Chamber issues ad scam warning

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Businesses have been warned not to fall into a scam uncovered by trading standards.

The Portsmouth and South East Hampshire Chamber of Commerce has issued a message to all its members, advising them to steer clear of an advertising scam which has been running for the past fortnight.

The chamber's director of operations Maureen Frost, prepared the message, which said: 'A company has been approaching businesses advising them that their "free" advertising trial period is up and that they need to sign a cancellation form. This form is actually an order form for advertising and once this has been signed, the business will then be pursued for advertising costs of over 1,000.

'Please be alert for any such call and don't sign any document unless you have read it thoroughly and know exactly what you are agreeing to.'

The Havant-based chamber aims to offer businesses the chance to improve trade, make contacts, expand into international markets, raise profile and offer a collective voice to small and medium-sized firms.

Its head of membership Nick Hoath confirmed it had sent the warning to all 1,500 businesses which have signed up to its daily alerts service.

He said: 'We received the warning from trading standards and we have very little other information about it. But we put out the warning because we want to make sure all our members are on the look-out for potentially law-breaking and dangerous attempts to unfairly make money. It's a scam and we don't want anyone to be caught out by it.'

No-one at Portsmouth trading standards was available to comment on the business, but the office has, since May, been running an anti-scam campaign, aimed at businesses and individuals.

One trading standards employee said: 'One piece of advice we offer is to never reply straight away to an offer. Allow time to think about it. Shop around for the best quote. If possible, get three quotes before you commit yourself. This applies to businesses as much as it does to individuals.'

From April 1, Portsmouth and South East Hampshire Chamber of Commerce will amalgamate with Hampshire's other two chambers to create one body for the county. This Christmas, its Havant office will be open from 9am to midday on December 24, and will close until 9am on January 4.