BUSINESSES in Redditch are being warned of a free advertising scam that could cost them thousands of pounds.

Several local businesses have been targeted by a company, European City Guide, which is sending out letters offering to run free adverts but then sends out invoices.

If the invoices are ignored more letters follow threatening legal action and even repossession of goods.

One business which was recently targeted was Ableflame, which provides heating for Redditch Council.

Simon Johnson, from Ableflame, said: “We got a letter from the company and took them up on what looked like a good offer but soon afterwards we started getting invoices.

“When we ignored these we got letters saying they would take us to court and they were starting legal proceedings against us, but nothing will come of it – they’re con men.

“It looks like they are focusing on Redditch as I’ve spoken to a lot of people who have gone through the same thing as us.

Mr Johnson added: “They must be making millions. Unfortunately some people are paying them because of the fear of being taken to court.

“These letters are quite scary and look very official and there are a lot of smaller businesses or firms run by elderly people that could easily get frightened and tricked into paying them.”

A Worcestershire Trading Standards service spokesman said: “We would advise businesses to be wary of unsolicited mailings or demands for monies in relation to any kind of advertising or marketing.

“Businesses should scrutinise terms and conditions before replying to any mailing or request for information from an unknown source.

“If you believe that you have been misled by a mailing or you have received demands for monies that are not owed, contact Worcestershire Trading Standards business advice line on 01905 765399.”