Scams and warnings
Warnings and alerts - January to March 2014
Help to stop scammers by telling your friends and family and by making us aware of any scams that you have encountered by sending your scam letters to our Freepost address: 'Scamnesty' - Trading Standards, Freepost (CV681) Coventry CV1 1BR. Alternatively telephone Action Fraud, the UK's national fraud reporting centre on 0300 123 2040.
Your actions may help protect others from being targeted by scammers.
Cold Calls offering paint treatment to homes to reduce heat loss by 30% - 25 February 2014
A resident has reported a call they received from a company who wanted to come and visit to discuss a product that would reduce heat loss from their home by up to 30%.
The caller would not give many details about the product other than it was a paint that would be applied to the walls of the property.
We would urge residents to be extremely cautious of any similar claims made without first being provided with proper written information that can then be verified.
Thinking of Taking out a Short Term Loan? – 25 February 2014
While payday loans can be a quick and easy way to borrow money, with cash often credited to bank accounts within 60 seconds of an application, Coventry Trading Standards are advising that there can be a sting in the tail.
Applications by people on low wages or benefits are more readily accepted by these loan companies who may appear to be much less strict when deciding on the ability to pay the money back, often with dire consequences. A loan of just a few hundred pounds over a four-week period can sometime turn into debts totalling thousands which, if not repaid may result in visits from debt collectors and ultimately Court action.
Trading Standards advises residents who find themselves in financial difficulties to seek free, independent advice about borrowing and managing money from The Money Advice Service www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk or telephone 0300 500 5000.
Alternatively, get help from the Citizens Advice website www.adviceguide.org.uk or visit your local branch to speak to an adviser.
If you have taken out a payday loan, please take part in the Citizens Advice Payday Loan Survey so we can make sure payday lenders act fairly and responsibly.
Advice for Tesco Clubcard customers – 25 February 2014
Coventry Trading Standards is highlighting that Tesco Clubcard customers are being advised to check their online account after details of around 2,000 accounts, including email address, password and current values of Clubcard vouchers, appeared online.
Tesco, who state the information had not been stolen from their website, have deactivated the affected accounts to protect them.
Clubcard account holders may wish to change their password and keep a close eye on their account and report any unexpected activity directly to Tesco.
The green energy scam – 25 February 2014
Be on the lookout for cold calls from scammers claiming to be from a legitimate energy company trying to sell you “Green Energy”.
Colleagues in Bedfordshire issued this warning after one resident reported a telephone call, where the caller claimed to be from the "Scottish & Southern Energy” company.
The caller was attempting to sell “Green Energy” to the resident which would also entitle them to “a £1000 cheque as cashback”.
The caller was using a with-held telephone number which was possibly a mobile telephone. The caller ended the call stating that they would call back at a later date.
Although Scottish & Southern Energy is a legitimate company - fraudsters often use the names of real firms to add authenticity to their claims.
The energy company has confirmed there was no such offer available and nor would they contact customers by telephone.
Tip to follow:
- Never provide your personal or bank account details to anybody over the telephone.
- Do not be fooled into thinking they may already have the details and are just looking to confirm them.
- Never be intimidated into making a quick decision, for example, because the offer is available for a limited period only.
- If you are ever unsure as to whether the call is genuine, do not be afraid to end the call by hanging up.
More pushy door to door callers – 14 February 2014
We have again received reports of pushy door to door traders calling on residents, this time in the Tile Hill area of the City. The caller offered to clean gutters claiming this would help drain water away more easily during the current bad weather.
Reports indicate that the caller is very pushy and in one case a local resident initially agreed to pay the £20 fee to clean the gutters out but once on the roof the trader claimed further work was required increasing the bill to £200.00.
No paperwork was supplied.
We are therefore reminding householders not to deal with traders who go door to door offering home maintenance or repairs as this is the favoured approach used by Rogue Traders.
We are currently looking into these reports to try to identify the caller.
Copycat websites that charge for services that are available for free such as passports and driving licences applications & tests - 14 February 2014
We are again warning residents to watch out for copycat websites after a local resident felt tricked into paying £65.00 for a driving licence renewal.
The resident thought they were simply renewing their driving licence online last month but it turned out they were on a copycat site which charged £65.00 just to process the application, something you can do for free on the Government website.
By the time the resident had realised their error, his application had already been lodged.
Copycat sites often appear high on Google searches and exist for things like passports applications and tax returns and will sometimes look similar to the official ones, although most do say they are not affiliated.
In many cases these copycat website charge anything from £60 to as much as hundreds of pounds for a ‘service’ that, frustratingly, consumers can easily do for themselves free of charge.
The websites that have been reported locally do not appear to be doing anything illegal as terms and conditions are included - unfortunately the majority don’t always read these conditions.
To avoid paying unnecessary fees always go to the official website: www.gov.uk
The Advertising Standards Authority has also looked into a number of complaints involving these types of websites. For further information, please read the ASA Hot Topic on Copycat websites
Irony of ironies – Unsolicited calls offering to stop unsolicited calls - 14 February 2014
Watch out for calls from people claiming that they can stop unwanted sales and marketing calls who also say they offer more than the Free Telephone Preference Service.
Whatever they offer will cost a fee and there is no guarantee that the nuisance calls will stop.
Our advice is to register for FREE with the Telephone Preference Service [TPS] and whilst this will not prevent all nuisance calls it should reduce them.
For more information visit: www.tpsonline.org.uk or phone 0845 070 0707.
Remember, if you are registered with the TPS you should not receive calls from anyone in the UK trying to sell you a call blocking service!
Variation of the above call – 14 February 2014
We have also had a report of a phone call where the caller claimed that the resident had previously given their credit card details to stop and block unwanted telephone calls and asked the resident to verify their card details.
When questioned the caller suggested that the resident had probably forgotten the previous ‘conversation’ and became quite forceful and repeatedly asked the resident for their card details.
The resident terminated the call.
For information on how to deal with unwanted sales calls, visit our scams pages at: www.coventry.gov.uk/tradingstandards or download our fact sheets: Dealing with Unwanted Sales People and Common Scams.
Fake Recruitment Profiles online – 14 February 2014
Trading Standards is warning job hunters posting their CV on LinkedIn and other online forums to check any contact they receive carefully as fraudsters are creating fake recruitment profiles and are targeting job seekers on these sites.
Messages may be received claiming to have a job of interest which includes a link which goes to an authentic looking site but it requests personal data including National Insurance Number, date of birth and banking information which could be used for identity fraud.
If you are contacted by someone claiming to be a recruiter via an online forum carry out some simple checks first:
- Never add or connect with anyone on sites liked LinkedIn before you have checked their profile and connections. If you have doubts, do not add them
- Search for the recruiter's picture. Scammers often use fake, generic photos and if this is the case you can probably find it elsewhere such as Google Images
- Look for spelling and grammatical errors in communications; usually a good indicator of non-genuine offers
- Insist on being able to call the recruiter by phone. If they avoid your call or won't give you their number, it's probably a scam
- Genuine employers or recruiters won’t ask for up-front fees for employment, training or CV preparation. Don't be tempted to pay, however desperate you are to find work
- Be wary of work-at-home jobs. Genuine opportunities like this are scarce, so always check their references and talk to former employees
Pushy door to door callers – Potters Green – 07 February 2014
Trading Standards have been notified of people knocking door-to-door in the Potters Green area of the city this week, touting for business for various types of home and gardening work. A man in an unmarked white transit-type van has been seen offering services including: drive cleaning, tree cutting, & gutter cleaning. The report suggests that the man was very pushy and handed a leaflet without any business name or details apart from a mobile telephone number. A few minutes after leaving, a young boy approximately 10 to 12 years of age was also knocking doors in the same area offering identical work and presenting the same leaflet.
Our Advice: Never deal with doorstep traders as this is the favoured approach used by rogue traders. Although it is not illegal for traders to go door to door, unless there are specific restrictions within that location, most agreements entered into must come with written cancellation rights.
Stop Cold Calling Campaign: For more information visit: www.coventry.gov.uk/stop-cold-callers
Rogue mattress sellers are back – 07 February 2014
It would appear that rogue mattress sellers are back in the City. A Tile Hill resident received a call at their door from a man driving a white van with ‘Sleepezee’ on the side who tried to pressurise them into buying a memory foam mattress that he claimed had come out of an unidentified ‘show home’.
When the householder said no, the caller asked if they knew of anyone else who may be interested!
We have issued previous warnings about mattress sellers operating in the City in the past and we have a number of concerns including the way in which these mattresses are described, the methods used to sell them and the safety of the mattresses in that although they may display a Fire Safety Label there would be no way of checking if this was genuine or not.
Trading standards always advises residents not to purchase goods or services from cold callers.
Safety Alert – Poundland In-Car USB Charger Recall – 07 February 2014
Coventry Trading Standards is highlighting the following safety recall notice issued by Poundland:
The Poundland In-Car USB Charger affected by this recall will have on its packet the barcode number 724120058726.
If you have one of the affected Poundland In-Car USB Chargers which, due to a soldering fault can overheat, you should return it to your nearest Poundland store as soon as possible.
If you have any questions or concerns contact Poundland: 0800 731 56.
For a photograph of the affected charger please visit: http://www.tradingstandards.gov.uk/advice/advice-recall-item.cfm?id=307830
Spanish Lottery [Loteria Primitiva] – 07 February 2014
A local resident has brought to our attention a letter they received claiming they had won €915k in the Spanish lottery. In order to claim their ‘prize’ recipients are asked to complete a claim form requiring detailed personal information and agreeing to pay 10% of the 'winnings' to an agent.
However, this is a Scam.
If you send any money you will get nothing in return; and if you send one payment, they will contact you again and try to con you out of even more.
Protect yourself and ask yourself, how could you win a lottery if you haven't bought a ticket. Never reveal credit card or bank account details unless you're sure who you're dealing with.
Trading Standards Highlights Energy Scams in Big Energy Saving Week 27 to 31 January 2014
In Big Energy Saving Week Trading Standards is warning consumers to beware of energy scams that will end up costing you money, not saving it!
In national Big Energy Saving Week, led by the Citizens' Advice Bureau, information will be available to help consumers save both money and energy, by switching suppliers and insulating their homes.
Unfortunately, amongst the many genuine traders who want to help consumers, there are those who are only interested in helping themselves!
Trading Standards work to stop these rogues and fraudsters and support consumers, particularly the elderly and vulnerable.
This is our guide to some of the more common energy saving scams.
Rogues and fraudsters scam residents and businesses, on the doorstep, over the phone, and by email and Internet.
Roof ‘Insulating’ Paint
Coventry Trading Standards received several complaints from consumers last year, who paid large sums of money to have their roofs washed and painted, with a paint that claimed to have ‘heat insulating’ properties. Most were targeted by door to door rogue traders, with the prices quoted similar to the cost of a brand new tiled and fully insulated roof!
Trading Standards warn consumers that there is no proof that a thin layer of paint applied to a roof provides insulation from heat loss.
Electricity Saving Boxes
A local resident paid £100 for a small plug in device with a green light, which claimed to save you money on your electricity bill. The device was supplied following an unsolicited telephone call. When we tested the device no savings were recorded. Similar devices found on the Internet have been found to be unsafe, as well as not delivering any tangible energy savings.
Bogus Energy Saving Grants
Many consumers have reported being targeted by fraudsters offering bogus energy saving grants, in return for divulging bank account and credit card details.
Residents have reported receiving telephone calls from people claiming to be able to substantially reduce heating bills or that Government Grants are available to replace boilers but all wanted personal information including credit/debit card details.
Door to Door Insulation Scams
Some unscrupulous businesses claim they have been sent by the ‘Council’ or are part of a Government scheme offering free, grant paid, or low cost home insulation.
In reality, once through the door, they attempt to sign the householder up to purchasing cavity wall or loft insulation that is overpriced, even if they already have adequate levels of insulation. Colleagues have reported that some elderly and vulnerable consumers have paid for insulation that they would probably have been entitled to, free of charge and one consumer who signed up, found out later that they had also unwittingly been switched to another energy supplier!
For information on genuine energy saving schemes, visit: www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/
Switch, But Do Your Homework!
It’s always a good idea to shop around for the best energy deal and to switch. However, be aware of cold callers either on your doorstep or over the phone offering you their deal. Many will be working on commission and won’t always offer you the cheapest deal. Indeed, some people may end up on a costlier tariff than they already are!
Instead use one of the approved online comparison services listed on Ofgem’s website: http://www.ofgem.gov.uk/
- Never buy goods or services from unexpected doorstep callers or telephone cold callers
- Never reveal your bank account or credit or debit card details to unexpected callers, or people you don’t know or trust
- If you think you are entitled to genuine, free or low cost home insulation, check your eligibility by visiting: www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/
- Shop around for the best energy deals and switch!
For more information on Big Energy Saving Week, visit: http://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/index/aboutus/events/bigenergysavingweek
Advice when using UKASH Vouchers – 23 January 2014
Ukash is an online cash payment provider enabling you to use cash to shop, pay and play online safely and securely. This is ideal if you don’t have a credit or debit card or don’t want to enter personal information to pay online. The way it works is that you buy a voucher from a UKASH outlet, often a local off license or newsagent which has a unique 19 digit code which you can then use online to pay for an item.
However, criminals will sometimes ask people as part of their scam to buy UKASH and ask for the unique code. This will then allow the Scammer to redeem the voucher and then disappear with your cash!
UKASH have information on their website with advice on how to avoid being a victim to a scam - Avoidonlinescams.net
UKASH have also updated the message that appears on all high value Ukash Codes printed at PayPoint terminals in the UK.
Potential Choking Hazard – New Choice Brand ‘Mini Fruity Gels’ (Jelly Mini-Cups) -– 23 January 2014
Jelly mini cups, are not permitted to contain a number of additives, including ‘alginic acid’ (E400) ‘agar’ (E406), ‘Carrageenan’ (E407) and ‘processed euchema seaweed’ (407a) as they may pose a choking hazard. As these additives are included in this product they are in breach of the legislation.
Advice to consumers: If you have purchased any of these products please do not eat them.
Trading Standards officers will be visiting outlets where these products are likely to be sold.
Full details can be found at: http://www.food.gov.uk/enforcement/alerts/2014/jan/newchoice-fruitygels
Report a rogue trader, make a consumer complaint, or obtain help and advice – Call the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 08454 04 05 06 or visit: http://www.adviceguide.org.uk/
Cold Caller Warning in Styvechale – 17 January 2014
We have received a report from a local Styvechale resident who has brought to our attention the activities of a young man who has been calling on houses in the area. The man asked if he could clean the gutters and was very persistent and would not initially take no for an answer. Another resident was so worried that they called the Police who attended but the man had left by the time they arrived.
Our advice is never to deal with cold callers as this is a favoured approach used by Rogue Traders whose sole intention is to extract as much money from their victims as possible.
TV’s offered for sale in car parks! – 17 January 2014
We have received several reports from residents who have been approached by people in supermarkets or Shopping Centre car parks by men trying to sell Televisions such as Plasma 3D TVs from the back of a van.
Reports have been received from people using a Holbrooks supermarket and the Central Six Shopping Centre.
Trading Standards Advice - don't buy products from the back of a van! Buying in this way is extremely risky; not only can’t you test the item it is highly unlikely that you would ever be able to contact the seller should something go wrong with the product. Also, the item may be stolen, unsafe or you may not get what you were originally shown.
If you have any information on these sellers or you wish to report any incidents involving a Rogue Trader, contact us on 08454 040506 or use our online reporting form.
Ministry of Justice bogus calls - 17 January 2014
We have seen an increase in the reports from residents who have received telephone calls and emails falsely claiming to be from the Ministry of Justice.
Scammers attempt to trick people by suggesting they are owed money – often for repayment of bank charges, payment protection insurance (PPI), or a court settlement - but first an up-front payment is required in order for them to receive the money.
These callers have no connection with the Ministry of Justice, HM Courts & Tribunals Service, or any other Government Agency. Fraudsters have already tricked and harassed some victims into handing over thousands of pounds, only for them to find that the call was a fake. The Ministry of Justice would never contact consumers asking them for personal bank details, or request an up-front payment.
Resident are reminded not to pass on personal or financial details to such callers but if you believe you may have already done so, contact your bank immediately to stop or check any unauthorised transactions.
Passport and Driving License Renewals/applications – 17 January 2014
We have issued previous warnings about passport and driving license applications & renewal websites that are not affiliated to the Official Government one but will merely offer to ‘check’ your applications and in the process charge a hefty fee on top of the official Government charge.
Unfortunately we continue to receive reports, one from a BBC CWR radio listener who used such a site only to find that they are paying nearly twice the amount they need to pay had they used the Official Government website.
Our advice - Use the official Government website and avoid being charged for something you can do yourself for free.
If you need to apply for or renew your passport or driving license or need to book a driving or theory test the best place to start is: http://www.gov.uk/
Microsoft PC Virus scam continues – 17 January 2014
Trading Standards continue to receive reports from residents who have received calls from people falsely claiming to be from Microsoft or saying that they have been notified that you have a virus or other issues with your PC which they can fix for a fee but will also require to remotely access your computer.
Allowing remote access to your PC may lead to the caller installing an antivirus programme that you could most probably download from the internet for free. Alternatively they may interrogate your PC for personal information which could then be used for fraudulent purposes. Malware that may damage your PC could also be installed.
Our advice as with any unsolicited call from someone offering a service etc. is not to deal with them no matter what they say or claim.
Read the Microsoft warning on its website.
Emails claiming to be from the TSB & Halifax – 17 January 2014
Trading Standards is warning about scam emails claiming to be from the TSB & Halifax.
A recent example (below) states they are upgrading their systems and you are required to ‘confirm your identity.
To Halifax Customer,
Due to our current data protection policy, we are currently upgrading our computer servers and software program to keep your information maintained and secured.
Please open the attached file sent with the email and enter the required details needed to store onto our server.
**FAILURE TO DO SO, WILL RESULT IN INACTIVITY OF YOUR ONLINE ACCOUNT**
Please do not reply directly to this email as unfortunately no one will receive it. If you do have any questions, just get in touch.
The exact same worded email has also been sent out claiming to be from the TSB.
The emails are not from the TSB or Halifax and any link contained in the attachment goes to a fake website. The attachment may also contain malware that may damage or compromise your computer’s security. Remember, no Bank or Building Society would ever request personal or financial details via email.
If you receive this or a similar email, delete it.
Advice on avoiding phishing scams can be found on the Get Safe Online website. Many Banks & Building Societies will also have information on their websites giving advice on how to avoid these types of Scams.