ESTATE agents across the country have been targeted by a Merseyside based premium rate fax scam.
Polar Publishing has been fined by a telephone watchdog after tricking estate agents into calling a £1.50 per minute fax number.
The firm, which was based in Liverpool Road, Crosby, was fined £1,500, reprimanded, and banned from running a premium rate line for six months by the Independent Committee for the Supervision of Standards of Telephone Information Services (ICSTIS).
Ten estate agents across the country complained after receiving unsolicited telephone calls from individuals posing as interested home-buyers.
The companies, which are based in the South West and South East, were asked to send a large amount of property information by fax to an 090 number.
None of the companies sent the fax but investigators fear dozens more estate agents may have unwittingly fallen for the scam.
ICSTIS spokesman Rob Dwight said: "This is the first time we have come across Polar Publishing. We believe this company was probably out to mislead people.
"Genuine customers would obviously not have a premium rate phone line and would probably come into the estate agent's office, rather than ask for faxed information."
Polar Publishing leased the premium rate phone number from Colt Telecom under the name Louise Griffiths. The company has yet to pay the ICSTIS fine and has 48 hours to pay-up or risk being permanently banned from leasing premium rate numbers.
The Daily Post visited Polar Publishing's office yesterday but were told the company had left three months ago.
A nearby shop manager said: "There have been quite a lot of people looking for them.
"I'm talking about rather heavy-set people demanding money.
"We haven't seen anyone from Polar for about three months now."
Peter Bolton King, chief executive of the National Association of Estate Agents, last night warned property sellers to be on their guard against similar schemes.
"Often the request first comes by fax and that makes the 090 number easier to spot. Our office alone receives one or two such faxes a day."
Steven Beilin, of Liverpool-based BE Property Services said: "I will be asking members of staff to look and see if we have been approached by these people.
"The problem is estate agents spend so much money on phone bills, it would be very easy to miss it.
"I've never heard of anything like this, but it shows that you have to be very careful."