Support publishing scams

It was only in April 2018 that Child Protection UK Limited was wound up on public interest grounds.

Advertising and magazine scams (commonly referred to as Support Publishing scams) are still going strong in the 21st century:

  • You agreed to appear in this local publication/diary/calendar to support this worthy cause – the worthy cause often being a school, charity, drug awareness, crime prevention or emergency services;
  • Last year we spoke to such and such in your organisation and you appeared in this publication, can we count on your support again this year?
  • Please confirm your details for the free listing in our directory, perhaps it is via an email saying click on this link to check and confirm your details.
  • Invoices just arrive for adverts in publications you have never heard of, but often because of the small amount and the time that has passed they are simply paid.

How do they do this and why do you fall for it?

They always appeal to your better nature by associating with a good cause. Inherently most of us don’t want to be seen to be denying help for worthy causes – crime prevention, emergency services, local schools, plus it is a way of enhancing your own corporate social responsibility in the eyes of customers.

By claiming to be in association with a party of some authority – school, police or even new legislation, makes you automatically feel it is more legitimate.

They rarely demand money during the first call, so they get you to commit to the advert or to affirm a conversation that they claim previously took place and given most people will not remember every conversation they had, it is often easier to believe they are right and you are wrong, especially for a small sum of money.

Claiming that they spoke with another member of your organization previously who is now (genuinely) not available and confirming that the other person agreed to this, but the print deadline is looming or it has been produced and just need to confirm which area you want it sent out in as the distribution is taking place today. Sometimes it might be simply a ‘call back for authorisation’ when the other person is busy.

The booklets have been produced to go to (e.g.) local schools, can you please confirm which school you would like them to go to. You’re likely to quickly be thinking of the school your children, nieces, nephews or friends’ children go to and how it would be lovely to help them, rather than wondering why they are asking you when surely they should know all the schools and you would have discussed this long before now.

When claiming the call where you agreed to it previously has been recorded means you are less likely to question it, losing confidence in your own position and meaning you are more likely to affirm your commitment and/or pay. In reality these calls will never be recorded, after all there would then be a total inability to provide a recording of a conversation that did not happen.

They issue an invoice knowing you will contact them. When you do they will tell you it was in relation to an order you placed months ago. When you deny it they will put it to you that one is in place because it would be absurd to merely issue an invoice at random. This will undermine your confidence and may see you reluctantly agree to pay, again believing they are right and not yourself.

What can you do to stop yourself becoming a victim?

  • Let’s start with the obvious – never believe what you have been told! This sounds ridiculous and you can’t be suspicious of everyone you meet or speak to. But, if it doesn’t ring any bells, ask further details; if they claim that someone else in your organization agreed to it, go check with that person.
  • Ask them for full details of who they are – proper and full name of the organization. If it is ABC trade directories – is that ABC trade directories Limited, ABC trade directories a sole trader or partnership; if it is a sole trader or partnership who is/are the owner(s). What is their address?
    If it is a Limited company or LLP, jump online to and check if it is legitimate. Even if it is legitimate, ask more.
  • Ask to see a copy of the final publication. There probably won’t be one, but if there is then they should be able to send it to you straight away. Say you are agreeing to nothing until you have seen it.
  • Who sent you our logo to go on the advert? When/if they name someone, go and check with them.
  • When did you send the proof across for authorising and who did it go to? What email address did you use?
  • Can you send me a copy of the signed proof?
  • Which area is it being distributed in? If it is not an area you are likely to trade in, tell the caller it makes no sense to have agreed to that and see what response you get.
  • If they say there was no proof, it’s just a listing of your name, or we have taken the logo from your website (it would be amusing if you didn’t have one) then ask them how many publications they have produced.
  • When they say X, you say you would never have agreed to such a small run, it’s pointless.
  • If you have a purchase ordering system, ask them to tell you the purchase order number attached to your order.
  • Ask for a copy of the terms and conditions you agreed to and/or signed up to at the start. After all, there must have been some terms to begin with – such as size of advert, number of publications it would appear in, areas it would be distributed to, terms for payment, right of cancellation and/or cooling off.
  • Ask for the exact date you had the call with the company and agreed to the advert. If you’re lucky they’ll tell you a date that was weekend or day you were off.
  • When they tell you there is a verbal contract, ask for a copy of the recording (if one is claimed to have been taken). If you are told it can only be provided in front of a judge or a court then call their bluff and invite them to issue proceedings however, you will be seeking costs against them for this fraudulent debt.
  • If they still persist, then apart from the fact you might be tempted to hire the caller as a salesman for your company, deny agreeing to the advert, inform them you will see them in court if they wish to issue proceedings and then politely hang up. An invoice may arrive on your doorstep or even a threatening letter from a purported firm of debt collectors or solicitors. However, no further action will be taken as the fraudsters will not want to spend the money taking you to court, and even if they did they cannot risk their fraudulent activity coming to the world’s attention so will take no further action.