Fake agents are taking advantage of vulnerable footballers across the globe, forcing many young hopefuls into paying an upfront fee for a trial with clubs including Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea.
Of course, these trials never take place.
I was then contacted by Fieldoo.com—a website that aims to join players and agents together in a prosperous relationship—in an attempt to expose further information on the trend that threatens to rock many lives in areas such as Spain, Australia and Africa (although it must be noted, there are many legitimate agents in each of these regions).
I've investigated the matter further, gotten hold of real emails from the fake agents and also spoken to Fieldoo about how they aim to combat the unsettling activity.
Fake Agents: What Processes Do They Use? How Can They Be Spotted?
There are many tell-tale ways of spotting a scammer.
Although Antonio Rebesco, Alfred Tweneboah and Cyrille Regis are three of the most notorious names used, each of these appears on FIFA's website as officially licensed agents, so it's important to acknowledge many fake individuals will utilise a trusted alias to lure unsuspecting victims in.
Regis' name is perhaps the most obvious to be misused. The former England international, who enjoyed spells with clubs including West Brom, Wolves and Aston Villa during a 20-year career, recently addressed the issue on his personal website.
Rebesco's official profile lists him as a resident of San Pietro, Italy, while Tweneboah is detailed as a representative of Debut Management in the UK. It's important to acknowledge each of the aforementioned trio are legitimate, but their names are being used for financial gain.
Unfortunately, many fake pseudonyms are difficult to detect. Let's carefully break down the scammers' methods, evidence and what is being done to combat it.
The first and most obvious way of detecting a bogus agent is by paying special attention to their contact details. Multiple email addresses are often used (email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org are two known examples), while telephone numbers, Skype IDs and incorrect company details are also provided.
Let's pick apart an actual email from a fake agent, who uses Rebesco's name in this instance. Here, he aims to coax a young hopeful into sending over crucial details. The format and content of this email hasn't been tampered with and is a genuine example of scammers at work, provided by Fieldoo.com:
You will have to send your football CV and i will forward it to the insurance company we will need your international passport too you can attach it to me now. The Football/Soccer CV will be Forward to our Agency and to some other clubs in European league.to be Officially Reviewed And Approved for the Tryout (Trails)Our agency is one of the best in the UK. We've signed many players from our Trial in most of the clubs listed..
1. Oldham FC.
2. Cardiff City
3. Manchester City
4. Wolves Fc
5. Barnsley FC.
6. Southend Fc.
7. Birmingham Fc
8. Southampton FC
9. Aston Villa FC
10.Stoke City FC
Our Agency will Relocate you to The venue of the Trails (Europe) Including Your Airline Ticket,Accommodation And Feeding all though your stay in the Camp will be covered by Our Sponsor And Agency while the Medical Insurance fee of GBP 300 will be paid by the players.
The trial period is coming soon.
This is our Agency details:
Cadmens (IFA) Limited
Brisker Court, 1685/1689 High Street
WEST MIDLANDS B93 0LN
NOTE: You can check me out at FIFA WEBSITE TO CONFIRM MY REGISTRATION
Entry requirements for players:
(1.) Players must be male and Aged 12 to 30.
(2.) Players must hold a valid national passport; the passport must be valid for a minimum of three months.
(3.) Players must pay a registration fee of GBP £300 Per Each player.
N.B: Please note that this fee covers the player's registration and invitation letter along with medical Insurance only. Your travel tickets, hotel accommodation (all inclusive), trial kits, venue hire, match officials, and water/refreshment is funded by clubs sponsors and free for all registered players..
(4.) Scanned copies of international passport or national I.D Card data page and passport photograph should be scanned and sent through Email attachment for identification purposes Including your previous Football/Soccer gaming experience and a CV (curriculum vitae)
However, dropped players will be compensated and they will return to their home countries with their return tickets, we also don't want people to abuse this medium and use it as an opportunity.
Mr Antonio Rebesco.
SKYPE : Antoniorebesco
The plethora of spelling mistakes and punctuation miscues should be recognisable even to untrained eyes. Although victims whose mother tongue is not English may find the exercise of detection more difficult, some less obvious problems also arise in the email.
Notice the telephone number provided. A quick Google search links the digits to a 2009 lottery scam that gestated in Nigeria and Africa, the same areas many of the fake agents descend from. It doesn't appear in any recognised directories and has a fraudulent history.
Fieldoo confirm scammers such as Rebesco use bank accounts with different names, making them even harder to track down.
More subtly, the company name provided can also be traced. The address links to "Cadmans (I.F.A) Ltd," a legitimate business that officially dissolved in 2009, as highlighted by its Companies House entry (log-in required). The fake agent has taken a once-lawful organisation, altered the address and changed the name to "Cadmens" so it is more difficult to trace.
The property Rebesco's email details can also be found for lease here, with the building's exact details provided here. From the offer of a football "Trail" to the particulars of the property, nothing adds up.
Considering Regis played for two of the West Midlands clubs named in the email, links are beginning to take shape.
Cadmens also created a website to further the myth, complete with blog posts calling young players to "COME SHOW YOUR TALENT AND GET NOTICED BY THE WORLD WITH JUST A MAIL YOUR LIFE WONT BE THE SAME AGAIN."
Regis' name appears again, while the author of the article suggests "Robesco" is not part of "cadmens," conflicting with the aforementioned email. Needless to say, when you check the website listed on the blogger's profile, it leads nowhere.
Each of the images on the site have also been used more recently on a fake blog for "Interlink Sports Management." The page opens with a post from August 2013, where the same message from Cadmens is posted. This time the text is written by an individual called Tomislav Rogic, who lists Australian contact details.
Information once again fails to match the real Rogic's listing on FIFA's website, as the altered phone leads nowhere and a full stop is removed from the email address. That's two examples of the same scam, complete with identical text and images, within two years.
Websites such as fifaagent.net are used to build interest but are often taken offline or said to be under construction. Scammers have even claimed their pages have been hacked in order to get by on the website name alone. Rebesco provides one such message, as detailed by Fieldoo:
Our agency websites is currently undergoing maintenance . It's been hacked by an unknown hacker . Also we are a legitimate agency and reliable . Once you have deposited your medical /registration fees , your traveling document will be forward to you
Here's another example from an unnamed scammer:
By morrow i will send the form to you! and then when you filled it just have to deposite your fee 1000 euros and then you will get the official Invitation letter from the club and my Partner in Serbia! tell your care taker to call me urgently also concerning Camara because i don't understand why he is not picking calls and not yet in moscow.
send your contact to me as well
At the time of writing, one such website is still in use. MC Sports Management lists fake employees such as "Dr. Mac Anthony," "Miss Rose Brayan," and remarkably, "Rev. Tweneboah Alfred." Not only does the real agent's name appear in reverse, labelling him as a religious man is a step toward the bizarre.
Head to the contact section of the site and a London-based address appears under Tweneboah's name. Similarly to Rebesco's fake office, this site is also up for rent right here. Fieldoo.com provided an email from Tweneboah's impersonator, which can be seen in unedited form below:
WE HAVE GONE THROUGH YOUR PROFILE AND YOU HAVE BEEN SELECTED FOR A FOOTBALL CONTRACT,TRAIL
AND ACADEMY IN ENGLAND
THROUGH OUR AGENCY 'MC SPORTS MANAGEMENT'
YOU ARE REQUIRED TO SEND US YOUR CURRICULUM VITAE , YOUTUBE VIDEO AND THE SCANNED COPY OF
This website is not to be confused with MC Sports Agency, a real business that aims to land rugby players professional contracts.
How The Situation is Being Combated
With rogue agents operating across the globe, it's extremely difficult for both FIFA and any individual nation's football association to impose measures against those who seek to cause damages.
If an African-based fake is touting trials with Manchester City, how does the FA respond? The individual in question is unregistered and therefore doesn't have to comply with any jurisdiction, meaning there's very little that can be done.
Even so, Fieldoo are actively working to expose acts of imitation. The objective of this organisation is to link legitimate agents with prospective players, so fake agents are certainly stepping on to their turf. A collection of measures are put in place across the site to ensure healthy, transparent relationships are formed by people who genuinely want to be in touch.
This begins with warnings on all player and agent listings, as noted in red at the bottom of this advert. Over on the website's magazine section, there are also articles detailing the process of becoming an agent, as well as coaching tips and player diaries, all of which can be found here.
Fieldoo actively tracks IP addresses linked with fake agents, following the scammers' digital footprint to gain vital information. An algorithm has also been designed to auto-detect fake agents without human input, providing the service with an added blanket of protection.
This is tireless work, the kind of task that requires total dedication and vigilance, but a difference is being made. Fieldoo has already racked up many success stories since opening its database in September 2012. Players have found clubs in Greece, Cyprus, Iceland, Luxembourg, Thailand, Bangladesh and numerous African nations, while scholarships have also been landed in the USA.
Agents from different nations have linked together to share their regional knowledge and contacts. A rundown of success stories and testimonies can be found here.
Perhaps most famously, former Boca Juniors youth player Jordi Pascual won Fieldoo's Minguella Challenge, landing the striker a contract with Girona FC.
He is now represented by Josep Maria Minguella, Lionel Messi's first agent, and the man who helped progress the careers of legendary stars such as Diego Maradona, Pep Guardiola, Rivaldo and Romario.
It is extremely encouraging to witness stories such as Pascual's, which prove the system works, but many developing talents are open to exploitation from a vast network of scammers across the globe.
Fieldoo's work is a positive step into football's intimidating underbelly, the beginning of an arduous journey that must call on the sporting community for help.
B/R does not promote or have ties with Fieldoo, but they provided additional information which helped in the construction of this piece.