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Caithness News Bulletins February 2004

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Trading Standards Officers of The Highland Council are warning the public to beware of being enticed into money-making trading schemes when surfing the Internet.

Recent investigations have shown that at least one such scheme is being advertised on the Internet from the Inverness area.  The schemes are available via Internet search engines and auction rooms and may not necessarily disclose the true identity of the persons behind them.

Trading schemes are often called direct selling, multi-level marketing or network marketing.  Participants are self-employed and earn money by selling the scheme's goods and services. This can be done in a small way, from home.  Some schemes are perfectly legal and are seen to comply with the governing legislation, namely the Fair Trading Act 1973, the Trading Schemes Act 1996 and the Trading Schemes Regulations 1997.  However some schemes are not and are only there to benefit the pockets of the persons behind them.

Councillor David Munro, The Highland Council's spokesman for Consumer Protection and Public Health, said: "Get rich quick schemes which appear to be too good to be true usually are.  Those which ask you to send money to people on a list then add your own name to the list and send on to others are probably illegal.  The golden rule is to avoid any scheme that asks you for money before giving you information on what the scheme involves."

Head of Trading Standards, Nigel MacKenzie, added: "It is a criminal offence to persuade someone to make a payment to a scheme by promising benefits from getting other people to join.  Schemes where the main motive for joining is to profit from recruiting others are illegal."

Consumers with any concerns regarding a trading scheme can contact The Highland Council Consumer Advice Line on 0845 600 4222 (local rate, mobile call costs may vary) or by e-mail to consumer.advice@highland.gov.uk