Equestrian businesses are being warned about a scam in which they are invited to advertise in a non-existent magazine.

Former policeman Iain Asher of Oxfordshire runs web-based rug company Friday Fox and was contacted by a Liverpudlian publishers, believed by Trading Standards to be Weinstein Williams.

“I was telephoned [on 19 April] by a man who said he was publishing an equine crime prevention magazine to be distributed free to 25,000 readers,” said Mr Asher.

“When he claimed it would be sent to every jockey, trainer, owner and breeder in the north it rang alarm bells as nobody has a database of that nature.”

Friday Fox was offered an advert for £395. Luckily, Mr Asher smelt a rat and rang Trading Standards instead.

Jane Bradley of Trading Standards North West said it is investigating Weinstein Williams after numerous complaints.

She said: “Our investigation is ongoing, but I have statements from companies who paid for adverts that never materialised.

“It looks like the bogus callers rang advertisers from Equitrader [a legitimate Cheshire magazine].”

Brian Gilsenan of Equitrader told H&H: “It’s very annoying that we have been caught up in this. Sometimes the conmen even tell our customers they have been recommended by us. They seem professional but in the end it’s a scam.”

Warwickshire haylage and bedding supplier Garry Hickman paid around £200.

He said: “I’ve had hundreds of calls from these people, and I fell for it. I never saw my advert because I don’t think the magazine was ever printed.”

In a statement, Weinstein Williams said: “We take client security very seriously and are in the process of instigating legal action. We have also created a dossier of information that is being investigated by the police.”

Weinstein Williams is pursuing action against Trading Standards in the High Court.

This article was first published in Horse & Hound (27 May, ’10)