A company called "The Emergency Services (Media Dept) Limited" that falsely claimed to be linked to the emergency services in an attempt to convince small businesses in to placing adverts in its publications has been wound up in the High Court following an investigation by the Insolvency Service.
Telesales operators from the company would cold call small businesses across the country and claim to be "connected" to the Police or other emergency services and then try to sell advertising space in a magazine, with the funds raised allegedly going to support these services. In reality these funds were largely destined for the owners and no one else.
Following an investigation by the Insolvency Service the company was formally wound up in the High Court in Manchester on the 16th of October 2014. Colin Cronin, Investigation Supervisor, said of the case:
"The Emergency Services (Media Dept) Limited created an impression that it was running a national campaign or initiative when, in truth, the magazine it produced was merely a mechanism by which the company raised money from members of the public by way of systematic and deliberate misrepresentations."
"These winding up proceedings show that the Insolvency Service will take firm action against companies which operate in this manner."
Stretching the truth (to breaking point)
The investigation found that the company cold-called businesses across the country and asked them to take out adverts in their magazine known as React. Whilst the magazine and website of the company looked legitimate, it was found that telesales staff made repeated and deliberate misrepresentations in order to convince businesses to take out these ads. The court heard that:
- Telesales callers falsely claimed either to be calling from the local Police force itself or that the company was some how "affiliated" with the emergency services. In truth the company had no links to any emergency services anywhere.
- The company falsely claimed that its aim was to raise funds for the emergency services and that proceeds from the advertisements would go towards these fictitious funds.
- Representatives from the company falsely stated that the magazine known as React was widely circulated amongst local schools and that the Police would be using it themselves to give drug and alcohol talks in schools.
- The company misled potential advertisers by claiming that the company had distribution agreements with local Police forces, schools, university libraries and other similar public bodies when in reality they had no such agreements.
- Representatives from the company stated that it was raising funds to tackle all manner of illegal activity including child abuse, knife crime and other anti-social behaviour in order to solicit advertising revenue.
The company received a total of almost £850,000 in 2012 and 2013 in advertising revenue, but made charitable donations in that time totalling a paltry 1.8%. Whereas payments to staff and directors in that period totalled well in excess of half a million pounds or approximately 61% of the total raised through these misrepresentations.
Where are they now?
The Insolvency Service press release makes no mention of any bans for the officers of this company, so they are both free to continue to act as directors despite the above High Court action. So where are they now and what are they doing? Well a quick look over on DueDil shows the directors of this company to be two gentlemen, a Thomas Henry Harrison and Ian Christopher Hughes.
Thomas Henry Harrison has previously been involved in two now dissolved companies:
Kingscroft Publications Limited company number 02871954 and
The Childcare Register Ltd company number 03285589
Ian Christopher Hughes does not have any previous directorships but his is currently involved with another company with a very similar name:
Emergency Services Media Ltd company number 06107927 this company was incorporated in 2007, a year after the now defunct The Emergency Services (Media Dept) Limited was formed.
Interestingly, both Mr Thomas Henry Harrison and Mr Ian Christopher Hughes are shown as current officers of a company called "Child Protection Strategy Ltd" company number 08608890. This company was formed just over a year ago in August 2013 and its website (that we wont link to here) claims it is looking for corporate sponsors to help them
"continue to produce and distribute the campaign magazines, posters, educational materials and courses. Your help directly funds everything we do."
Make of that what you will.
Avoiding the scammers
These types of scams have been around for years now in one version or another but they always seem to follow a similar pattern, our MD (and Ex Police officer) Sid Home has some tips on how to avoid being caught out:
"Be very wary of any company that cold calls you selling advertising in any sort of publication, journal, calendar or similar as in our experience most reputable agencies don't use unsolicited calls as a means of introduction. Many of these scams rely on individuals goodwill to paper over the cracks in the story and many claim some connection or affiliation with charities, emergency services or other "good works."
"In reality these companies donate very little if anything to the causes they claim to represent and most of the money ends up in the directors pockets or used to find fresh marks to con. If in any doubt as to the legitimacy of the caller, hang up and contact the service or charity mentioned and find out for yourself if the claim stands up."
Working with charities is a rewarding and worthwhile endeavour for any business and should always be encouraged, but if you are going to support a charity you are often better to help directly rather than relying on the claims of a third party company with an official sounding name."
If you want to support the work our emergency services do then there are a number of legitimate and officially registered charities that can help:
- The Fire Fighters Charity http://www.firefighterscharity.org.uk/
- The Police Dependant's Trust and National Police Fund http://www.pdtrust.org/ and
- The Care of Police Survivors http://www.ukcops.org/
- The Ambulance Services Benevolent Fund http://asbf.co.uk/ and
- The Air Ambulance Service (home of the The Childrens Air Ambulance) http://www.theairambulanceservice.org.uk/
If you are in any doubt as to the legitimacy of a company trying to market a supposed charity publication or similar service then we would encourage you to think very carefully about making any donation or placing any "advertising", as chances are you will simply be lining a fraudsters pockets rather than making a genuine difference.
Update Feb 2015
The website for Child Protection Strategy Ltd is now offline, however some eagle eyed businesses have already been in touch regarding some other very similar sites and "advertising" companies. Are we seeing the phoenix like return of this company in another name? The jury is out at the moment but rest assured it is something we will be keeping a very close eye on...
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