Scams and warnings
Warnings and alerts October - November 2013
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.
Trading Standards Warn of CryptoLocker Ransomware – 22 November 2013
Fraudsters are spamming millions of people with e-mails that appear to be from banks and other financial institutions. They may have ‘suspicious transaction’ or ‘invoice for payment’ in the subject line but these e-mails carry CryptoLocker ransomware.
Small and medium sized businesses in particular appear to be the main targets but the e-mails carry CryptoLocker ransomware that targets Windows computers. Once installed personal files such as, photos, music, office documents etc. are encrypted and a screen appears with a countdown timer and a demand for the payment of 2 Bitcoins in ransom (approximately £536) for the decryption key.
Once the time elapses your personal files may be lost forever. The NCA's National Cyber Crime Unit (NCCU) says you should never send the payment of a ransom to criminals as there is no guarantee that they would honour the payments in any event.
CryptoLocker Prevention Advice
- Never click or download unsolicited e-mail attachments.
- Update your Antivirus software and operating systems regularly.
- Back up all your important files and store them off your network.
- Where a computer becomes infected disconnect it from any network, and seek professional assistance to clean the computer.
- If you are a victim, report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040
Watch out for new BT Scam phone calls – 22 November 2013
Trading Standards are warning consumers that an unsolicited BT telephone scam may be operating again in the area.
Reports indicate that consumers have received a phone call from an individual claiming to be from BT Technical Support Centre or BT Broadband Services. The caller asks the consumer if they have noticed if their internet connection has been slow or have they lost their internet connection for any period of time. The caller may suggest that if they have experienced either their computer may have picked up a virus.
Remote access to the consumer’s computer is requested in order to fix or repair the alleged fault but a fee of between £100 to £150, payable via credit or debit card is demanded first.
Trading Standards are concerned that vulnerable consumers may be conned by this and would urge all local residents to hang up the phone should they receive this sort of call. The aim of the fraudsters is to gain the consumers personal information and to con the consumer into paying for a service which in most cases in not necessary.
BT have also issued a recent warning advising customers to be on their guard against phishing e-mails which asks customer’s to update their billing or account information. BT advises customers that if they receive a scam BT e-mail that they:
- Do not click on any links in the scam e-mail.
- Do not reply to the e-mail or contact the senders in any way.
- Do not supply any information through a website link contained in the e-mail.
- Do not open any attachments that arrive with the e-mail.
BT further advises that if a customer has divulged personal details in response to a scam BT e-mail, or phone call that they should contact BT Customer Services immediately in order to protect personal and financial information.
BT Customers can also receive technical help and support via www.BT.Com/help which provides guidance on how to report phishing e-mails.
Warning issued about offers of Free Boilers! - 22 November 2013
Trading Standards are warning consumers to be on the lookout if they receive a phone call from people offering free central heating boilers.
A local Wyken resident received such a call and agreed to a visit to her home. When the man visited he claimed that the resident was entitled to a free central heating boiler plus free loft insulation. The man also said the resident was entitled to a £300.00 cash back as soon as the old boiler had been removed.
However, the man refused to put anything in writing that actually confirmed what was being offered until the resident had paid £249.00 which was for the ‘Assessment’.
Thankfully the resident refused to pay on the spot but was given a piece of paper which had an address on it where the £249.00 should be sent. However, the document had conflicting information on it with regard to the identity of the trader and it also stated that the resident was liable to pay the £249.00 irrespective of whether or not they went ahead with the deal!
We are currently investigating this matter.
There may be grants available to help replace old boilers but usually strict conditions apply often linked to the age of the person or being in receipt of certain qualifying benefits. For more information on what may be available to help insulate homes and cut energy bills contact the Energy Savings Trust on 0300 123 1234.
Record hauls of illegal tobacco in Coventry – 22 November 2013
The city council's Trading Standards Team found more dodgy shisha than ever before when officers went to properties in Hillfields, Cheylesmore and Willenhall. Illegal cigarettes, packs of hand rolling tobacco and shisha tobacco with a street value of more than £60,000 has been seized in recent raids across Coventry.
The items seized were either counterfeit, non -duty paid or not displaying the required health warnings. For more details of the seizures please see our News pages on our website.
Travelling to the US – Watch out for unofficial ESTA websites and avoid paying more than the $14 fee – 15 November 2013
We have issued previous warnings about passport and driving license applications & renewal websites that are not affiliated to the Official Government ones but will offer to ‘check’ your applications and in the process charge a hefty fee on top of the official Government charge.
We have now been made aware of similar websites but this time offering to check ESTA’s or Electronic System for Travel Authorization.
Everyone from the UK going to the USA by air or sea, even those just passing through, must fill out an ESTA in advance or they'll be turned back.
You can only apply for an ESTA online so it is vital that you use only the Official US Department of Homeland Security website and not any other site that may pretend to be or give the impression that they are the official webpage and charge you an additional fee to process your application.
The current official fee is $14.00 for each person’s application which is just under £9.00. If you are asked to pay more than this you may have strayed onto one of the sites that offer just to check an application or worse, a scam web page that captures any personal information you submit for criminal activity.
ESTA’s are valid for 2 years; to apply make sure you visit: https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta
Severn Trent issues bogus caller warning as ID badge thefts increase – 15 November 2013
Severn Trent have issued a warning to customers following a recent increase in the number of Staff ID Badges that have been reported stolen which may then be used by phoney callers to gain false entry to homes across the City.
If someone knocks on your door claiming to be from Severn Trent, ‘the water company’ or ‘the water board’ ask them to wait outside and ring 0845 604 1655 to check their identity. This number is staffed 24 hours every day.
To keep customers safe, Severn Trent have five simple steps to guard against bogus callers and, they also operate a doorstep-password scheme which can be set up online at stwater.co.uk/doorstep-password or by phone: 08457 500 500.
Remember ID cards can also be faked, so to protect against bogus callers:
- Check to see if you know the caller from the window.
- Keep your door on the chain and look to see who is calling before opening it.
- Ask for identification to be put through the letter box and call the organisation they claim to be from, using a number you have from your latest bill. Don’t use any number given by the caller or one that is on the ID Badge or card.
- Genuine callers won’t mind waiting while you phone and check their validity.
- If the visitor insists they need access immediately, or before you carry out the necessary checks call 999.
Door to door gold buyers - 8 November 2013
The Police have advised us on an incident that occurred in Allesley where 2 females approached several residents in a Close asking if they had gold to sell.
Neither female had a distinctive accent but one carried a set of scales and they also had some leaflets with the words: We buy gold, silver and antiques. However, no leaflets were handed out to the residents spoken to.
Our advice - Never accept offers to buy your gold or jewellery from someone who comes to your door. If you have items to sell, get a range of offers from high street buyers. Don't sell to unexpected callers, you might get a very poor and uncompetitive price for your items and any scales they use may not be accurate.
Cutting out the junk - 8 November 2013
Junk mail and unwanted calls can be a real nuisance but Trading Standards are reminding people on how to cut down on receiving junk mail and telesales calls.
When asked by the Council to update your details on the electoral register, consider opting out of the edited version which can be used by marketing companies. This will not impact on your ability to vote in an election - but it is a legal requirement to fill in and return the form.
Also consider registering your address and phone number for FREE with the Mailing and Telephone Preference Services and whilst this will not stop every piece of junk main or nuisance call it should reduce those that come from UK based firms.
Recently we have had reports from residents who have received calls from firms claiming that they can prevent all calls or that they are more successful at preventing calls than TPS. Such firms will want a fee to register your number with 'their database' whilst others may try to sell you some kind of call blocker device that you plug into your telephone line. Some of these devices are better than others and many will need to be programmed in some way to be able to recognise the calls you want and do want to receive.
If you are interested in buying one of these devices do your homework first. Some are easier to set up than others whilst some are more successful at cutting out more nuisance calls. Search the Internet for some of the many online reviews recorded by people who have bought a device before agreeing to buy something from someone who rings you out of the blue.
To register for FREE with the Mailing Preference Service visit their website: http://www.mpsonline.org.uk/
To register for FREE with the Telephone Preference Service visit: http://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 device!
For more 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.
Buying a second hand car: 'Check it, don't regret it!' - 4 November 2013
Monday 4 November sees the launch of a month long campaign called 'check it, don't regret it' which aims to raise awareness about buying a used car.
Coventry Trading Standards and the Coventry Citizens Advice Bureau under the umbrella of Coventry Consumer Network are steering people in the correct direction when it comes to buying a used car.
The drive is part of a month long campaign and Trading Standards and Coventry Citizens Advice Bureau will be holding an event on Wednesday 6 November in the courtyard to the Bureau at Kirby House in Little Park Street.
The courtyard will be mocked up to look like a used car sales pitch with both CAB and Trading Standards on hand to advise how to 'check it, don't regret it'. The event will be held from 9.30am to 3.30pm.
For more information visit the Consumer advice and protection web pages.
Distraction Burglary in Longford - 25 October 2013
The Police have alerted us to a distraction burglary in Longford where 2 men posing as Council Workers knocked on a residents door and entered the house on the pretext of checking a disabled appliance. Unfortunately they managed to steal money & jewellery.
Water Bacteria Check. Cold Call in Walsgrave - 25 October 2013
A Walsgrave resident reported being visited by a man who wanted to test the property's water for bacteria.
The caller did not say who he was or where he was from. The resident did not let the man in who left.
Severn Trent Water advised the resident that it was not them who called.
Mattress Sellers spotted in Finham - 25 October 2013
A door to door mattress seller was seen in the Finham area. The man was driving a white van which had Cozy Beds written on the side.
The man even flagged down a car to ask a driver if he wanted a mattress!
We have issued previous warnings about mattress sellers operating in the City. Our main concern is one of safety in that the mattress may display a Fire Safety Label but there would be no way of checking if this was genuine or not.
As usual our advice is not to deal with anyone who calls unannounced at your door offering goods or services or asking to check anything in your property.
Phone Recycling Warning - 25 October 2013
Trading Standards are warning consumers that they may not receive the price quoted by some mobile phone recyclers. One consumer reported being quoted £122 for his phone in advance but on sending the phone away was then only offered £48. If this was not acceptable they would have to pay £9.00 for the firm to return the phone.
Our advice is to read the terms and conditions of any offer carefully before sending off your phone.
E-mail with the heading - 'VERY NEW AREA CODE: READ AND PASS ALONG - THIS IS NOT A JOKE!' - 24 October 2013
If you receive an e-mail with the above in the subject line and it relates to an '809 Area Code' our advice is to Delete it and not forward it on, even if it has been sent to you by someone you know.
This relates to a very old scam which primarily affected residents in the USA. Much of the claims made in the text of the e-mail out of date, exaggerated and now misleading.
For further information visit: http://www.hoax-slayer.com/area-code-809-scam.html or http://www.snopes.com/fraud/telephone/809.asp
Another drainage Scam? 16 October 2013
Following on from our e-mail alert last week - Quick thinking Building Society employee saves local resident from a rogue trader, (10 October) we have received a similar report involving another elderly Cheylesmore resident.
A man, claiming to be working on a building site nearby said that there was a problem with the resident's drainage which they had damaged. The resident asked if any of his neighbours were affected but the man said no! The man went on to say that equipment needed to be hired urgently to prevent further damage. The man asked for the resident's phone number and also asked where the 'manhole cover' was before saying they needed £2,500 to be paid by 11am as a down payment but this would be returned once the work had been done. The man suggested that the resident get a taxi to their bank to withdraw the money and then left saying he would return to collect the money at 11am.
However, this resident didn't fall for this story and went over to speak to the builders working nearby who confirmed that they had not sent anyone around and if they had damaged anything they wouldn't be asking for any money.
Not long after the initial visit the resident received a number of calls from a man asking if the money had been withdrawn.
Instead of withdrawing the money, the resident reported the matter to the Police who attended the property. When another call was made and it was not answered by the resident the caller quickly hung up. The callers telephone number had been withheld.
Trading Standards advice is not to deal with anyone who knocks on you door especially if they claim that there is some problem with or damage to your property.
We would also ask residents who live nearby elderly neighbours to be vigilant and keep an eye on elderly and vulnerable residents living in their area.
If anyone else has been approached in this way please report the matter to the Police on 101 or to Trading Standards on 08454 040506.
Door to Door Will Writing Services may not be what they appear! - 17 October 2013
In response to a report from an elderly resident in the Stoke area of Coventry, Trading Standards are once again warning people to be wary of cold-callers offering a variety of legal services including; will writing, asset trusts, property trusts, and lasting power of attorney.
A company is currently known to be targeting elderly homeowners in Coventry claiming that they can prevent Local Authorities from selling their home in the event that they need to raise funds to pay for care in later life.
The information that such companies provide is often inaccurate or misleading, causing residents to believe that all of their property and assets will have to be sold to provide for their care. The company then claims to offer advice on how this can be avoided.
Some homeowners have in the past been persuaded to put their property into trust as a result of the advice and the sales representatives invariably require immediate payment of their fees which can be as much as £3000.
Consumers are reminded that they have the right to a seven day cooling off period when buying goods or services from sales people calling at their home.
If you need advice or information on Residential Care or paying for care contact the Age UK Advice Helpline 0800 169 6565 or visit their website: http://www.ageuk.org.uk/
International Credit Union Day - 17 October 2013
Today is International Credit Union (ICU) Day® which promotes the achievements of the Credit Union movement. This year's theme, "Credit Unions Unite for Good: A Better Way," emphasizes the benefits of cooperation among credit unions worldwide. The ultimate goal is to raise awareness about the great work that credit unions are doing around the world and give members the opportunity to get more involved.
What is a credit union? It's a non-profit financial co-operative that focuses on the monetary needs of its members. The organisation as a whole is in fact also run by its members, which may be a community or place of work. The reason behind setting one up is mostly to offer everyone in the union easier methods of saving, access to low-cost loans and other possible benefit, which is helpful in our current financial climate. Furthermore, because the Financial Conduct Authority regulates these unions, members can be safe in the knowledge that they've got enough leeway to handle finances by themselves whilst also having the help of an overall authority that keeps all your pennies safe.
For further information on local Credit Unions in Coventry & Warwickshire, please visit the following website for details: http://www.cwcda.co.uk/credit-unions/local-credit-unions
Expo-Guide Scam - 17 October 2013
Coventry Trading Standards are aware that local business may again be targeted by the Expo-Guide business directory scam.
Expo-Guide is an online business directory based in Mexico, which appears to target businesses that exhibit at trade shows. They send a letter and a form to businesses requesting that they return it to them confirming that their trading details are correct.
However, if you don't read the small print and just sign & return the form, you may miss the fact that you are entering a three year contract and the equivalent of £1,070 will be payable by your business each year.
Should you receive one of these letters you should not respond to them, and report the incident to Coventry Trading Standards by e-mailing: firstname.lastname@example.org
Trading Standards Warning after water management firm's collapse - 17 October 2013
Reading based Smartsource Drainage and Water Report Ltd t/a Smartsource Water has been wound up after it stopped paying water companies, and customers fell into arrears. It is now in the hands of The Insolvency Service.
Smartsource Water had promised customers up and down the country it could reduce their water rates by more than 8% with no price rises guaranteed for four years, and would pay the water rates on behalf of any customers that signed up with them. Customers in turn would pay a monthly amount to Smartsource who would then pay customers water rates.
The Consumer Council for Water in England and Wales said the case showed the risks of making payments for services through a third party. If payments are not passed over to the water company, customers can still be held liable for the outstanding monies, and end up with a disconnection notice.
Quick thinking Building Society employee saves local resident from a rogue trader - 10 October 2013
A local branch of the Coventry Building Society contacted us this week as they were concerned when an elderly customer from the Cheylesmore area came in asking for £2,500 to be transferred to an account. The customer said he had been approached by someone claiming to be a neighbour who had just moved into the area but was complaining that he had raw sewerage coming into his property and this was coming from the customer's drains. The 'neighbour' said a company had been employed who would be making contact with the customer but they would need paying upfront as they needed to hire some expensive equipment and needed to act fast to reduce the damage being caused to the neighbour's property.
The Society called Trading Standards and whilst we were talking to staff and the customer the resident received a call on his mobile from the 'drain' company asking whether the money had been transferred yet. When the resident said no, the caller asked him just to withdraw cash but when the resident said he had been speaking to Trading Standards the trader became very aggressive. When we tried to ring the number the 'trader' had given it was not a recognised number.
Again all this raised suspicions that this was an elaborate scam.
Further enquiries have revealed that there is no evidence that anyone in the resident's location is suffering from any issues with their drains and no further contact has been made by the so-called 'neighbour' or 'drain' company.
Investigations are continuing.
Suspicious gold seller in Radford - 10 October 2013
Trading Standards are warning people to be on their guard regarding gold sellers after a resident reported being approached in a supermarket car park in the Radford area.
The man appeared desperate to sell the jewellery, and claimed that it had a value of £390, but he would accept £180 for it. A suggestion that he should go into the City centre to one of the gold buying shops where he would get the full value was ignored.
Although the jewellery may look good, it could well be worthless and made up of unknown gold coloured metals.
Similar incidents reported around the UK confirms that consumers who have handed over large amounts of cash for jewellery have found that what they have bought turn out to be fake and worthless.
Our advice is simple - do not buy anything from anyone who approaches you in the street offering to sell you something. It could be fake or stolen.
Inheritance fraud - 10 October 2013
A Whitley resident has brought our attention to an official looking letter they received claiming to be from an Attorney-at-Law in Madrid, Spain.
The letter states that the recipient is entitled to an inheritance from someone unknown to them. The only connection is that they share the same surname!
This is a typical Advance Fee fraud, whereby the fraudster will usually require some personal and sensitive information before requesting an upfront fee, before they can release the funds.
A Google search of the Law Firms name mentioned in the letter resulted is a website being found which looked very official. However, on their home page they displayed a logo that incorporated the name of the UK's Solicitors Regulatory Association [SRA] who are the independent Regulatory Body of the Law Society of England & Wales.
We have referred details of the website to the SRA for further investigation and the SRA have issued previous alerts themselves of 'legal firms' who have been contacting people claiming to be lawyers regulated by the SRA when in fact they are not.
Trading Standards advice to anyone who receives such a letter is not to respond to it but instead put it in the recycling bin.
Fake e-mails from friends - 10 October 2013
A resident reported receiving what appeared to be an e-mail from someone they know, but it's really a scam to get you to transfer money to a crook. E-mails that we have seen previously usually have in the subject line something along the lines of: 'I need your help' or 'I'm in trouble' and seem to come from the e-mail address of someone you know. The message usually says they are abroad, have been a victim of a mugging or lost their wallet and need a 'loan' to get home. The senders e-mail account (your friend) will have been hacked into by a cyber-criminal. The e-mails are sent to all their contacts.
If it's your e-mail account that has been hacked into in this way, contact your e-mail service provider who will be able to restore your e-mail address for you.
Amazon e-mail - 4 October 2013
We have also received a couple of reports this week concerning suspicious e-mails claiming to be from Amazon which contain an attachment with details of a recent order.
Amazon have advised that these e-mails were not sent by them and they are currently investigating the situation.
Amazon have also advised that you should never respond to e-mails that ask you to provide personal or financial information, open any attachments contained in the e-mail or navigate to any website in the e-mail. We would endorse such advice.
Amazon has confirmed that it does not send order confirmations or other unsolicited requests that require customers to open attachments, nor do they permit their third party merchants to do so.
If you have received a suspicious e-mail that looks like it came from Amazon that contains an attachment, forward the e-mail to: email@example.com without opening the e-mail and then delete it.
If you have opened an attachment, it is strongly recommended that you run an anti-virus or anti-malware program to check your computer.
Internet Service Provider Scam Calls - 4 October 2013
Two residents in the Westfield Heath/Tile Hill area have today reported suspicious calls from someone claiming to be from their Internet Service Provider. The caller claimed that they had been notified that the residents computers were running slowly and needed a virus check. When one resident asked for details of exactly who they were and where they were phoning from as they wanted to check them out the caller immediately terminated the call.
Had the call continued no doubt the caller would try to convince the householder to download a program onto their computer that would run a virus check but would also require credit card details to pay to "clean up" the viruses from the computer. We are aware that some scammers download programs that are available 'Free' from the Internet that you can download yourself. In the worst case, if you allow cold callers to remotely access your computer, scammers may be able to gain access to any personal and sensitive data that may be stored on the PC.
If you do get such a call terminate it and report it to your Internet Service Provider if they claim to be from them. They may be able to issue a warning to all their customers.