Four men from Norfolk have gone on trial accused of perpetrating one of the UK’s biggest direct marketing frauds through “a web of companies”, based both in the UK and overseas.
The alleged £9m fraud involved hundreds of thousands of telemarketing calls designed to get people to pay to block nuisance calls as well as for satellite warranties that were not needed.
All four defendants – Joe Lloyd, Kevin Thurston, Daniel Pye, and Geoffrey Good – are on trial at Norwich Crown Court charged with two counts of conspiracy to defraud.
Nic Lobbenberg QC, for the prosecution, told the court: “They got their business by telling lies. It’s not a question that there’s a very small minority of people being told lies. We say that week after week, month after month these lies are being told.”
The court has heard from three pensioners who all claimed they were conned into signing up to block nuisance calls by the Anti-Marketing Group – paying up to £40 a year for a service which is free via the Telephone Preference Service.
One said: “I did notice that my calls were not decreasing but increasing.”He phoned to complain but said: “Nothing happened. The nuisance calls continued.”
Another witness told how she got a job at the Anti-Marketing Group but worked for the company for just one day before leaving and making a complaint to Norfolk Trading Standards.
She said that after about an hour of training, she was given a list of names and addresses of people to call. She said she was not told where the data had come from but got the impression that most of the 200 to 300 people on the list were elderly.
She claimed all telemarketing staff had three scripts – an official one which explained who they were and what they were doing and two shorter versions which did not fully explain who they were and what they were doing, but stated the people they were contacting were at risk of identity theft and they were working to government regulations.
The woman, who said she was one of about 30 operatives, said there were “very hard techniques” used for selling which were “very forceful”.
When asked by Lobbenberg what it was she did not like, she said: “Just the way they were selling to people on the phone. They were very harsh in their techniques and the words they were using just to push forward a sale as much as possible.”
The trial, which has already heard from 20 witnesses, continues.
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