Monday, February 05, 2007


Adverts that could be mistaken for invoices

Today I got the following Email, (Personal details removed)
I have today received a ‘renewal advice’ invoice for £84.99 + VAT from the Directory of Businesses:

The website gives the address as:

Directory of Businesses Ltd
45 -157 St John Street
London EC1V 4PY

There is no telephone number given.

The ‘renewal advice’ gets my business name completely wrong (details removed) and includes a box for the recipient to correct the entry.

It gives no useful information about the directory (how many copies are printed, who it goes to, when it was established…), or about the publishers or anything else.

I have never given any information to the publishers or previously ordered an entry in the directory, so this is certainly not a renewal.

The sender included a scan, again their personal info has been removed


The Attached form certainly seems misleading to me, the bold RENEWAL ADVICE at the top would suggest that the business already had a contractual agreement with the directory, a suggestion compounded by calling the document an invoice and by the provision of a Business ID and password.

The trouble with documents like this is that some firms have lax accounting, if an advert is mistakenly seen as an invoice it goes to accounts and gets paid, Unless all invoices are properly documented and authorised this can easily happen and many mailshots, particularly from overseas, seek to exploit this weakness.
Have you checked that this could never happen in your company?!

SERIOUSLY! Some years ago I investigated a misleading mailshot from the Czech Republic that masqueraded as an invoice for an existing listing in a directory and found that approx 1% of UK firms receiving the document were paying. Most of these were medium to large companies where the action of placing an order had become devolved from the process of payment. Those I phoned in my hometown were mostly too amorphous to even be bothered with an outside caller checking if their accounting procedures were allowing them to be scammed, however one haulage firm I contacted were very grateful, they had been paying the bogus invoices and were glad of the saving.

If your accounting is lax you are wide open to scams. In the 80s and 90s companies based abroad would simply invoice big firms for products they had never shipped. I would not be in the least bit surprised if such scams still exist.


Back to the Directory of Businesses Ltd.

The sender reported that an additional page sent with the form gave no information as to how many copies of the directory were distributed or usage of the website.
There was also no phone number, unusual for a company attempting to build a business relationship....

I tried to find out more.

According to Companies house there is a DIRECTORY OF BUSINESSES LIMITED

Registered address:
Company No. 04910912

Until the 9th May 2006 this company traded as

There the trail goes cold, there are no phone numbers or directory listings for either firm that I could find on the WWW.

A Whois reveals the domain name was registered by
Martin Bealey of Amersham, Bucks. Phone and email contacts are given but I did not attempt to contact him. Domain name registrants may play no part in a company, as the job is often undertaken by third parties.

Feel free to investigate this company yourself, please
send me the findings.


Good news for the recipient of this mailshot, the sender is in the UK so there are bodies that can act if they deem the advert misleading

First port of call is the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), a self regulatory body that polices the rules laid down in the advertising codes. The ASA is effective and does keep UK advertisers in line
File a complaint online with the ASA

Second, if you feel the advert is sufficiently misleading to be a criminal matter please contact your local trading standards office
They have the power to prosecute companies that deceive.
put your postcode in to find your local office. Alas you will need to take the time to file a complaint in person or by post.

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Here is another one to look out for:

Dear Sirs,

If you like to have your company registered in the registry of European companies;

Please print out the enclosed form (PDF file), fill it and send it back to:

Euro Business Guide
P.O. Box 2021
The Netherlands

Updating is free of charge!!

The link is

But the PDF sent is exactly the same scam...


Alan Pritchard, Sweden
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