Thursday, August 17, 2006

Nasty Little Scams

This post is not based on my experience as a magistrate, but on my experience running businesses.

There are many people who prey on decent businesses and decent people year after year, and my main regret is that I hardly ever see any of them in the dock.

There is the First Aid scam. We are all in favour of first aid, rather like motherhood and apple pie. So sales people call into businesses (it happened to me) where they will deal with a low-level employee who will of course agree to have the first aid box topped up. When the invoice arrives a few weeks later the owner finds that paracetemol tablets ( 2p each in Tesco) have been invoiced at 25p, and so on.

There are many advertising scams. The phone rings and the caller claims to be from the police, or the fire brigade, or the ambulance service, or whomever. They are producing a diary or a yearbook, or such like. The sales talk suggests that you will be supporting the public service, so the unwary will buy an advertisement for several hundred pounds. The publication, when it appears, will be cheaply printed and given to the police station or the fire station, where it will be binned.

After I had been caught a couple of times I took to asking for the address of the so-called sponsoring organisation so that I could send them a cheque. Not one ever responded.

I find dodgy charities especially disgusting, because they prey on the goodwill of nice people. Some swine came into my local pub with a teddy bear, and a book of raffle tickets. The naive landlord (okay, hold the oxymoron jokes) fell for it and decent people paid, in all, £100 for tickets to win a teddy bear worth at most £4 wholesale. The perpetrators are sellers of stuffed toys and no more. Charity law is lax, and so long as five or ten pounds gets to some sort of charity the scammers are bomb-proof. Look into the charity, and you may find that the secretary is the scammer's daughter-in-law on a salary of fifty grand a year.

I see all sorts of criminals, but I rarely feel disgust for them as people, however strongly I feel about their actions. I do especially despise those who abuse the trust of decent people to line their pockets.

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