Scots Instagram ‘influencer’ unmasked as cold calling queen behind bogus firms

A social media “influencer” is behind a series of bogus sales firms that pestered people with more than half a million unwanted cold calls.

Yvonne McCuaig portrays herself living a life of luxury and designer gear to her 87,000 ­followers on Instagram.

And she boasts of earning an ­“amazing income” from social media ­working for brands including Asos, Dior and Zara.

But in reality she jointly runs a call ­centre that’s been hassling people who asked not to be contacted from a rundown business unit in the east end of Glasgow.

The Sunday Mail can reveal details of an investigation into a company called Dial A Deal Scotland Ltd, which has two ­directors – McCuaig, 43, from Helensburgh, and her IT expert business partner, Calum Kirkpatrick, 27, from Baillieston, ­Glasgow.

Calum Kirkpatrick of Dial A Deal Scotland Ltd

The company has been fined £150,000 for making nuisance calls by the ­Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

The ICO found the the firm – registered to an industrial estate at the city’s ­Strathclyde Street – set up a series of “false” trading names including First Home Improvements, Green Alliance, Green Allowance Team, Green Allowance Scheme, Green Funding Team and Boiler Funding Solutions.

The investigation said they “engaged in the direct marketing of ‘government’ green schemes which do not appear to exist”.

They also used a series of “spoof” ­numbers so they couldn’t be called back or properly traced.

Scots Instagram 'influencer' unmasked as cold calling queen behind bogus firms
Premises where Dial a Deal Scotland LTD was believed to be based -Unit 10, 70 Strathclyde Street, Glasgow. G40 4JR Pictured..GV of Unit 10 Strathclyde Street

The ICO said Dial A Deal Scotland Ltd had made multiple breaches of laws under the Privacy and Electronic ­Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003.

They state that anyone who has signed their number up to the Telephone ­Preference Service stating they do not want marketing calls should not be called.

Their investigation said that over a ­seven-month period Dial A Deal made 558,250 “unsolicited direct marketing calls” to people “who had not provided valid consent”.

It said the “actions of Dial A Deal were carried out to generate business and to increase profits, gaining an unfair ­advantage on those businesses complying with (the law)”.

Scots Instagram 'influencer' unmasked as cold calling queen behind bogus firms
Yvonne McCuaig boasts of earning an ­“amazing income” from social media

Ken Macdonald, head of ICO regions, said: ”Dial A Deal were ­breaking the law on a number of fronts, not only were they making calls to people without their permission, they were also hiding their identity using false names and spoof numbers.

“Calls about green deal schemes can be a real problem as people often believe they are legitimate but, thanks to the ­complaints made by the public, we’ve been able to take action. Companies making similar ­nuisance calls should take note – we use our powers where we see serious breaches of the law.”

The ICO said they had received more than 500 complaints about the firm – one of their highest ever numbers.

A statement from the watchdog said “complaints suggested that Dial A Deal Scotland Ltd had used several false ­trading names and the ICO’s investigation found the company also disguised the telephone numbers they were calling from – this is also illegal”.

Scots Instagram 'influencer' unmasked as cold calling queen behind bogus firms
Yvonne McCuaig jointly runs a call ­centre that’s been hassling people

In a response to the ICO’s investigations, Kirkpatrick told them Dial A Deal “did not and had not made any unsolicited ­marketing calls”, that it “did not conduct any kind of marketing campaigns” and “was not ­responsible for any complaints”.

But the ICO said these claims were “not borne out” by their evidence.

It said Dial A Deal had “minimal ­engagement with the Commissioner” which suggested “that it gave no regard to the privacy of those individuals whom it sought to contact”.

In a later representation, the ICO said Dial A Deal “apologised for ‘being naive with this matter in the past’, and accepted it had ‘made mistakes’.”

Dial A Deal has been told it can appeal the fine but if they pay by September 23, it will be reduced to £130,000.

The ICO also said it had ­“successfully blocked its attempt to be struck off the Companies House register to try to avoid ­paying any fine”.

Scots Instagram 'influencer' unmasked as cold calling queen behind bogus firms
Yvonne McCuaig has worked for brands including Asos, Dior and Zara

Companies House records seen by the Sunday Mail show that on May 15 this year, both McCuaig and Kirkpatick tried to have their company “struck off” but that action was stopped seven days later by the ICO.

Records also show McCuaig and Kirkpatrick set up a new company in June called Simple Lead Ltd, which is based at the same Glasgow address as
Dial A Deal.

Neither McCuaig nor Kirkpatrick were available for comment to the Sunday Mail.

McCuaig, who lives in an upmarket street in Helensburgh, rejected numerous approaches. But while declining the chance to ­comment, she continued to post details of her designer clothes and lifestyle on ­Instagram.

She’s previously also posted on Facebook about her call centre, saying she was ­seeking “hardworking, enthusiastic lovely people” to work for her.

Another post looking for staff said she wanted “chatty, friendly, ­telesales agents who wish to work from the comfort of their own homes”.

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In an interview with a local Facebook site in Helensburgh in March this year, McCuaig was described as a “fashion influencer”.

She described it as “hard work”, adding: “I have an amazing income from Instagram.

“I now work for Asos and ­PrettyLittleThing, Dior make-up, Off White, Zara and other brands.

“It’s not my full-time job, I need something to give me brain stimulation too so I have my other companies to give me that.”

Kirkpatrick, who was traced to an address in Baillieston where his parents appear to live, did not reply to approaches for ­comment.

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