Advertising Caution

A while ago, I was contacted by a company claiming to be acting on behalf of a voluntary organisation, selling advertisements on a wall calendar.

In short, it turned out to be a scam, which works something like this:

The first person rings you up with a sales pitch, possibly opening by asking if you would like to  support a local charity/good cause.  During the conversation, they might mention impressive circulation numbers within close proximity of your business postcode aound other information to persuade you to agree on the spot.

If you agree, almost immediately, another person calls to arrange payment.  However, this phone call is recorded (whereas the first call is not) and although they hint at what was said in the previous conversation, important specific details are left unsaid.

 The best way to handle these calls is to say no at the at the start.  However, if that seems too abrupt, ask to see a written contract that your legal advisors can look at first (bogus companies rarely bother sending anything out, as they prefer “easy” targets but genuine companies should have no problem in sending you samples of the publication itself, as well as terms and conditions and other details, which you can check out for yourself to make sure that it’s genuine)

Similarly, if subsequently, the company invoices you for an advert you have not agreed to, do not pay it, no matter how threatening it seems.  (Bogus Invoice scams can also be a separate scam all of their own).  You could try writing back stating clearly why you do not owe the company any money (keep copies of all correspondence).  Your local trading standards office may also help.  If you are in any doubt, seek legal advice.

If you would like to know more, the Trading Standards website has a guidance leaflet on the subject.

The Committee of Advertising Practice also has a website at with a specific article on advertising scams.

Fortunately, this particular occasion turned out well, but others have not been so lucky and indeed, as scams become more sophisticated, businesses and individuals will need to be even more cautious.  Sadly, this might mean that genuine companies suffer as a result.


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