Schools warned of bogus adverts scam
Schools were warned today to watch out for fraudsters flogging bogus advertisements in one of Britain's best-known telephone directories.
Trading standards officials have uncovered a gang of conmen posing as representatives of Yellow Pages.
Working under the name The Yellow Pages 24, they have been tricking victims into spending £499 or £599 on non-existent products.
Officials in Westminster, London, have already seized cheques worth almost £10,000 sent in from duped staff at schools and colleges across Britain.
They believe institutions in Lincolnshire, Kent, Somerset and Shropshire, as well as Scotland and Wales, have been targeted.
Sue Jones, of Westminster City Council, said the received money could be the "tip of the iceberg".
She said: "The fraud is simple, yet has proved highly profitable for those behind it who appear to have been consistently targeting schools, colleges and businesses across the country.
"Busy school staff would not suspect they're the victims of a widespread and systematic fraud as some advertise with Yellow Pages anyway, so when an invoice purporting to be from the company arrives they diligently pay the bill.
"But it is essential all businesses are confident they are dealing with a legitimate firm before parting with their money."
Officials warned staff to be on their guard for unexpected invoices from companies with slightly altered names after receiving hundreds of complaints.
In some cases victims were harassed with threatening phone calls demanding people sign forms to cancel an advertisement they did not order.
Bogus invoices are sent to victims, who pay money into a German bank account or send cheques to an address in Oxford Street.
A spokesman for Yell, publisher of Yellow Pages, said the company has won a High Court injunction against The Yellow Pages 24, shutting its website and fax.
He said: "We take our responsibilities for consumer protection very seriously and as a responsible company are committed to supporting and protecting the users of our products and services and our advertisers.
"We don't hesitate to take legal action if necessary to protect our brand and safeguard our registered trademarks."
Daniel Astaire, of Westminster City Council, said: "This crime is depriving schools and colleges of funds which could pay for extra resources for pupils.
"We are doing all we can along with law enforcement agencies to help track down those responsible and bring them to justice."
* Anyone who suspects they have been targeted should contact Consumer Direct on 0845 4040506.
People are criticising Fifa World Cup sponsors with corrupt corporate logos
Natalie Portman tells Harvard graduates: 'Accept your lack of knowledge'
British tourists complain impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
Fifa corruption live: Sebb Blatter warns 'more bad news may follow' as he clings to power
Skull found in Spain could be the world's first-ever murder victim
EU referendum: David Cameron's rules are a 'democratic disgrace', says French-born Scottish politician set to be denied a vote
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
Australian man punched in the face for defending Muslim women from abuse on train
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people
David Starkey 'tells Amal Clooney to shut up and stop over-promoting human rights'
EU referendum: David Cameron to deny EU migrants and under-18s the chance to vote
- 1 Autistic adults could take pure MDMA to 'reduce social anxiety'
- 2 Before you complain about your GP, this is what you need to know about actually doing the job
- 3 Father of 12 accused of raping, beating, starving and abusing his own children in US 'cult'
- 4 Britain's Got Talent 2015: Jamie Raven divides Twitter as fans expose mind-boggling magic trick
- 5 Charlie Charlie Challenge explained: not a Mexican demon being summoned — it's gravity