ll set you up and broker introductions…”

In reality:

1) Nobody searches a directory to find your products and services. Like you, they use Google.

2) A simple test (which most directories fail) is this: go into their directory, pick a category and find a paying advertiser in that category. Note the business name, the town and the category. Now go to Google and do a search on that business category in that town. You’d expect to find that business high up in the Google search results, right? So look through all the pages of results to find the directory listing for that named business. If it’s not on page 1, the directory failed to keep this promise. If it’s not there at all, that advertiser’s been had. Try this out yourself the next time you spot someone selling listings in an online business directory.

3) “We can network local business to business through chamber of commerce meetings and local Network meetings”? Er… so can you.

That’s 3 shiny non-benefits in a row.