in UK, USA

Why is VCS so reluctant to help stamp out carbon credit scams?

Carbon creditEarlier this week, Dennis Myles left a comment on REDD-Monitor. Myles had been “approached” by someone calling themselves Timothy Davies, who claimed to work for Verified Carbon Standard (VCS).

Davies asked for the details of the carbon credits that Myles had been scammed into buying as a so-called “investment”.

Davies explained that he needed the information so that he could make an evaluation. Once he had done so, Davies reckoned he could find a buyer for the carbon credits.

In his comment on REDD-Monitor, Myles asked whether this was a “genuine approach” or whether it was a recovery room scam that would involve never to be seen again advance fees, and no sale of the carbon credits.

A transparently obvious scam

I responded by pointing out the obvious. Myles had been contacted by a scammer. There is no secondary market for voluntary carbon credits, and the unfortunate reality is that the carbon credits sold by boiler room operations as investments are worthless.

I asked Myles whether “Timothy Davies” had left a phone number.

As Myles’ comment followed a 2013 post that asked, “Why doesn’t VCS warn against buying carbon credits as an investment?”, I felt it was only reasonable to add that,

Of course, if VCS put a notice on their website explaining that there is no secondary market, that carbon credits are not a suitable investment, and that VCS would never cold call you about your carbon credits, the scammers would not find it so easy to use the letters “VCS” to lend legitimacy to their fraudulent activities.

Myles replied yesterday. The scam artist calling himself “Timothy Davies” had sent him the following email:

As dicussed, can you please respond to this email with the information you have on file.

Please mark F.A.O Timothy Davies.

Many thanks in advance. (Message sent by:

| Adam Posen | Junior Program Officer | Verified Carbon Standard | tel: 0845 528 0484 | email: vcs-uk@europe.com

Once again, I pointed out the obvious. There is no VCS UK. The phone number seems to belong to a company called Home Rescue Computer Services, based in Croydon (although the company’s website no longer exists).

And VCS email addresses end with @v-c-s.org, not europe.com.

Some questions for VCS

Encouraged by the fact that VCS states on its website that, “We welcome all questions and feedback and will respond within two business days”, I sent an email to Kate Heller, Communications Manager at VCS.

I explained the story about Myles, Davies, and Posen, and pointed out that this was almost certainly a recovery room scam that was using the VCS name to provide a sheen of legitimacy.

I asked Heller the following questions:

  1. Could you please confirm whether anyone called Timothy Davies or Adam Posen work for VCS.
  2. Does the telephone number 0845 528 0484 and/or the email vcs-uk@europe.com belong to VCS?
  3. Would VCS ever cold call anyone who had been scammed into buying carbon credits as investments?
  4. Can VCS find a buyer for people who have been scammed into buying carbon credits as investments?
  5. Would VCS consider posting a notice on its website clarifying the above points – in order to help prevent the abuse of the VCS name in this sort of recovery room scam?

In less than two hours, Heller sent the following reply:

From: Kate Heller
Date: 1 September 2016 at 23:58
Subject: Responding to your email RE: Timothy Davies
To: reddmonitor@gmail.com

Hello Chris,

I am writing to respond to your email from earlier today. To answer your questions:

    – No one with the names you mentioned works at VCS. All of our staff and contact information is publically available on our website: http://www.v-c-s.org/about-vcs/team/ and http://www.v-c-s.org/contact-us/

    – VCS does not engage in carbon market transactions of any kind. As our Verified Carbon Units (VCUs) page on our website states:

      VCS is not an investment firm, and as such, does not provide any direct advice on the purchase or trading of VCUs. Anyone wishing to transact VCUs should do their due diligence to be aware of all the risks associated with a given decision. Additionally, buyers should be particularly skeptical of sellers employing boiler room and “hard sell” tactics.

Thanks for bringing this matter to our attention.

Best,
Kate

2016-09-01-225958_1084x1026_scrot

While Heller’s response was certainly quick, it didn’t really answer all my questions.

Of course I don’t believe for one second that VCS would cold call anyone who had been scammed into buying carbon credits. Any more than I believe that VCS could find a buyer for these carbon credits.

But it would be nice to have heard it from the horse’s mouth – so that the next time someone leaves a comment about being cold called by someone impersonating VCS staff, I could point them to a statement from VCS.

REDD-Monitor is also not an investment firm. However, unlike VCS, I’m happy to point out that scammers are preying on vulnerable people and are using the VCS name to legitimise their scams.

Here is REDD-Monitor’s entry for the 2016 Basil Fawlty Award for stating the bleeding obvious. I wonder why VCS is so reluctant to post something similar on its website.

FawltyIf someone cold calls you offering to sell carbon credits as an investment, get their details and put the phone down.

The same applies regardless of the investment, it could be gold, silver, diamonds, rare earth metals, storage units, bamboo bonds, car parks, land banks, biofuels, oil, fine wines, shares, or anything else for that matter.

If someone cold calls you claiming that they can sell your carbon credits, get their details and put the phone down.

Then report the scammers to the authorities. If you’re in the UK, report them to Action Fraud, the Financial Conduct Authority, and the Insolvency Service.

 


PHOTO Credit: Carbon Credit! (The first superhero who smokes), a video cartoon by Counter Balance and Re:Common.
 

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  1. The problem about scammers is that even if VCS do not sell on Carbon Credits. There appear to be legitimate companies who do buy carbon credits so that they can claim to be Zero Carbon companies and someone sells them the carbon credits. It would be good to know who is able to sell carbon credits to companies and the VCS organisation should know as they are responsible for cancelling the credits when they have been purchased for the purpose of off-setting.

  2. “Here is REDD-Monitor’s entry for the 2016 Basil Fawlty Award for stating the bleeding obvious. I wonder why VCS is so reluctant to post something similar on its website.” Maybe they know nothing because they’re from Barcelona? Either that or they just don’t care.

  3. My elderly neighbour (a retired teacher) was conned out of £500,000 in a Carbon Credits and recovery scam. The recovery scam fraudsters using a spoofed email pretending they were the UK office for VCS which helped convince her they were genuine and she handed over broke and dealing fees. It was only when she told me about her problems in paying a US tax charge to get her funds released that I looked into this for her and told her she had been conned.

    There is no chance of recovering her money, Action Fraud and the Police were both useless, even though the fraudsters were still in contact with her they were not interested in trying to entrap them.

    She has lost all her savings and feels stupid and foolish for being conned like this.

    I’m posting this in the hope that others will not get taken in.

    The latest apparent scam is a letter from IRS agent ‘Christine Mazzella’ who needs a witness form completing to help with her investigation. Of course this asks for all her important financial information such as bank details, DOB etc. Supposedly Action Fraud sent this email to her, but were unable to confirm this when I contacted them on her behalf.

  4. Update on the story above:

    Apparently the letter from Christine Mazzella is in fact genuine. I was able to contact someone senior at Action Fraud to confirm this (and he wasn’t impressed in the way this was sent out to victims)