Thursday, 24 February 2022

Have you been 'jobfished' by Madbird&Co? You could be working for free!

The people on reputable job market sites like fiverr will agree to do a specific task for a specific price. Payment is made up front to fiverr by the customer so that you will always receive the agreed amount from fiverr on satisfactory completion of the work.

A recent BBC Radio 4 and BBC 3 TV program detailed a scammer who took advantage of the Covid lockdown to entice people to work for him from their own homes for up to 6 months for free (just empty promises). Although his company was registered at UK Companies house (something which anyone can do for less than £20), the company Madbird&Co. appears to comprise of just one man and a bedroom!

Scammers like to run a business as a Ltd company because if their company goes bankrupt their personal assets cannot legally be seized!

You can read about the scam here or watch the BBC program on YouTube here.

It seems that the scam tricked about 50 people across the world to work for up to 6 months for free (on a commission basis which they received only if the client accepted and paid for the work).

Apparently the BBC took one year to investigate this and make the program but after approx. 2 hours at my keyboard I easily discovered that:

1. The company was a new (then) start up with only one person listed (registered as a director).

2. The BBC said their name was Madbird however their company name is actually Madbird&Co. not Madbird and their scam website was at (a simple check with Companies House here and the wayback website here which can display past website content - note .co and not .com).

3. There is a legitimate (AFAIK) company called Madbird Ltd in the UK.  I contacted the BBC about their mistake and pointed out they may be subject to legal action from Madbird Ltd!

4. A Google search for 'madbird' took me to which is also actually a reputable US company which does similar design work. When I contacted this US company to make them aware that they could possibly suffer from the BBC's inaccurate reporting of the scam company's name and Google results list, they replied as follows:

Thank you so much for taking the time to send an email — it’s been a weird day! We couldn’t figure out why we were suddenly getting angry emails and bad reviews.  Your note allowed us to update our website to respond to the story — much appreciated. 

5. The next day, the unfortunate's website was down for two days! However, I now see it is back up again today but with a new warning message (see here).

6. Also, it seems that the BBC are now trying to correct their inaccurate reporting of the Madbird&Co. company name - listen to the Money Box program at about 1:40 into the video where they now say:

'We do need to make it clear that the Madbird which was the subject of our investigation was registered to an address in London. It should not be confused with unrelated companies with similar names based elsewhere in the UK.'

Note that they still don't admit that they got the company name wrong!

7. Although the Madbird&Co business appears to have been a web of lies and deceit, it appears that he did manage to get two bona fide clients which were apparently about 2 weeks away from signing contracts and paying for the work already done for them. However, the BBC decided to publish the program just before this happened so no one got paid! Of course, most of Madbirds potential clients would have done their due diligence before signing a contract and at that point they may well have discovered some inconsistencies in Madbird&Co's story!

The moral of this story is that you should always check out who you are working for or who you are in business with!

Check their company details and see how long have they been in business? Look at the company accounts to see if they are established and healthy. Check for satisfied customers, etc.

And above all, don't rely on websites and YouTube, Instagram, FaceBook as 'gospel' sources - they can be easily fabricated, and people on Zoom can be duped and they may not be who you think they are!

Oh, and it helps that if you are going to broadcast the name of a scam company to 100 million people, you should get their name right!

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