Business directory, advertisement and domain name scams
Have you ever received offers to have your details added to electronic or paper business directories?
Have you recently received a bill offering to buy domain names for your business?
Have you received a visit from a door-to-door salesperson offering advertising space in a regional directory?
Don’t sign anything, don’t pay anything! Check the small print and any unclear information. If in doubt, it is better not to sign anything!
What are business directory scams?
You receive a message by post, fax or e-mail inviting you to correct the contact details of your business (self-employed, professional services, non-profits) as part of an update. You are asked to sign the document and send it back. On signing this document you in fact are bound by a contract generally lasting 2 or 3 years at excessive rates. Additionally, the service received is very poor, perhaps even non-existent.
Another method is also used. You receive a bill that suggests a contract has already been signed, but this is not the case. Payment of this bill means that you have accepted the offer. What’s more, you will find that you are bound by a costly contract for several years.
Advertising space: are door-to-door sellers always trustworthy?
You receive a visit from a door-to-door salesperson inviting you to pay to place an advertisement for your business in a catalogue circulated in the region and/or sold for the benefit of various charities.
In most cases, the charitable purpose is questionable. These door-to-door sellers are simply seeking their own profit under a false pretext.
After you’ve accepted the seller’s first offer, you receive an advertising space confirmation request. Make sure you check the exact title of the catalogue for which you are being asked to give your signature! One method used by door-to-door sales people consists of, once they’ve got this confirmation, getting you to sign for a second advertisement in another directory. In fact, these door-to-door sellers generally publish several magazines and take advantage of your distraction to get you to sign two contracts.
Domain name scams: a new phenomenon
This scam can also involve two methods. The first consists of telephone cold calling encouraging you to pay for domain names at excessive rates. These domain names can be purchased by others and may harm the image of the business if misused. Often, the businesses receiving this type of call already have a website ending with the domain .be, but they are made offers to make quick purchases of the domains .biz, .net, .name etc.
The second method used consists of a bill with ‘reminder’ written on it, pressuring the recipient to settle the bill without taking the time to check if it is genuine. Be observant and analyse all the bill’s wording, particularly the small print. If you read this, you will realise that it is an offer and not in fact an unpaid bill. No prior contract was ever signed.
Don’t sign anything!
Signing and dating these documents constitutes a firm contractual commitment. Never sign an offer you are unsure about or which you don’t understand.
Don’t pay anything!
When you receive a bill, with or without a reminder note, always check that this bill really does correspond to a service you requested.
Already signed? Already paid?
First, cancel all payments!
If you have been the victim of a dishonest trade practice (for example, a sale for charitable purposes which is not what it seemed, or a bill without a prior contract), you can submit a complaint to the FPS Economy. The FPS Economy is responsible for monitoring the Belgian goods and services market and ensuring that sellers’ conduct is consistent with current economic regulations.
If you wish to exercise your rights (e.g. to obtain a refund, to cancel a contract signed without fees etc.) only the judicial authorities will be able to assist you.
However, one of the objectives of FPS Economy’s Directorate-General Enforcement and Mediation (DGEM) is to stop illegal commercial practices as a matter of general public interest. You can help it in its work by reporting practices you have been affected by, to prevent other consumers falling into the same traps.
We recommend extreme caution if you receive offers (example 1 (PDF, 65.86 Kb), example 2 (PDF, 49.1 Kb)) from the following companies:
BPS (Belgium Packet Service)
Call Center Vlaanderen BVBA
Custom Contact Nederland (bedrijvenonline.nu)
DAD – Deutscher Adressdienst / Registre Internet belge
Edition Hekking Cornélis
EMS European Marketing Service – Pages Jaunes Belgique
Euro Business Guide
Euro Media Conseil / Ema Web Vision
European City Guide
GCS – Global Call Services
Global Earth Register
Globe Trade Control
Guide pour la ville
Index-Entreprise / Etude Grivière SAO France
Inet Biz Solutions
MCF – Services des Professionnels
MCH Printing Services / International Publicity Services (IPS)
Media Belgique Design
Media Group Vlaanderen
Media Service AS
Media Service Verlag
Nederland Media Register
Nouvel annuaire / Belga Marketing / Internet Bedrijvengids / Annuaire pro / Bedrijvengids Belgie
Print Media Group / Plan de ville
Registre des Branches professionnelles
Service-pro / Eurl Media Press
TVV – Tele Verzeichnis Verlag / Portail des Entreprises
United Lda / Nova Channel / Temdi / Med1web
Unitel Nijmegen B.V.
World Business Guide
World Company Register / World Company Directory
WZD – Wolf SW / Banque Centrale des données économiques
More information about other scams
How can you combat consumer scams in general?
The aim of these scams is to steal your money or even to usurp your identity in order to act on your behalf. The simplest and most efficient defence is to refuse any offers which are made to you, even if they seem very attractive (miracle products, an easy way to make money, etc.) and to not provide any personal information.
Have you ever received an attractive offer for a financial transaction or investment? Do not let yourself be duped, don’t believe offers that are too good to be true!
Have you ever been promised significant winnings (material or financial)? Beware of these offers, which are often too good to be true.
Premium-rate 0900 telephone numbers and text message services
Most telephone services are usually provided at a fair price. According to the law, you must be able to see their prices at any time. However, some providers try to extort money from telephone users via premium-rate numbers, assuming they won’t notice.
Working from home
Many people are looking for a way to increase their income while working from home. You should be aware of scams to avoid falling into the trap set out by people with malicious intentions. Certain service offers use premium-rate telephone numbers or text message services to sign up job seekers. The application fees can quickly reach several dozen euros. Afterward though, you receive no more news from them. The job seeker suffers from financial disillusionment.
Car advertising scam
Fuel prices are reaching record highs, so the idea of earning money with your vehicle can be very attractive. Don’t trust companies with malicious intentions.
Disputes and complaints
If you have been the victim of this type of scam, you can submit a complaint to the DGEM.
If you have been a victim of this type of scam by e-mail, go to www.e-cops.be to submit a complaint.