Scam warning for new businesses

AN ENTREPRENEUR is warning other businessmen to be wary after he was the victim of a scam that could have cost him nearly £100. Max Thomas, started his own business in February last year and has since been bombarded with correspondence and phone calls about setting up alone.

AN ENTREPRENEUR is warning other businessmen to be wary after he was the victim of a scam that could have cost him nearly £100.

Max Thomas, started his own business in February last year and has since been bombarded with correspondence and phone calls about setting up alone.

He said: "I have had so many phone calls about setting up the business.

"Because you are new to it and maybe a bit gullible you think you have to have what you are being told you have to have to make your business work."

Among the correspondence that landed on his desk was an official looking document telling Mr Thomas he needed to spend £95 registering his business under data protection legislation.

He said: "It looked official. I asked some other people what they thought of it and they said you have to pay to have your company registered with data protection. But it didn't feel right. I have had so many promotions offering things to new businesses I was wary."

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Mr Thomas, 40, is managing director of Caribbean cuisine catering company called MT Bellies.

He visited Business Link - a business advice service based at Felaw Maltings in Ipswich who told him that it only costs £35 to register and as he was not taking sensitive information from people he would be exempt anyway.

He said: "Other people might not be aware of this con. You do not realise if you have never been through setting up a business before."

"Some people might have a bookkeeper and they might just send off money without realising it is a scam. I am not paying myself a wage in the first year and I could have spent £95 on nothing."

Adam Barnes, Suffolk County Council's trading standards communication assistant, said: "We have had 9 calls relating to data protection since the start of November 2004. Every business should be on the look out for letters seeking to exploit the new Data Protection Act (1998).

"This Act says that every organisation processing personal data must register with the Government's Data Protection Commissioner.

"The cost of registering under the official body is £35, but some rogue companies are sending out letters charging up to £135 to do this."

Roger Hopkins, assistant county trading standards officer, added: "The same scam has resurfaced again. Keep an eye out for sharp practices, shop around and don't be pressurised into signing up for anything you don't want.

"If you are considering signing up for anything, read the small print first and if in doubt call Trading Standards on 01473 584358."

Anyone with doubts as to whether or not they should register under the Data Protection Act should check the official government website at www.dpr.gov.uk

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