BOGUS companies are pocketing thousands of pounds by selling fraudulent advertising to businesses in St Helens town centre, according to trading standards chiefs.
A number of local firms have already become victims of the scammers – parting with hundreds, or sometimes thousands, of pounds for advertising that will never be seen.
Trading standards bosses say victims have typically been contacted by someone who claims they are a police officer working on behalf of charities, the council or the emergency services.
The “officer” then asks for a financial contribution and promises advertising that never materialises.
The bogus operation then sends through a series of invoices and, if they are ignored, follow it up with threats of legal action.
But the “officer”, or someone working on their behalf, typically offers to accept a lower payment in order to prevent legal proceedings.
Trading standards bosses say it is essential that you do not agree to pay the fees, so you do not become part of a “hit list” for other criminal groups.
If possible, nominate one person to deal with calls of this nature – and make sure they inform the rest of their colleagues about the potential fraudsters.
To contact St Helens trading standards, call 01744 676789.
A police spokesman confirmed: “There have been recent allegations by members of the St Helens Town Centre retail community that they have been targeted by potential bogus officials – requesting financial investment in a variety of schemes.
“These approaches are often followed up by hard-line communications, demanding funds. We are currently investigating these claims and, if found to be correct, we will use every relevant piece of legislation to bring offenders to justice.
“If you have any information, call 0151 709 6010 and ask to be transferred to the dedicated St Helens town centre policing team or call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”