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Those who sign are subjected to months of threats and demands and many victims do not realise there is no legal basis for paying.

Tim Hogarth of Red House Antiques in York contacted ATG to say he had received an apparently official form (purporting to be from eBay) asking to check whether his business details were correct in advance of inclusion in an international trade listing of dealers and auctioneers.

Buried in the small print was a clause that the signer agreed to pay £797 annually for the service. The small print goes on to state that those who sign will be liable for at least four years and more than £3000.

Bombarded with Invoices

Having signed and returned the document, the centre owner has since been bombarded with invoices and, latterly, threats of court action: "I own two antiques businesses and both have been targeted by this company. Hopefully we can alert others before they fall victim to this scam as well."

Thousands of unsuspecting art and antiques dealers and auctioneers were targeted by this fraud between the mid-1990s and 2012 when the European Commission launched an investigation.

The name of the organisation listed at the bottom of the recent forms, TVV Tele Verzeichnis Verlag GmbH based in Hamburg, is the same as that used in previous campaigns.