Tuesday, June 29, 2010

www.expo-guide.com - scam.....

We have been receiving this mail for several years now. We hope someone will stop these people.
Expo-Guide.com play an old trick, but one that is easy to fall for. By sending out a confusing application for directory listing to trade show exhibitors, Expo-Guide.com effectively cons applicants out of 3,543 euros each.
EXPO-GUIDE is an online business directory that you can find at www.expo-guide.com which is effectively conning thousands of people into entering into a legal contract to pay the company thousands of euros just to get an online listing on their directory website.
The way this scam works is as follows: Expo-Guide.com, the front of a Mexican organisation called Commercial Online Manuals S de RL de CV, scans European trade journals to find out when the various trade shows and business expositions are taking place. They then get a list of upcoming exhibitors or past exhibitors for those shows which they send a letter and application form for their Expo-Guide.
These are the letters recently sent to health companies in the UK before The Natural Trade Show in Harrogate. (Identifying details have been blanked out but they are actually typed in automatically so all you have to basically do is sign the form and put it in the pre-paid envelope.)
Expo-Guide Letter
The fuzzed out address is the address of the business to which this form was sent. Notice how it is very easy to assume that this is a directory listing for the Natural Trade Show itself. You can be assured that this confusion is deliberate.
Here is the application form that is sent:
Expo-Guide Application Form
On the back is some very faint terms and conditions printed in very light gray so the applicant is very unlikely to read them. Here is a scan that has had the contrast considerably bumped up and gamma adjusted so you can read it here:
Expo-Guide Terms & Conditions
If you were a business exhibitor about to go to a trade expo, and you were sent the above letter and form (remember, the terms and conditions are either tiny or extremely faint) you might well be under the impression that this is a directory listing for the trade show that you are attending. In fact, most offices might have admin employees that don't read the small print because they are so busy. So this is an easy scam to fall for, especially considering the number of businesses "advertising" on www.expo-guide.com.
Be warned that by signing the form and sending it off in the prepaid envelop it appears you are legally liable to pay this Mexican company €1181.00 per year for a minimum of a 3-year contract. Not only that, if you do not cancel in writing within 3 months before your 3 years is up, you will have another year to pay and another after that until you cancel in writing. The address the form is sent to is the following:
Expo - Guide
Postfach 2235
(If anybody knows the name and or address of the individual or company collecting from this post box, please let us know by contacting the editor.)
Another address a reader sent us is:
And another is:
Apartado Postal N°39-064
C.P. 15621 Mexico D.F.-Mexico
If you or your company fell for this scam, are you legally bound to pay it? When we asked trading standards the same question they said they had a thick file on this company and generally advised people who have fallen for these types of directory scam not to pay them. (This is not legal advice... just the personal opinion of the guy speaking on behalf of trading standards.)
And if you choose not to pay, Commercial Online Manuals S de RL de CV will certainly threaten legal action, but ultimately it is very unlikely they are going to want to go the the expense and bad publicity of taking you to court in your own country. But they will ring you and hassle you to the point where you may get frightened and/or fed up and just pay them. They continue these scams because a percentage of people pay them for running them.
What is more, the Expo-Guide organization has tentacles in many different countries, so that if they are chasing you for money they will get someone who is your own nationality to ring you so that the threat of prosecution is more immediate (if a Mexican rang you up on a long-distance call to demand money you would be far less likely to pay). This is all part of the process of trying to maximize intimidation which in turn maximizes the proportion of victims who pay up.
Legally we are obliged to tell you to check with your lawyer, but our non-legal advice is to firmly tell Commercial Online Manuals S de RL de CV, their project manager Alejandro Esteban, or whoever rings you up on their behalf that you resolutely refuse to pay and that they can take you to court if they want. Collect as much info as you can and be prepared to take it to court. (We are not lawyers but we do know other individuals who have done this and they have ended up being left alone. But you have to make that decision yourself.) If you do this, it is very likely they will realize that intimidation won't work on you and will go after easier prey.
The Expo-Guide scam is actually just one small scam in a whole array of directory and guide scams. If you are interested in finding more information on these sorts of scams, visit: www.stopecg.org. This is a comprehensive site with useful information on this type of scam and the best ways to deal with it.

The above text is from http://www.energygrid.com/watchdog/2008/11-expoguide.html however, it is pretty much what we had to say on the matter.
Beware of scammers