Update: Dec 13th 2021
I have updated this article from October 2017 to add new info that has come to light.
Ironically they have also tried this scam on both myself and my wife again this year.
Scammers have become so ubiquitous thanks to the Internet that we just take them for granted these days, you just cannot get away from them. You constantly bombarded with scams via email, sms, phone calls, social media, popups on websites, those of us who are savvy do not fall for them, but sadly there are still plenty of people out there who do get scammed and swindled out of their hard-earned cash by these despicable people.
The more of us that document these scams and companies implementing them, the less effective they will be as more people get into the habit of searching online first for reviews, so I do encourage people to post on review sites like reviews.co.uk, SiteJabber, Trustpilot (with caveats, see below) and report them to Action Fraud.
So I had a phone call recently from this chap called Dale at Ed First (aka School Supplies Service aka Educational Hub), asking me if I did IT support for schools, and how he was looking for providers in my area as currently, they did not have any and the schools were in need of IT providers.
He lamented how his company was the main supplier for schools and involved in all the tenders and how I would be listed as the “go to guy” on the school’s database for my entire area and would make a lot of money as a result. He also made a point of telling me they do not make any money from this and are not allowed to charge anything for this service.
I was still interested and listening at this point, but it all went downhill when he then went on to mention the company he had called before me, and how he had spoken to someone called “Tina”, but she needed to speak with her boss first, so he had called the next person on the list, which was me. He then proceeded to try to play me off against them, stating that the first one to sign-up would be the sole provider for my area, and I really needed to sign up right now or he would then call the next person on the list, and then asked me for a £500 registration fee.
The “this is a scam” alarm bells now started to ring, as any legitimate tendering service does not have any requirement for you sign-up there and then on the spot or lose your chance, that is not how tenders work. Plus, trying to play me off against someone else like that is a very blatant unethical sales practice, plus he had contradicted his earlier statement of them not making any money from this by then asking me for £500. So I made my excuses and asked him to email the details over to me, so I could go and look up this company online.
I then went online and checked out the edFirst.co.uk website and it seemed to be just a simple directory website targeted at schools, who do little more than supply a printed version of their directory to the schools. After a bit of googling, I found numerous feedback from others which confirmed my suspicions and those who had paid the fee to be listed had got no work from it.
I also called the IT support company he had tried to play me off against and spoke to Tina, and she confirmed the conversation she had with Dale and that he had tried exactly the same thing on her, and tried to play her off on the company he had called prior to calling her.
I was absolutely sure it was a scam at this point, but to determine just how much of a scam, I called a few of my local schools as well. Unsurprisingly none of them had ever heard of this company and have never dealt with then and certainly do not use them to source providers or contractors. It seems even the printed catalogue is fake, as nobody I spoke had ever seen that either.
Since I posted this, I have received numerous threats and harassment from Stephen Meredith in his attempts to get me to remove this post. Mr Meredith was one of the many directors at School Supplies Service (click link to see all the other involved people), although he seems to have retired in October 2019 according to companies house.
If you check the people involved with Schools Supplies Service Limited, they all seem to be involved with several other companies as well. One that specifically stands out as having many of the same directors is Tenders and contracts Ltd.
Below are screenshots from 3 of their sites, as you can see, same site, same phone number, different name. Although edfirst no longer seems to exist, I guess they had to shut that one down as it had become too well known.
If you discover any more trading names for these bunch of rogue traders, let me know, and I will them to the list.
Reviews on Trustpilot
I did post a review on Trustpilot originally, but unsurprisingly, Stephen Meredith had it removed.
I was told by Gemma P from the Trustpilot compliance team that literally every single part of my review was defamatory and had to be removed. I was not allowed to mention the person who called me, or what was said during the phone conversation or mention the other reviews/feedback found publicly online. I was advised by Gemma that I would need to provide police/court evidence to back up everything I have written above, which is obviously quite ludicrous and impossible.
Basically, I was thwarted from posting anything negative, so I can only assume that edFirst aka School Supplies Service are using Trustpilot’s paid service, which allows any business to request the removal of negative reviews and manipulate their ratings.
This has unfortunately been a regular issue with Trustpilot, read my review on Trustpilot for more details on why Trustpilot cannot be trusted.
NOTE: Since I originally posted this, they now have loads of negative reviews on trustpilot, I guess since Mr Meredith retired, nobody took over the job of getting them all removed.