Beware the Web Register Africa Scam

This morning I received an email from a client saying "What is Web Register South Africa about" So I did a quick Google search and found a crafty scam that is not new but keeps rearing its ugly head and trapping people in its deceitful web. Basically, there is a crowd in Germany that sends letters to businesses telling them to check and update their details for free on their website www.web-register-za.com and to include any other items they want to show by filling in a physical form with your company stamp or signature. The letters come with a South African government logo on the header and include a return envelope and fax number to send your form in... but  dont get caught out by the dodgy use of the SA coat of Arms.. 

 

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The letters may come with a friendly inclusion message or even a forceful "You need to do this or your details will be removed" note. 

Bottom line: do not respond to a letter from anyone, even the Department of Justice, about the “Removal of your company details”. It is a scam, but not by the SA Government.

What thousands of South Africans are facing is a German scam which looks very much like a government directive. It has been going on since 2009 in about 20 countries. Each person who is burned by the people hiding behind TVV Tele Verzeichnis Verlag GmbH assumes that they alone are stupid to have been had. Not so. These guys write letters that look just like the real thing you might get from the UK Department of Trade, or the Norwegian Government or the SA Department of Justice. The letters are marketing genius, albeit on the wrong side of what the rest of us call ethical. But maybe not.

It turns out that this letter is viewed as a normal request to do business even if it is slightly dodgy, what with a South african government logo and all.

This is the Tvv Tele Verzeichnis Verlag GmbH scam.

The letter you receive actually refers to their private website, not any official SA government register. You receive a letter where the second paragraph clearly states that any changes are free. That’s what You will not be charged for this! You will notice that they refer to you logging into their site to do this yourself. 

The second page offers you a simpler way to make any changes with the form to fill out. Of course you do so and then fax the document or use their handy “prepaid” envelope.  About two weeks later you will get an invoice from TVV Tele Verzeichnis Verlag GmbH for R9372 along with a sheet asking for your credit card details. So you read the original letter again to try and understand what has happened. (If you have not yet filed the original in your bin. It turns out, as you dig deeper, that you have signed a contract with TVV Tele Verzeichnis Verlag GmbH to advertise your business on their German website for R9372/year for three years. It renews yearly after that until you cancel by registered letter.

You can also cancel by registered letter to Germany within the first two weeks. That could be why the invoice takes a few days more than that to arrive. Now this is legal and a valid contract. You might have some defence based on the government logo, and the misleading wording, but lawyers opinions is that you should have read it carefully first. They do exactly what the document says they will. They do change your details. And they do give you a featured page. But on a German site that no possible prospect will ever look at with a search process that harkens back to the Middle Ages. Once you have signed, the enthusiasm with which this German Tvv Tele Verzeichnis Verlag GmbH firm chases your payment is matched only by SARS or the IRS in the USA.

Bad news for my client.. they signed up for this and what they sent me was in fact the invoice.. too late to cancel and they will no doubt be hounded for life and threatened with legal action..

Now I am not too sure how far these legal proceedings have gone for people or if it even happens but the main this is;

Do not respond to a letter from anyone without reading it properly.. and if it has anything to do with your website or domain name.. check with your host or developer first.

An example of these letters:

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