Business Directory Scams: how they work

How do global business directory scams work?

The psychology behind them is very simple – I’ll try to sum it up from the scammer’s point of view.

1) By default you treat people as though they’re like you, not crooks like me. You’re a decent, law-abiding citizen trying to make an honest living and you live in a moral society. Because of that, I can count on you treating me as if I also operate from that place (which of course, I don’t). In short, even while I’m ripping you off, I can depend on you to be polite, tolerant, honest and trusting.

Not only that, you’ll be so scared of being taken to court (now who put that idea in your head??) that you’ll bend over backwards to avoid saying anything that could offend ME, the scammer, or be construed as legal advice to any of my victims. How deliciously convenient: self-policing victims.

2) Shame is a powerful tool. I know you’ll blame yourself for not noticing the small print (in fact, in many of my threatening letters, I’ll be unable to restrain myself from referring to your stupidity and your responsibility for the mess you’re in). Of course you should have seen it! It’s YOUR fault! It’s there in black and white. If you weren’t cautious enough, that’s your look out.

It really helps that you feel stupid and ashamed. That will make sure you don’t share your mistake with anyone. I need you isolated and feeling alone.

3) Now I can frighten you. Yes. I’ll bombard you with emails, letters and calls. Because you haven’t shifted to seeing me as a criminal, you still hold a belief that maybe…just maybe I could take you to court somewhere. You fantasise about the huge cost; the shame; the disruption. Oh, it would be too terrible.

4) I read what you’re REALLY communicating (not what you think you are). The minute you communicate with me, the message I get is that you’re scared. Even when you think you’re being angry, I know you’re being scared. Good. Any reaction tells a) you’re at the address I think you are. Good. b) Mentally, you REALLY don’t think I’m a criminal. Very good. c) You’re scared and/or ashamed and you take me seriously. Even better.

5) You’ll be happy to ‘settle’. At some point, I will have caused you so much stress and worry that you’ll think paying €1,000 to get rid of me – sorry, to ‘settle’ with my client – sounds like a fair exchange.

And that’s all it takes.

Every time I see someone write ‘I’m going to counter-sue’ or ‘Let’s get together and beat them in court’ or ‘I’m going to write them…’ I see why this scam works. As long as you believe, in the back of your mind, that they are somehow legal and that they, somehow, could take you to a court then they’ve got you.
You might SAY you know they’re scammers, but so long as you do the above things, you’re telling me that you don’t really trust yourself. And the saddest thing is to know that they designed it to manipulate you in exactly this way.

Folks. These people are crooks. There IS no debt collector; there IS no court. It never does and never WILL happen.

Please try to understand that it’s THIS mental shift that is the key, here. Not any action or statement you can make.

Expo Guide scam: can we help people before they become victims?

It’s great to have helped so many people avoid paying these scammers – but can we help them avoid becoming victims in the first place?

Since I blogged about the big online directory scams (particularly Expo Guide and World Business Directory) a couple of years ago, I’ve had on average 100 visitors a day to these posts.

Every one of several hundreds of comments on these posts comes from someone who has fallen victim to these scams.  Thankfully, after reading other peoples’ comments, the majority of those take a stand and refuse to pay. It’s also clear that a number have already paid at least one ‘installment’ of around €1000 to these scammers.

It’s great that my posts are right at the top of Google for “Expo Guide”.  That makes it easy for people to find this information when the nasty shock arrives in the form of a phone call from Expo Guide’s ‘debt collection’ agency or a written demand. And it’s great to use this blog format to collect reassuring comments from other non-paying victims – all of which boost the visitors confidence to hold out.  This site and your comments must have saved people tens of thousands of pounds and immeasurable heartache and worry.

But here’s the question: given that not one single one of the dozen or so major Government backed fraud-prevention, consumer-protection agency sites has any information whatsoever on these scams, how can we raise awareness of this before people sign the form and get into trouble?

Another problem with these scams is that there are no figures of how many people in the UK have actually lost money to these scams, completed their fraudulent forms or simply received them.

So what do you think we can do to inform the average small business owner in the UK about these scams before they become a victim of one?

Adressbuch-Schwindler. Couldn’t have put it better myself

Expo Guide, World Business Directory et al – you’re a bunch of ‘Adressbuch-Schwindleren’ :-)

I love German, don’t you?  A real ‘say-it-like-it-is’ construction kit of a language.  They don’t piss about with euphemisms and veiled descriptions for things.  They just bolt together enough words to get the job done (in the order that they think of them).

Business directory scams? “Address book swindlers” more like!

Fantastiche!

Expo Guide and World Business Directory: Could Twitter kill off these nasty scams?

Could the wisdom of the business crowd decide the fate of Expo Guide and World Business Directory?

TwitterMonsterThe challenge

You’ve arrived here because of my Tweet about the Expo Guide and World Business Directory scams.  First of all, thanks for coming.  Second, I’d like to invite you to take part in an experiment.  Could Twitter kill these nasty scams stone dead?

Have a look at the evidence (below) and if you want to play a part in stopping these scammers, then please RT the Tweet that brought you here to people in your network and let’s see if we can help stop people getting ripped off.

The Scam

As some of you may already know the world of business is still being swept by a family of scams which deliberately set out to fool people into inadvertently signing expensive contracts they don’t want.  An early and well documented version of this is what’s known as the “Construct Data scam” originating from Austria.  The most recent variants of this scourge are European City Guide, Expo-Guide and World Business Directory.

How it works

  • You get a letter in the post (or email with pdf attachment) from the company.  It’s designed to make you think they’re offering you a free listing in their online directory.  It asks you to sign and stamp the form.  You do and send or email it back
  • Nothing happens for a while
  • A couple of months later you get a demand for something in the region of €3,000
  • Their demands direct you to the form where – for the first time – you notice to your horror the tiny, faint small-print saying “signing and stamping this form constitutes a contract for 3 years entry into our directory at c. €900 per year..”.
  • A couple of months later, you start getting various demands.  Eventually, you get formal letters from a debt collection agency.  Now you start to worry.  What if they take you to court?  What if your boss finds out?
  • You write back to the company saying it’s a rip-off and you don’t feel you should have to pay.  Eventually, they graciously agree to let you off with just one year’s fee out of three.  Maybe you pay up so you can put this whole traumatic episode behind you.

This scam has been running for years and shows no sign of stopping.  Why?  Because there will always be enough people out there who can be bullied or shamed into paying some – if not all – of this extortionate fee.

Governments seem to have little or no interest in stopping it.  Watchdogs aren’t particularly bothered.  It’s down to a few individuals like Jules Woodell to campaign against it – see http://stopecg.org/ and http://stopecg.blogspot.com/ for a thorough history of all the main mutations of this scam.  For my own posts on the subject (and to read more than 50 comments from victims) click here.  You’ll get some idea of the kind of worry and distress this scam causes.

This scam is real and current and it’s costing business people like you and me a lot of money, stress and worry.  This site gets 20+ new visitors every day searching for help on this issue – most of whom are new victims of the scam from all over the world.

Personal

For your information, I didn’t get stung personally by these scams (too long in the tooth!).  However, like millions of others, I regularly receive their scammy emails.  My motivation is to use the blog / Google platform to mess up their operation a bit and prevent others from being ripped off ;-)

World Business Directory: scam or not? You decide (we’ll help you)

Is the World Business Directory a scam? Depends on whether you feel £980 a year to advertise in its ‘directory’ is good value for your money or not.

It’s one of many ‘misleading contract’ con-tricks that continue to pull in millions of dollars annually around the world.

In case you think these people are credible or have any real case against you, it’s worth reading this 2009 letter from MEP Sarah Ludford. That should begin to reassure you.

The World Business Directory email comes with an attached pdf that you’re invited to fill in for your ‘free listing’.

Boxes at the bottom of the form invite your signature & co. stamp – reinforced by the words “please fill in the form completely” in bold.

One small sentence tells you only to sign the form if you want to place an ‘insertion’ – a deliberately uncommon word.

A dense pile of even smaller print tells you that signing the form constitutes a contract to place an ‘insertion’ at £980 per year – minimum period 3 years.

It’s up to you to decide whether you think this is a cynical fraud or not.

This might help you decide. I know where I stand and so do people of many other countries where this occurs (word for word). Click the thumbnail (left) for a detailed look at their form -and a spanish one for comparison.

This also might help you: a letter from MEP Sarah Ludford to one World Business Directory victim.  You might also like to see the letter that same victim then sent to the so-called ‘collections agency’ operating on behalf of WBD.  Nice one, Mary.

One thing’s for sure, if you rush ahead and sign and return this form thinking you’re going to get a Google-boost from this free directory listing, be prepared: you’ll end up with on of these (right)

What gets me is that Barclays Bank are happy to take the money. Nasty.

Here’s another variant of this scam offer.

[Update] Now operating out of Utrecht, Netherlands [Update]

Picture 5

 

 

 

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.