Chances are that if you’re reading this you’ve already been taken in by this advertising scam, in which case I hope my own account of dealing with them will be of some help.
Perhaps you’ve already managed to get them off your back and now know someone else who’s being harassed by them, and need more ammunition with which to back up your assurances that, however believable it all appears, it is actually a big fat scam.
If you (or the person you know) haven’t already done so, I highly recommend Googling “Global Media Corporation Ltd”. I did, and found several sites and forums full of comments from other who were dealing with the same thing.
And if I can help just one person who has found themselves in the same situation I was in a few weeks ago, then I’ll consider writing this post to have been worth it.
What follows is a very detailed account, but please do stick with it. I promise there’s a happy ending!
To explain how I got caught up in it all, I need to give you a little bit of backstory.
At the end of August I wrote a blog post and, as usual, shared the link on Facebook. People commented to say how good it was and that I might even consider being a journalist! All very flattering, and as I’ve always fancied being a writer of some sort I thought I’d have a stab at going freelance.
I’m friends with a freelance copywriter, so asked her for some tips on how to get started. She gave me a couple of websites where people can offer and/or buy writing services which I decided to register for (I won’t name them as I don’t believe they are linked in any way to the scam).
One of these sites is intended for people who have their own business (which I don’t) and required a business name in order to register, so I made one up and carried on, thinking no more of it.
A day or two later, I got the initial phone call from Global Media Corporation Ltd (I’ll call them GMC from now on).
I was thrown off from the get go, as I was taken by surprise that I’d have been contacted so soon after signing up for anything, and hadn’t expected anything to happen by phone anyway.
The man explained where he was calling from, and that he wanted to sell me advertising space in a publication which would be distributed to the emergency services in my area – Emergency Services Magazine. He gave info about advert sizes and prices, all sounding very feasible and let’s face it – how many of us automatically assume things are a scam? I certainly don’t.
Then, and here’s where they get you, he said he needed a reply there and then as they wanted to hold the space for me (amid promises that mine would be the only business of that type [i.e. writing, in my case] to appear in the publication).
What with that and the fact that I was still stunned at being called in the first place, I opted for a size and agreed that they could send me the proof advert, and we hung up. As promised, a minute or two later another man – from the art department – called me back to confirm my contact details for the advert.
I told my copywriter friend about this, and she said that I needed to be careful with cold call advertising companies as they are often scams. I realised I’d been hasty, and rang GMC straight back to say I’d changed my mind, but was advised the order had already been processed (this was less than ten minutes after the initial sales call!) and that I’d have to wait to receive the proof and invoice in the post, then respond to say I wanted to cancel.
Later that evening, I had a message on Facebook from my friend who had found proof that this particular company was indeed a scam. She sent me this link:
That story sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
The article mentioned that the scam was being run from “a dingy room above an NHS office in Birkenhead, Merseyside”, so I Googled the address on my invoice. Sure enough, it came up as the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) in Birkenhead!
Well this was enough to at least get me thinking, and it also made me realise I’d been rash to just register myself online as a business when I was nothing of the sort, and I decided to knock it all on the head.
A few days later the advert and invoice arrived in the post.
To say the advert was not up to much is a bit of an understatement, to be honest. Anyone with a computer and some basic secondary school photo tweaking skills could have done the same, or a lot better. It just didn’t come across as a professional or expert job at all.
On the back of the invoice it said any cancellations had to be made within seven days, in “writing or by way of any durable medium”, and would entail a fee of 50% of the advert price before VAT. How much??
Anyway, I emailed the address on the invoice to say I wanted to cancel. I received an auto-reply to say they’d received it, but no-one ever got back to me.
Given the size of the cancellation fee, and the fact that there’d been no mention of ANY cancellation fee in the initial sales call, I decided a trip to the Citizens’ Advice Bureau (CAB) was in order.
And this was when the calls from GMC started. Here’s how the whole thing went:
I’ll leave a list of phone numbers etc. at the end of the post.
Over the next few days I had several missed calls from GMC checking to see if I wanted any amendments making to the artwork, and asking me to call them on 0844 879 4447 (the number on the invoice). The calls were either from mobile phone numbers or from an 0151 number which, when Googled, came up as being a pub called The Crown in Birkenhead (128 Conway Street). (This tied up with some internet forum comments I’d found from others dealing with GMC. They’d also had calls from this number claiming to be some kind of Court-related company chasing the debt.)
Meanwhile, I had my appointment at the CAB. I shared the Mirror article, and the fact that I’d found various people online who were having issues with GMC, and he agreed that it sounded very much like a scam. By now it was more than seven days since I emailed to cancel, and they were therefore not even sticking to their own time limits. He gave me some information about the distance selling cooling off period and suggested that if I spoke to GMC that I should bring this up with them and confirm I wouldn’t be sending them any money. He also said that if they started getting pushy then I should go back to CAB for further advice.
More calls from GMC followed, but now they were chasing payment rather than amendments, so I called them and spoke to a Paul Macready. I explained why I was calling, and highlighted that I had emailed to say I wanted to cancel and that this was within the cooling off period allowed for distance sales. He told me there was no cooling off period as the transaction was business-to-business.
I also asked him to confirm the name of the publication, and he gave it as Police Fire Ambulance Magazine, and I asked for the contact details of someone from the Services marketing department who was dealing with such publications. He said it was all being handled by GMC.
Next I asked if there was a previous copy I could be sent, and he advised that there was a flash version on the GMC website (which, incidentally, is very basic and looks very unprofessional).
Said website is www.globalmediacorporation.ltd.uk, but it appears to have been taken down!
Eventually this led to an agreed cancellation fee, and that a new invoice would be issued. At this stage I was giving some very serious consideration to just paying up in order to get them off my case, and he provided their account details in order for me to make the transfer (see below).
A couple of days later I decided to go to the Police in the hope of getting some concrete evidence of GMC being either a scam or, as part of me still believed, a genuine company who I owed money to. The PC ran a check on the Companies House website/database which brought up GMC as a legitimate business entry. She advised speaking to Trading Standards as this sort of thing is not under the Police criminal law remit.
I went to the drop-in desk for Trading Standards, and was given some initial feedback. He advised me to write to GMC requesting a written response including the name of the publication, circulation numbers and a hard copy of a past edition. He also suggested that I highlight the fact that my number is registered with the Telephone Preference Service and that therefore their initial call was in violation of this, and to state that I would not do anything further until I received all the requested information. He also confirmed that the information I’d had from CAB about distance selling was wrong, as the transaction had been business-to-business.
As you can probably guess, I never received anything from GMC in response to my written request, although it did coincide with the arrival of the new invoice.
More calls followed from mobile numbers and the occasional “unknown” (I should say at this point, that I never answered any of these calls. This was either because I was at work anyway, or because I knew who was calling!).
I called my local Trading Standards office, and spoke to someone who advised ignoring all future contact. He also said that GMC might threaten court action, but to ignore that too!! That did nothing to achieve the “don’t let it get to you” attitude he recommended!
At this point, Apple issued iOS7 so I was able to start blocking numbers! WOOHOO!!
As well as the calls I had one auto-text from GMC with the message:
“Please contact Global Media on 0844 879 4447 today to confirm payment by Bas for invoice 10804. Do not reply to this message. Free SMS at cbfsms.com”
Then more calls, all with the same message as before, i.e. chasing payment, and leaving the 0844 number.
Later, the message changed to informing me that I now owed the original price as I had not paid the cancellation fee, that the advert would be going to print, and that my details would be passed to liquidation, but the contact number stayed the same.
It was now October, and I was getting desperate. I spoke to my friend again who, as well as being a writer, used to work for Trading Standards. She suggested sending the invoices back, along with a printout of the newspaper article and a covering letter telling GMC that Trading Standards had advised me not to pay, and that I’d be ignoring any further contact.
I sent it all via Signed For (recorded delivery, as was), having taken copies for myself first.
This overlapped with the arrival of the new invoice, so unfortunately it was too late to return that one.
After that I just had a couple more calls, both from unknown numbers and only one had a GMC message.
It’s been over a month since that last contact, so I urge anyone dealing with GMC to do what I did in the end, and show them you’re on to them!
Contact details for GMC:
Address: Maple House, 3 Cleveland Street, Wirral, CH41 6ND
0844 879 4447 – GMC (on invoice)
0151 647 0589 – The Crown, Birkenhead
07922 157655 – GMC (male voice)
07514 706056 – GMC (female voice, asking me to call Tracy or Paul)
07922 170939 – GMC (female voice, asking me to call Tracy or Paul)
07549 356762 – There was no message left on this number, so it may or may not have been GMC
Website: www.globalmediacorporation.ltd.uk (no longer active)
Account no. – 03263061 (Barclays)
Sort code – 20-50-36