The Tour and Travel Guide (T&T) and the First European City Guide were part the same scam run from Triesen Lichtenstein and Hamburg in Germany, fortunately for victims of this company the government of Lichtenstein forced the closure and Liquidation of the T&T in late 2003.
This page no longer offers advice for victims of the scam, T&T has gone, we maintain this page to show how such a scam was perpetrated and how victims were successful in filing complaints
1st European City Guide
- 1st European City Guide
- The Tour and Travel Guide
- Anatomy of a cross-border directory scam
- How the scam was ended
- Lessons learnt
This scam is no more: it was absorbed into Tour and travel, which was subsiquently liqudated Read our detailed notes on this
1st European City Guide,
TEL.: +423 399 32 22
FAX: +423 399 32 11
WEB: http://www.1st-cityguide.com/ the liquidator missed this site and it is still active (Nov 2005)
A Whois search indicates that the domain name was registered by a certain Martin Witworth. Hardly a Liechtensteinian sounding name! It is not clear what other involvement he has with this company. The contact details gave are the same as those for the guide.
Their webpage states that it is copyright, Tour and Travel Guide
The Tour and Travel guide
Status, on 31st Aug 2003 This company was liquidated, Please read our history lesson! | Read a synopsis of the Descision (Word Doc)
Based in Germany T&T was part and parcel of the above 1st European City Guide however it specifically targeted travel establishments
The website was much more professional than the shabby offering of the First European City Guide, however it was removed on liquidation and is now owned by a reputable company that has nothing to do with the original scam.
1st European City Guide,
Actually they traded from:
Borsteler Chaussee 85-99 Haus 6
The database was huge, there may have been be as many as 95,000 victims, spread across over 200 countries. By spreading their net so wide they managed to continue with a low profile in each area affected.
Veiw scam contracts
A Whois search in 2002 revealed their the domain was registered by Martin Witworth It is unclear what his full connection with these sites is, however he gives a German address for this business. We would still very much like to talk to Martin.
Anatomy of a cross-border directory scam
The Tour and Travel Guide (T&T) and the First European City Guide were part a scam run from Triesen Lichtenstein and Hamburg, Germany, fortunately for victims of this company the government of Lichtenstein forced the closure and Liquidation of the T&T in late 2003.
We maintain this page to show how such a scam was perpetrated and how victims were successful in filing complaints
Tour And Travel Guide seemed on the surface of it to be a fairly simple scam, however the organisation and procedure followed was actually quite sophisticated, here is how the model worked
1) A 'contract ' was formulated that was deliberately designed to look like an innocuous request for information, however signing the document 'committed' anyone who signed it to a 3 year contract for a highly overpriced advertisement in a virtually worthless guide.
1a) It was noted that the details of recipient companies which were printed onto the trick forms were often incorrect. It is not clear if this because T&Ts staff were inept or if the details were deliberately erroneous as a ploy to distract the reader from the true nature of the document.
2) This deliberately misleading document was then mailed to a huge number of businesses, whose contact details were gleaned from reputable trade directories and databases. It is not known what percentage of recipients returned the documents but we believe it was less than 5%, perhaps as low as 1%.
2a) In order to avoid national laws the contracts were mailed to countries outside Lichtenstein, in order to sidestep consumer protection law they were only mailed to businesses. The exploitation of these two loopholes does not mean that T&Ts activities were legal or their contracts enforceable, it merely shows that devious legal minds were at work. They had found a way of falling between jurisdictions and intended to milk it for profit.
3) Returned forms were collected and the details of the returnees were then published on T&T's website and in a printed guide. No serious effort was made to sell the guide or promote the website; they were produced because failure to produce anything would have left T&T open to immediate legal action. The printed guide was mailed to victims of the scam in order to back up the facade of legitimacy needed to dupe them into paying.
3a) While T&T specifically targeted the travel sector, the guide would be almost useless to a traveller as it only ever contained the details of a tiny percentage of the travel related businesses in any destination. There were 2 reasons for this:
i) To target every business in a location carried the risk of adverse publicity and a fightback, victims were more compliant if they were isolated and felt alone.
ii) Only a small percentage of businesses mailed actually fell for the trick
4) T&T would then hound their hapless victims for money. Most refused to pay and this is were T&T's main operation was concentrated. A sequence of threatening letters was formulated, followed by more direct threats of legal action from a supposedly independent debt collection agency.
4a) To reinforce the threats extra costs and fees were added to the bogus debts, in the hope that victims would see the amount spiralling out of control and pay, even if they felt ripped off.
4b) Little or no attempt was made to tell victims that the contract ran for more than a year, this little gem was kept in reserve so that those who did pay (presumably the more vulnerable) could be targeted again with new demands a year later.
4c) court action was threatened but never carried out, the contracts were almost certainly unenforceable but T&T lied about impending court action in order to maximise the percentage of victims who could be browbeaten into paying. StopECG believe that approximately 22% of T&T victims parted with at least some money.
It would be hard to overestimate the level of distress that the activities of T&T caused to individuals in around 200 countries. For victims in developing countries the sums of money being demanded were truly life-changing. Law abiding citizens who had never had bad debt found themselves in a situation where may believed they owed money but were unwilling or unable to pay. People feared for their businesses and their financial futures, all because a few greedy men wanted to increase their personal wealth. Quite simply this vile scam had to be stopped
How the scam was ended
With cross border scams the problems for national law enforcement agencies are twofold.
1) The victims are outside the country where the scam company is domiciled so there is often a lack of political will to see the problem resolved.
2) Because the scam crosses borders in the strictest interpretation of the law it may fall outside anyone's jurisdiction.
Additionally, by never attempting to enforce their own contracts T&T ensured that no case law could be established against them or the sort of contract they used
For the Lichtenstein government this was a major headache, a country smaller an English county was faced with a multi million pound scam that threatened to embarrass the whole nation, the number of angry T&T victims worldwide was almost certainly greater than the nations population of 34,000!
Initially the government was slow to react, however as more and more victims complained to the their own governments, to embassies and direct to Lichtenstein the magnitude the scan became apparent
Finally in late 2003, the government invoked an old and little used piece of legislation which allowed them to close a company whose activities were harmful to the principality. The receivers were called in and T&T was liquidated. Just occasionally draconian laws are good!
There is alas a perception with this sort of white collar fraud that the damage done is not severe so little needs to be done. however anyone who has faced a situation where they have a bill they cannot pay, or simply hat they want to fight because they have been tricked will tell you that the distress caused and the fear felt is real and pressing. T&T did immense harm to many businesses. In the end that was recognised and they were closed down.
StopECG would like to thank the Government of Lichtenstein for ridding the world of T&T, we would also like to thank the countless individuals who devoted time and money to beating this scam.
The Printed guide
The guide its self was bigger than a telephone directory, it seems rather unlikely that the intrepid traveler would have found room for it in a suitcase or rucksack!
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