Police, Crime Prevention and Charity Magazine warningNews: Monday 21 January 2019
East Lothian Trading Standards have had reports of cold calling from people claiming to be from the “Crime Prevention Team”, pressure selling magazine adverts for the Community First Initiative. Callum Smith from Callum Joinery, one of our Trusted Traders, had the full sales experience, but was canny enough not to be taken in.
Unfortunately these pressure selling techniques can catch out very busy or inexperienced business owners. You will be told that an advert in the publication will help benefit the Police / Fire Service / Charity / School / Crime Awareness etc. The tactic is to get you to unwittingly agree to an advert, which may be recorded, then you will be bound to a contract and chased for payment which can be hundreds of pounds.
A common scam tactic some companies employ is to tell you another employee has already agreed to the advert and they are chasing up payment of the invoice. You will be steered into asking them to resend the invoice which will be seen as you authorising the order.
To keep within the law, your advert will go out in a magazine publication, but it’s circulation and distribution are likely to be disappointing versus the cost. Different variations may ask you to take part in a charity wall planner, drugs awareness campaign or help promote children’s books.
Luckily there is a really simple way to protect yourself.
*** Never agree to anything from a cold call ***
If the call is of the slightest interest, take some details, agree to nothing, be polite and tell the caller you will get back to them. Then go and do some Google research or ask someone for advice.
If the caller attempts to engage you in pressure selling, put the phone down and you have just had a lucky escape.
Magazine advertising remains a very popular and effective way to get your message out. But reputable publications will not pressure sell you or mislead you. Always do your research and take your time. Any amazing offer will still be there tomorrow, regardless of what the sales staff might tell you. If you are being pressured, then walk away.
Here are some Scam Busting Do’s and Don’ts
- DON’T agree to anything from a cold call. Request information or do your own reaserch then call the publisher back using a telephone number on their website
- DON’T agree to place an advert over the telephone unless you are 100% happy with the publisher with whom you are dealing and fully understand what you are being offered. You should have a no obligation quotation either in writing on headed paper or via email which matches the companies website address
- DON’T speak to them unless you’ve got time to ask all the questions you want, to enable you to do your own research
- DON’T agree to something to get rid of them – you could be making a binding agreement
- DON’T take their word for it that you have placed an order previously or that someone in your organisation has agreed to take an order– this is a ploy used by some companies to trick you
- DON’T feel guilty – there are plenty of other ways of giving to charity or supporting your community. The guilt emotion is exploited by unscrupulous telesales agents
- DO make it clear in ALL telephone calls that you are NOT placing an order – they often record the second “confirmation” phone call – this is carefully worded to sound like you are agreeing to the order even if you have just requested further information
- DO insist on seeing written details and a copy of the publisher's full terms and conditions before placing an order
- DO your own research. There is lots of information on Google about these magazines
- DO get details including the charity number of any charity mentioned and check their details with the Scottish Charity Regulator. Contact the charity if it exists and confirm they have a relationship with the publication
- DO get them to send you an example of a publication they have produced with details of its circulation – if they refuse DON’T agree to go any further
- DO make a record of all contact with these companies – time, date of calls, person you spoke to, what they said etc
- DO make sure all your staff understand this advice on dealing with cold callers and to be fully aware of unsolicited invoices.
Remember - never, ever, agree to anything from a cold call.
If you think you have been scammed, visit consumeradvice.scot or phone 0808 164 6000 for advice.
Feel free to share this article to anyone who would find this information useful.