A prize-hotline conman who raked in thousands of pounds by duping people into calling because they thought they’d won a car has been sentenced to 200 hours’ community service.
Bristol-based Joseph Boll, 26, hoodwinked people into calling a GBP 1.50-a-minute number after telling them they had the chance of winning a TVR sports car. Callers spent up to GBP 9 only to end up being offered a second-hand computer which came with a mandatory year’s warranty – costing GBP 116.
Premium-rate watchdog Icstis estimates Boll, who was director of Cutting Edge Telecom Ltd and Pokie Ltd, has conned ‘hundreds of thousands of pounds’ out of consumers in a series of premium-rate scams.
In this latest case, brought by Bristol trading standards officers (TSOs), people called premium-rate lines after using scratchcards which were all ‘winning’ cards or after receiving letters saying they had been successful in a competition.
Boll sent about 580,000 unsolicited letters to consumers between June and September 2003. His firms operated on the basis that 2-3 per cent of people would call the premium-rate line, but that only one in ten of those would write in to claim their prize.
Boll was convicted of making false claims. As well as getting the community service order, Boll was told to pay total costs of GBP 20,000 at Bristol Crown Court.
Icstis welcomed the outcome and told Which? that Boll was behind 15 scams it had ruled on since December 2002. Spokesman Rob Dwight said that Boll was a premium-rate serial offender who had tried ‘every trick in the book’ including mailshots, callback services and faxback requests. He has been barred from running such services.
One junk fax he sent out claimed to be from the ‘Campaign Against Junk Faxes’ and told recipients to fax back (at GBP 1.50-a-minute) if they didn’t want to receive faxes.
In total, Boll’s company has been fined GBP 420,200 by Icstis since December 2002.
In that time, the watchdog received more than 1,000 complaints from consumers – a figure it described as ‘the tip of the iceberg’. Icstis estimates Boll has conned consumers out of ‘hundreds of thousands of pounds’.
If you encounter problems with a premium-rate service, contact Icstis on 0800 500212.