Industry Alerts

Advertising Scams - how to protect your business against scams                

  • Always carefully research an advertising opportunity yourself before signing up to anything. Make sure you read the small print in any business directory offer to be clear about what you are being offered and how much it will cost you.
  • Don’t be pressured into paying for services that have you have not agreed to receive or have not been provided.  
  • If you receive demands for payments for something you believe you have not ordered, send a written reply, stating clearly why you feel you do not owe any money.  Always keep a copy for your records.
  • If you are threatened with a debt collection or a credit ‘black-listing’, remember that ultimately only a court can decide whether you are liable to pay and disputes with other businesses would not necessarily affect your credit rating.
  • Don't give out your credit card details over the phone without getting something in writing first.
  • If the company claims to be working with Visit County Durham, they should be able to provide you with printed documentation to support that.
  •  Visit County Durham does work with third party advertisers from time to time, but if you are suspicious, you can drop us an email at or contact your local Quality and Tourism Advisor for advice.

Publishing and advertising scams

Visit County Durham has received a number of alerts in recent years from various sources about scams targeting tourism operators. Here's what you need to know...



Details What should I do if I'm a victim of a scam?
The business directory scam


One of the most prevalent scams affecting UK businesses is the business directory scam. One example of this scam was the offer a ‘free’ CD-ROM directory.

The first issue was ‘free’ but after checking the small print, the business found that they had agreed to pay £661 for a further three issues.

If you feel you have been the victim of a similar scam, go to the Action Fraud website to report it:

The ‘Pitch’ - invoices and demands for payment


Official-looking invoices are sent offering to advertise your business in a ‘free’ listing or asking if you wish to continue being included in a business directory. 

You may be asked to check the details about your business, or be told that an employee or colleague of yours has requested the form.You may be told to return the form even if you don’t want to place an order. 

Be careful with invoices and documents like this and tell your staff to check out all requests of confirmation of business information and requests for payment. 

You are more likely be become a repeat victim of this type of scam if you do pay money and by doing so you may open your business up to a series of scam requests in the future.

 If you feel you have been the victim of a similar scam, go to the Action Fraud website to report it:

Bed and Breakfast scam,

November 2012

Trading Standards have issued a warning to guesthouse and bed and breakfast operators a telephone scam targeted businesses. The caller demands payment for an advert that was never taken out and claims bailiffs are on their way to collect the money or to take goods of the equivalent value.

One guest house owner ended up making four separate payments totalling £17,000 to a company claiming to represent a business publication based in the North West of England. Those targeted who did not make this payment still had to endure a threatening and aggressive phone call which left them fearing for their own safety and security.

We would ask anyone who receives a phone call of this kind to contact Durham Trading Standards on:

03000 261 016 or 0191 383 3589 01294 324950 or email

Overpayment scam, July 2012 An accommodation provider recently reported a customer who had booked a stay for September then emailed to say that he had sent a cheque for £2000 - having accidentally included flight and other expense costs. The customer asked the provider to forward the excess money directly to to the flight company as soon as the cheque cleared. The provider believed the request to be a scam and deleted all further emails unopened.

If you feel you have been the victim of a similar scam, contact Action Fraud:

Self catering rentals to foreign students


January 2011

An accommodation provider in Edinburgh rented his self catering accommodation last minute on a Saturday night to a young man who paid cash up front. When he went to clean on the Monday after the man's departuer, the keys were missing. The provider texted the customer to ask him to return the keys and he replied that he would drop them off in an hour.

While the provider was cleaning, a young Chinese student arrived ready to move in. She explained that the man had advertised the flat on gumtree and had given her the keys. Another lady then arrived to move in as well. The young man had taken £1500 deposit upfront from the women.

If you experience a scam similar to this contact Action Fraud:


or/ and Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 

Make sure you take ID (Passport or Driving License - not student cards) when letting a self catering property.

Unauthorised delivery

An accommodation provider recieved a bed delivery which he thought nothing of since he had ordered several new beds. The driver of the delivery vehicle required upfront payment of £90 which the provider gave him. A handwritten receipt was provided that said 'Maries new and used, £90'.

When the provider examined the bed he found it to be in unacceptable condition. He contacted the company from which he'd ordered the beds and found that they had no record of its delivery. The delivery therefore appeared to be a scam.

If you experience a scam similar to this contact Action Fraud:


or/ and Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111



Visit County Durham is NOT working with these publications:

  • North Thames Press
  • Journal Publishing Company
  • Western Counties Express
  • Birmingham Telegraph
  • Birmingham News
  • Midland News
  • Midlands Weekly
  • Kingfisher Publishing

What to do if you are the victim of a scam

Unfortunately, many direct mail scammers are based overseas, so they are unregulated and largely beyond the reach of UK authorities.  For this reason it is important that you know what to look out for to protect your business from falling victim. 

To find out how you can protect your business, click here to download a copy of Scambuster - Your guide to beating the scammers  produced by the Office of Fair Trading.

If you feel you have been a victim of fraud, go to the Action Fraud website to report it.

Action Fraud, NOT Trading Standards, is the central point of contact for victims of fraud.

This webpage will be updated as new scams emerge. Please email to tell us about your experience if you have been scammed. We will add any new scams to this page to warn other providers. 


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