Scams and warnings
Warnings and alerts January - June 2013
Door to door memory foam mattresses sellers back in the area - 14 June 2013
We have issued several alerts in the past about the dangers of buying mattresses from people going door to door, and are now receiving more reports, so we are repeating our advice.
The latest incidents have occurred in the Longford and upper Holbrooks area. In one two white males parked up in a large white van with an Irish registration plate and approached residents at their homes or in the street asking if they would be interested in purchasing a Memory Foam Mattresses? The resident making the report declined the offer, and the trader left
Our advice - don't buy products on the doorstep. Remember - Buying such items on the doorstep is risky, as you will probably not be able to contact the trader should something go wrong with the product. In the case of a mattress there are concerns that despite possibly displaying Fire Safety labels, there is no guarantee that the mattresses comply with the relevant Safety Regulations. There are also hygiene implications to be considered as well.
Bogus Faith Healers Warning - 14 June 2013
They may claim to remove all your bad luck, heal illness, remove dark clouds from your life and make you a winner, but in reality, it is no more than a scam to take money from you.
Trading Standards are issuing a stern warning to beware of such healers and clairvoyants who may advertise their services in newspapers and pamphlets.
What is most concerning is that they tend to target the vulnerable, and prey on ethnic minority communities. Often, due to religious beliefs, and embarrassment about how it would be viewed in their community, these crimes go unreported.
Trading Standards advice to consumers is not to throw their hard earned money after bogus miracle cures that do not yield any results.
Land Investment Scams - 14 June 2013
Despite a very successful recent prosecution involving Landbanking, which is an investment scam where agricultural land, often in the green belt, is bought at nominal value and divided into small plots which are sold to investors for a substantial mark-up on the promise of large returns if planning permission is granted we are reminding residents that other scammers are still out offering similar schemes. Residents may be approached by other fraudsters in an attempt to persuade them to invest in plots of land and convince them they would make a huge profit once they had been granted planning permission.
Recently a scam was uncovered and 3 men - all from Bromley - were found guilty at Southwark Crown Court of conspiracy to defraud, contrary to common law, following a seven-week trial. They were ordered to serve a combined total of 26 years and four months. Trading as Countrywide Land Holdings Limited, Countrywide Land Holdings, and Regional Land the fraudsters operated throughout the UK between 01/01/2005 & 31/08/2010.
Our advice: if you are approached to invest in land in this way take time to reflect, seek independent advice and research the company in question. If a scheme sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
Subscription Renewal Requests - 14 June 2013
We are warning local residents to be on their guard for unsolicited postcards stating that their annual subscription is due to expire, and renewal is now due.
So far, there have been two reports in different areas of the City.
Our advice would to never respond to any unsolicited mailings. You should ignore any unexpected letters that ask you to send money, give your bank/credit card details or any other personal details.
To help cut down on the amount of unsolicited mail you receive, you can sign up to The Mailing Preference Service. They can have your details removed from up to 95% of UK direct mailing lists. To register, see http://www.mpsonline.org.uk/mpsr/
Screening Services - 14 June 2013
Residents may receive letters offering life screening services but if you are interested in such a service it may be best to seek advice from your GP first before parting with any money. Although private ultrasound screening may reveal plaque build-up or blockages which can lead to cardiovascular diseases, a similar service is available on the National Health Service for free and with approval of your doctor.
Anyone wishing to undertake such services should seek medical advice on whether screening is necessary for their personal circumstances, and also on any potential harm for certain types of treatment.
Driveway Cleaning & Gardening Door to door Traders - 06 June 2013
We have had new reports of door to door cold callers operating in the Cheylesmore and Whitley area offering to jet wash driveways and to carry out general gardening work including trimming trees and cutting back hedges.
The latest report indicates that these cold callers are driving an unmarked white van but they may also be using other vehicles as well.
Agreeing to anything on the doorstep from someone who just knocks on your door is extremely risky especially if the caller gives little detail as to who they are or where they are based.
As always, Trading Standards advice is not to do deal with cold callers as this is the favoured approach of rogue traders who will provide a poor service, charge more than a reasonable price and if they give any contact details this will invariably be an accommodation address where the traders will not have any physical presence.
Computer Virus Scam Call continue - 31 May 2013
We continue to receive calls from local residents who have been contacted by scammers claiming that they can rid Computers of viruses or be able to fix other issues affecting a computers performance.
We have issued many warnings in the past but recently we heard that one particular scammer managed to persuade one resident to allow access to their PC and to install various pieces of software. The charge for this service was £240.00 which was to also include technical support plus nine years supply of the installed software. Thankfully help was at hand and the resident knew someone who had knowledge of computers who was able to remove the installed software, part of which was a free version of an Antivirus package freely available on the Internet.
The resident managed to stop the payment of the £240.00 but then received numerous calls from the scammer, who we believe was calling from somewhere in Asia. Thankfully these calls have now subsided.
OUR ADVICE - Don't respond to such calls. Never allow someone who phones you out of the blue to have remote access to your computer as not only can they install viruses etc. they may have access to any personal information that is stored on the PC.
Spot Phishing Scams - 31 May 2013
In recent alerts we have issued warnings on several Phishing type scams which is the name given to scam emails sent at random falsely claiming to be a well known company, often high street banks or government agencies, trying to trick people into giving private information that can be used for identity theft or fraud.
The email usually says that it is necessary to 'update' or 'verify' account information, supply information to release payments or prevent items expiring or confirm personal information. Many will try to get you to click on a link in the email which will take you to the phishing site, others will have a form attached which they ask you to complete and return.
If you receive an email which you are unsure about or think it is a Phishing email remember:
· DO NOT click on any links in the scam email.
· DO NOT supply any personal information of any kind as a result of the email
· DO NOT reply to the email or attempt to contact the senders in any way.
· DO NOT supply any information via any link contained in the email.
· DO NOT open any attachments that arrive with the email
· DELETE the email from your computer as soon as possible.
Missed calls from '070' numbers - 31 May 2013
Trading Standards are advising residents to be wary of missed calls on mobile phones from numbers starting '070'.
'070' numbers act as call forwarding services and can cost up to 50p per minute to call.
However, because they are easy to mistake for mobile phone numbers, some scammers are using them to call mobile numbers at random hoping people will return the missed call and make money out of it.
If you receive a missed call on your mobile from an 070 number, do not call it back - it is likely to be a scam.
More information about call charges from mobiles can be found on the Which? website
Official looking letter from Germany - Reissued 31 May 2013
We are reissuing this warning [originally issued 17/05/13] following reports from a couple of local businesses who have received letters from a German based firm asking for a form to be completed to include their VAT registration number.
The pretext of the request suggests that this is due to new EU legislation, but if business owners complete the form and returns it, they will be liable for £797 per year for a minimum of three years
Our understanding is that if you pay all you will get is a business entry in an online advertising register.
Our advice is to ignore the letter and to be vigilant when receiving any requests for information from an organisation unknown to you.
New PPI Phone Scam - 31 May 2013
Watch out for calls from people saying they are from the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) saying that OFT can pay compensation for mis-sold Payment Protection Insurance (PPI). Consumers are being told that on payment of an administration fee, usually between £100 and £400, the OFT will send them a compensation payment of several thousand pounds. They are then asked to obtain an electronic cash voucher and text it to an 0203 telephone number.
An electronic voucher works by either going to a shop or going on line and paying for a voucher with a code number that you can then text to whoever you want. They can then use it to pay for goods. However, if a consumer does this, they receive nothing and the electronic voucher is untraceable and irrecoverable.
The OFT never calls people in this way and has no remit to give compensation to members of the public on PPI or any other matter.
Be very wary if you are asked to pay an upfront fee for anything that you have not asked for.
Do not agree to send money or give any personal or bank details.
Many vouchers and electronic payment vouchers are untraceable and irrecoverable, making them highly attractive payment methods to fraudsters. Treat them and use them as you would use cash.
If you have been caught out, contact Action Fraud on: 0300 1232040 or visit their website: http://www.actionfraud.police.uk/
The Financial Ombudsman Service can provide advice on PPI claims. Visit: http://www.financial-ombudsman.org.uk/ or call 0800 0234567.
Computer 'slowdown' con - 22 May 2013
A Tile Hill resident reported to Trading Standards receiving an unexpected phone call from someone who claimed to be calling from 'technical support' to deal with a 'problem' with the consumer's computer. The bogus 'problem' was described as a slow internet connection which the caller suggested may be due to a virus.
When the resident asked which internet company they were from the caller hung up. The resident did a 1471 check but as you might expect the caller ID was blocked.
Had the consumer agreed to allow the caller access to their computer, the caller would probably have either stolen information or charged for adding unnecessary programs to the consumer's PC.
Security precaution 'phishing' scam - 22 May 2013
We have received a report from a Whoberley resident who received an e-mail claiming to be from their bank. The e-mail subject heading read 'IMPORTANT SECURITY WARNING' and the e-mail went on to say that the account had been suspended and may be permanently deleted for unsuccessful logins.
The e-mail contained a link that would have taken the resident to a fake website which would no doubt ask for sensitive personal information to be entered.
No bank or building society would ever send an e-mail to their customers asking them to provide personal details via a link contained in an e-mail. This type of e-mail is a typical 'phishing' e-mail which attempts to gain login details which will enable fraudsters to use the account as they see fit.
Trading Standards' advice is to delete such e-mails.
Telephone preference service scam - 22 May 2013
A Stoke consumer contacted Trading Standards this week after receiving an unexpected phone call from someone who claimed they could stop unwanted & nuisance phone calls for a small cost! The consumer was asked for their postcode, marital status, age, employment status, living arrangements, their weekly income and whether they had a cat or dog! The consumer queried why all this information was required and asked who they were. At this the caller terminated the call.
Another consumer reported receiving a similar call and unfortunately did provide certain information and then found that almost £70 had been taken from their bank account.
In neither of these cases do we know the identity of the caller.
Trading Standards advises consumers not to provide their personal or card details to anyone who calls them. Remember, it is also free to join the Telephone Preference Service (TPS).
The TPS is a free opt out service enabling you to record your preference on an official register and not receive unsolicited sales or marketing calls.
Grand winner of £43,887.11 - 22 May 2013
A local resident has alerted us to a letter they received stating they were "the grand winner of £43,887.11". This came with a mail order form for cakes, sweets, and other food items. On reading through the small print, this is in fact an offer to be entered into a prize draw with the top prize being £43,887.11 for which no purchase is necessary. However, the inference is that in order to be a winner, an order should be placed. Trading Standards would always advise residents never to respond to this type of mailing. The company appears to be based outside the UK, and quite possibly, the goods received may be of an inferior quality, and offered at inflated prices.
Trading Standards advice is to treat any such 'Prize Notification' with extreme caution.
Door-to-door traders - 17 May 2013
We continue to receive reports from residents concerned about door-to-door sellers offering various services such as jet washing driveways or offering to lay block paved drives or general building and roofing work. The latest reports have been from residents in the Holbrooks area of the city.
As always, Trading Standards' advice is not to do deal with cold callers as this is the favoured approach of rogue traders who will provide a poor service and charge more than a reasonable price. If they do give any contact details this will invariably be an accommodation address where the traders will not have any physical presence.
Mobility aids - mattress topper/enhancers specifically for arthritis - 17 May 2013
An elderly Cannon Park resident has alerted us to a telephone call they received from someone offering a mattress topper that would help arthritis sufferers. The caller wanted to arrange a home visit to demonstrate the product.
Our advice is to treat such calls with suspicion and do not agree to any home visit unless you are sure of who is calling you. If you do agree to a visit we would strongly recommend having a friend of relative present.
Telephone call claiming to be from the NHS - 17 May 2013
Colleagues from Leicester Trading Standards have alerted us following a report they had from one of their residents who received a phone call from someone claiming to be from the NHS and wanted to make an appointment for a home visit to discuss their medication. Health professionals working with this resident have confirmed that this was not anyone from their organisation.
Trading Standards always advise residents to never confirm personal details over the telephone, and not to agree to appointments from cold callers.
Official looking letter from Germany - MEP issues scam warning - 17/05/13
A local MEP has issued a warning following complaints from some West Midlands businesses who have received a letter from a German company. The letter asks for a form to be completed that asks for their VAT registration number, claiming that this is a requirement following some new EU legislation.
However, by completing the form you are making yourself liable to pay £797 per year for a minimum of three years.
Our advice is to ignore the letter and to be vigilant when receiving any requests for information from an organisation unknown to you.
Business advertising - 17 May 2013
A local business has contacted us after receiving numerous calls from an organisation claiming that they had placed an order for advertising space in a magazine which now needs paying for. The local business has no recollection of ever placing such an order or receiving any proof artwork to check the advert before publication.
Our advice is not to make any payment unless you have agreed to the advertising and to check any demand for payment carefully. Where agreements have been made and the business feels they have been misled over the terms of the advertisement and they require further advice, please contact Trading Standards. Further information about this topic can be found in our 'Publishing Scams' advice fact sheet.
Beat the Cheat scampaign event - 13 May 2013
Free information and advice on scams and frauds will be available for residents at the foyer of the BBC Coventry & Warwickshire, Priory Place, Coventry on Wednesday 15 May - 10.30am to 12noon.
Officers and colleagues from Coventry Citizens Advice will also be on hand to receive peoples scam mail and offer advice at the Central Library, Smithford Way, in the city centre, on Friday 17 May between 10.00am and 2.00pm.
May is Scams Awareness Month 2013 and the 'Beat the Cheat' Scampaign is being run by Coventry Trading Standards and Coventry Citizens Advice Bureau with the aim of raising awareness of the many and varied mass marketing scams perpetrated by fraudsters and criminal gangs.
A special bin is also available at Coventry Citizens Advice Bureau, Kirby House, Little Park Street where people can deposit any scams they receive by post and get some information on how to beat the cheats.
Nationwide Building Society account re-activation e-mail - 13 May 2013
A local resident received an e-mail purporting to be from the Nationwide Building Society saying that for security reasons their access to their online banking had been temporarily suspended. The e-mail invited the resident to click on a link to start the process of reactivating their account. The link however does not take you to the real Nationwide Building Society website, instead it directs you to something that looks like the Nationwide website but this site appears to be run by someone based in Venezuela!
The e-mail is a phishing e-mail attempting to gain your login details which will enable others to use your e-mail account as they see fit.
E-mail claiming e-mail account has 'exceeded its storage limit' - 13 May 2013
Another phishing type e-mail which is circulating is one claiming that your e-mail account has 'exceeded its storage limit'. The message, which will often claim to come from the 'System Administrator' also states that you will be unable to send or receive further e-mails until you 'reset' the account. To do this you are asked to reply to the e-mail with details including your User Name and Password.
Web based e-mail accounts sometimes do exceed their allotted quota and some mail systems may send out automated messages informing their users of this. However, no mail administration system will ask users to send their username and password via an e-mail in order to fix an over-quota account. Users can normally remedy this problem themselves by simply logging in and freeing up room by deleting unwanted e-mails.
Trading Standards advises not to act on or respond to unsolicited e-mails and if you receive similar messages delete them.
For advice on protecting yourself from phishing scams you can watch a short advice film on the Get Safe Online website
Free boiler offer!!! - 8 May 2013
Coventry Trading Standards have received a number of reports involving individuals going door to door offering householders new free boilers and/or home insulation, the latest report being in Chapelfields.
The callers claim they require the consumers full personal details including names, addresses, dates of birth, national insurance numbers and have also requested copies / photographs of letters regarding benefits entitlements in order to make the necessary arrangements. In many of the reported cases these individuals are not supplying any of their business details in return.
Clearly such requests should be treated with extreme caution especially when consumers have no way of checking whether the callers are from a bona fide company. Clearly giving personal details to strangers at the door could lead to increased risks of identity theft or other frauds.
Trading Standards would urge residents not to run the risk of dealing with strangers at the door especially if asked for their personal details.
People on certain state benefits or low incomes may be able to access some funding that is available from the Big Energy Companies to help with the cost of heating and insulation products and the Energy Saving Trust is a free advice service funded by government that will be able to discuss the options available and will be able to direct you to a list of approved companies who may be able to assist further.
The Energy Saving Trust website is: http://www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/ or call 0300 123 1234.
Car accident compensation scam - 2 May 2013
Several residents have reported receiving telephone calls from possible con artists who may be attempting to gain bank and personal details from victims by claiming they are entitled to compensation following a road traffic collision.
The usual technique is for the caller to state that they have been informed that you have been involved in a car accident in the last few years and as such will be eligible for compensation.
The caller will give very few details of the 'accident' claiming that they have been given your details by an Insurance body but are unable to disclose particulars of the 'accident' due to the Data Protection Act.
The callers are often quite insistent and may refer people to a website to give the impression that they are from a legitimate company. However, the website will be fake.
Residents are reminded to never divulge bank or personal details unless they are certain they are dealing with a genuine organisation. Never be pressured or persuaded into releasing personal details to a suspicious caller.
Check before you chuck! - 2 May 2013
Check before you chuck, Coventry and Warwickshire Trading Standards Officers are warning!
Residents are advised to check carefully before they employ traders to remove rubbish from their property.
This warning comes after a Coventry resident hired a two ton bag to clear some rubbish from his home as opposed to a skip. The consumer had seen an advertisement on a small ads website which only carried a telephone number and no address.
The trader dropped the bag off at the resident's property and the resident paid the trader in full for the bag and for its removal and disposal, after it had been filled.
The resident filled the bag but the trader refused to return to collect the rubbish, becoming quite aggressive on the phone and has since disappeared!
Trading Standards Officers are advising the following:
- Get the full name, address and contact details of the business you use and ensure they are based at the location they claim.
- Try not to pay the entire cost of the service up front.
- Use local businesses with reputations to maintain and if possible go on recommendation.
Rogue roof cleaner warning - 2 May 2013
A warning about rogue roof cleaning services has been issued by Coventry Trading Standards following concerns raised by a local resident living in the Styvechale Grange area of the City.
The resident initially received an unsolicited telephone call from a Roof Cleaning firm saying that they had local reps in the area and within an hour a salesperson had arrived.
The roof cleaning salesperson made a number of unsubstantiated claims about the benefits of having your roof jet washed, sealed and painted. The initial price of over £3500 was also reduced to £1500 if the resident agreed to the work starting straight away.
The salesperson also claimed that if the resident signed before 01/05/13 they would avoid a VAT increase from 5% to 20%.
We have spoken to HMRC who advised Trading Standards that there no changes to VAT applicable to this type of work!
We have received similar reports in the past where door step callers imply or state that moss and lichen on roof tiles is a problem and that the cost of a new roof would be much more expensive than having it cleaned.
They may go on to say that cleaning moss and lichen from roof tiles has energy saving benefits and that by using fungicidal washes it won't grow back again.
These claims are largely unsubstantiated and independent experts say that lichen, mould and similar growths although unsightly are not generally detrimental to the longevity of a roof tile.
There is also the risk that the use of high-pressure hoses to clean the roof can damage tiles and force water into the roof space and serious damage can also be caused if they walk on the roof without laying boards over the tiles first or use scaffolding.
People can report concerns about rogue traders or cold-callers to the Citizens Advice consumer service on: 08454 04 05 06 or use our online reporting form at www.coventry.gov.uk/tradingstandards
'Beat the Cheat' Scampaign - 1 May 2013
Have you won the Euro lottery, been told that a relative has left you £millions in a Hong Kong Bank account or received an unexpected phone call to let you know your computer needs fixing? If the answer is yes, then you are one of the thousands of Coventry residents who are targeted each year by scammers!
Fortunately, help is at hand. The 'Beat the Cheat' Scampaign is being run by Coventry Trading Standards and Coventry Citizens Advice Bureau under the Coventry Consumer Network umbrella. The aim is to raise awareness of the many and varied mass marketing scams perpetrated by fraudsters and criminal gangs.
Last year Trading Standards identified nearly 350 separate scams which, had they worked, could have cost Coventry residents over £150,000. It also revealed that the Microsoft PC Virus Scam was the biggest problem with fake prize draws coming in second.
During May, a special bin will be available at Coventry Citizens Advice Bureau, Kirby House, Little Park Street where people can deposit any scams they receive by post and get some information on how to beat the cheats.
Alternatively, send any e-mail scams to: email@example.com and put 'Beat the Cheat' in the subject line. If you can't visit the CAB, send in your scam mailings to: 'BEAT THE CHEAT - SCAMPAIGN' - Trading Standards, Freepost (CV681) Coventry CV1 1BR.
United against rogue traders! - 26 April 2013
Rogue traders were targeted on Wednesday 24 April in a regional day of action to tackle doorstep crime.
The day of action was part of a national campaign of activities where the Police carried out ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) checks on vehicles and Trading Standards Officers undertook to speak to traders working on homes.
The enforcement action was organised to stop rogue traders targeting the vulnerable and elderly, protecting both consumers and reputable businesses.
In Coventry five traders were stopped and spoken to along with repeat victims who were visited and given re-assurance. Officers also carried out a 'rapid response' in reply to a sighting of a driveway washer carrying out work in the Cheylesmore area. This speedy action resulted in Officers explaining to the householder their legal rights and advising the trader that they had no legal claim as they had not provided the consumer with written cancellation rights. This saved the consumer from parting with £160 for shoddy work as the trader had used inappropriate materials to carry out the job.
The same trader may have also been operating in the Green Lane area of the City following a similar complaint from a resident.
Today we responded to an incident in Whoberley following reports of a trader going door to door offering to clean gutters out by claiming they were full of moss. Officers went out and spoke to the trader who agreed to leave the City.
Officers also attended the Wyken area after a resident received a cold call from someone offering Garden services.
Our advice - do not deal with cold callers as this is a favoured approach used by rogue traders and remember, by law, traders who call on you at home MUST give you Cancellation Rights in writing before any work costing over £35 begins allowing you a seven day cooling off period so you can change your mind. If you are not given this information don't deal with them and report them to us.
If you have been a victim of a rogue trader, or suspect that one is operating in your area, contact our colleagues, the Citizens Advice consumer service on 08454 04 05 06 or 0208 1850 710 (English language).
Gold and jewellery buyers at the door - 19 April 2013
Trading Standards are warning people to beware of unsolicited callers who have been knocking on doors in the Coundon area asking to buy gold and jewellery.
A resident alerted us after they received a visit from a smartly dressed woman asking if they had any gold jewellery they wanted to sell.
Whilst it is not illegal to buy jewellery and gold on the doorstep there is a concern that any price offered may be substantially lower than the market value and it is also unwise to discuss anything relating to possible valuables that may be in the house with a stranger that may call.
Our advice: Do not do business with anyone who calls unannounced at your door offering goods and services as this is the favoured approach used by rogue traders.
Also remember, any business buying precious metals such as gold according to weight need to use commercial scales that have been accurately tested and verified.
Camera and mattress sellers - 19 April 2013
Colleagues from Coventry Citizens Advice Bureau have advised us of a couple of incidents occurring in the Foleshill/Bell Green area involving some men driving around in a van offering cameras and mattresses for sale. It is understood that one person paid £300 for what they believed to be a top of the range camera but when the buyer opened the box all they had was some potatoes. By this time the seller had driven off.
We have issued several alerts in the past about the dangers of buying mattresses from people going door to door so we are repeating our advice which equally applies if you are approached by anyone in the street offering items for sale: DO NOT BUY FROM THEM! The item may be stolen, unsafe and in the case of the camera, you won't get what you are shown.
Free 'samples' can prove very expensive - 19 April 2013
Coventry Trading Standards first alerted residents to this scam back in November. However in the last week, we have had several new reports of residents taking up these free trials advertised in the newspapers or on the internet for such items as face creams, cosmetics or health supplements. However, to receive the free sample, credit/debit card details are required, and subsequently, money is taken from the account.
Our advice: check the small print of any "free" sample very carefully. The advert may say "free trial" but if you do not read or follow instructions exactly you may end up paying the full cost of the product and be tied into a contract paying for monthly supplies until the contract is terminated.
Often, the company involved will not be based in the UK making complaining more difficult.
Pop-up scam - 19 April 2013
Be cautious of popup messages that can lock your computer screen. The message is allegedly from the police claiming they have put a block on your computer for looking at illegal material. The message asks for a payment of £100 to unblock your computer by Ukash vouchers which are untraceable.
In August 2012, the Metropolitan Police issued the following warning:
Be on your guard against street traders selling fake gold jewellery - 5 April 2013
Be on your guard against street traders operating in the city selling jewellery. The last reports indicated that they were operating near the motor museum.
This follows a complaint regarding four women street sellers who have been approaching members of the public and being persistent when offering "fake" gold rings, chains and bracelets. The jewellery may look good but it is worthless, made up of unknown gold coloured metals and are being sold for as little as £5.
We advise the public not buy anything from them but should contact the Citizens Advice consumer service on 08454 04 05 06 or use our online reporting form.
Solar panels warning - 5 April 2013
Be wary of cold callers offering the installation of solar panels or other energy saving devices.
Residents in the Wyken and Allesley Park area have made complaints following uninvited calls from Solar Panel sales people.
Our advice: Before agreeing to anything do your homework and read the small print very, very carefully before agreeing to anything and watch out for misleading marketing practices. Carry out some research on the company knocking on your door and ask the salesperson to put in writing any claims made before agreeing to anything.
The Energy Saving Trust (http://www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/), a non-profit organisation, provides free and impartial advice on how to save energy. Additional information, including a list of registered installers, is available from http://www.microgenerationcertification.org/
The Renewable Energy Association's REAL Assurance Scheme (http://www.realassurance.org.uk/) also offers advice and information, as well as running a government-backed consumer code of conduct approved by the Office of Fair Trading.
Remember - if you agree to a contract whilst the trader is in your home you have the right to cancel within seven days. If the trader does not give you details of your rights to cancel - don't deal with them.
Also, if you ask a salesperson to leave, they should do so immediately. If they don't then they may have breached the Consumer Protection Regulations which deals with Unfair Trading Practices.
Job offer scam - 5 April 2013
Job seekers should watch out for online job offers that could see them out of pocket especially in the current economic climate and recent welfare reforms.
A Foleshill job seeker using the Internet to find a job came across a website that asked for an upfront fee or 'registration' fee of £49 [was £99.95] which was required 'to cover the costs of training materials and includes all processing and support costs for a full 12 months'.
Initial enquiries suggest that the address advertised is no more than an accommodation address or 'virtual office' with the firm having no actual physical presence there.
Our advice: never send any money to register or give personal information to an online job agency.
Also beware of any recruitment agencies asking for upfront fees to register a CV. Genuine agencies would not ask for payment just to register their CV.
If you need advice and support in searching for employment, training, apprenticeships or work placements or need help accessing training opportunities, writing a CV etc. contact the The Job Shop, 1 Bull Yard, Coventry, CV1 1LH E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 024 7678 5740.
13/02/2013 loan scam - 5 April 2013
A Wyken resident who had been looking to take out a loan received an unexpected phone call from someone they had never spoken to before offering them a loan.
The caller (who sounded as if they were phoning from a very busy call centre abroad) offered the consumer a loan but before the application could be processed an upfront £100.00 fee paid via Ukash Voucher was required. The resident made some quick online checks and believed they were dealing with a reputable company so agreed to pay the fee after receiving a promise that the loan money including the £100 fee would be in their account within 20 minutes. However, before this time had elapsed the 'loan' company called again requesting a further £100.00 because the resident did not have a guarantor for the loan. At this the resident became suspicious and refused to pay the extra fee and terminated the call.
The resident contacted Ukash who advised them to contact Action Fraud, the UK National Fraud and Internet Crime Reporting Centre. It would appear that the caller had used the name of a legitimate company to convince the resident that they were reputable.
Our advice: Don't transfer money to loan companies using money transfer services such as UKASH or Western Union and carry out a proper & detailed search for the business. Look for correct phone numbers and physical addresses and ask for information in writing before agreeing to pay anything.
Don't go ahead with any loan if a company demands a fee before you get the money and be cautious if a loan company cold-calls you asking for your bank details.
If you have lost money as a result of a scam call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 who will take details and give you a Police Crime reference number.
Don't respond to adverts on street furniture - 28 March 2013
Rogues and Scammers sometimes use Street Furniture such as lamp posts and traffic signs to advertise their services. These adverts are unauthorised and illegal and are considered to be Flyposting.
Many of these posters will advertise services such as weight loss programs, loans, jobs, reclaiming PPI or other services but usually the only contact detail is a mobile phone number!
Flyposting is therefore a very cheap way for scammers to grab your attention but as advertising on street furniture is an illegal act this also brings into question the integrity of the advertiser.
Our advice: do not respond to such adverts.
Remember, not only is flyposting illegal, carrying a Fixed Penalty Notice of £80, it also spoils both public and private property, can be very costly to remove and some adverts are placed at the eyelevel of motorists which could distract motorists causing accidents.
To report flyposting please contact Coventry Direct: 0500 834 333.
DM Design fined £90,000 over cold-calling - 28 March 2013
DM Design, a fitted kitchen company based in Cumbernauld, Scotland has been fined £90,000 for "blighting" the public with thousands of unwanted marketing calls.
This action was taken by Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) following almost 2,000 complaints made to the ICO and the Telephone Preference Service.
DM Design consistently failed to check if individuals had opted out of receiving marketing calls and failed to respond adequately to complaints. In one instance, an employee refused to remove a complainant's details from the company's system and threatened to "continue to call at more inconvenient times like Sunday lunchtime".
The fine was the first issued in the UK but the ICO said other firms which showed a similar disregard for the law and continue to bombard people with unlawful marketing texts and calls are likely to have action taken against them.
The ICO is currently investigating two other companies with a view of imposing significant penalties over breaches of the law.
All of this work has been made possible thanks to the information received from the public.
Bogus callers 'mislead' residents - 28 March 2013
Although we have not had any local reports, colleagues in Surrey and Oxford have issued warnings following a number of reports involving bogus callers, some claiming to be from Trading Standards. In one incident, a fake Trading Standards officer told an elderly woman they had identified a rogue trader who had worked on her property the previous year.
He then told the lady that the rogue trader had been taken into custody and asked for money to assist with evidence which was needed as part of the investigation.
Unfortunately one person, a woman in her 80s handed over more than a £1000.
This is certainly not how Trading Standards work. Trading Standards would never ask for payment and always carry photo identification.
As with an approach by any stranger claiming to represent any organisation, residents do not have to deal with that person until they have verified their identity. Residents should always:
- Ask for and take a close look at the identity card.
- Ask the person to confirm their name, job title and the organisation they work for.
- If your suspicions are raised do not let the person into your home. Tell them to make an appointment by phone or letter and contact the organisation they claim to represent using a number obtained from the phone book to check that it actually employs this person, yourself.
If any member of the public is approached by telephone or by cold call at the door by someone claiming to work for Trading Standards who asks for money as part of a refund or compensation for rogue trader problems, they should not pay any money or give any personal details and should call the National Consumer Helpline on 08454 04 05 06 to report the matter immediately.
If a member of the public feels threatened or in danger they should call 999.
E-mail claiming to be from Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit - 15 March 2013
Trading Standards are warning about an e-mail claiming to be from the Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit.
The e-mail is designed to make people think the file attached to it is part of an important security update.
The e-mail is not from Microsoft and the attached zip file contains a 'trojan horse' malware or virus which if opened will infect your machine potentially allowing cybercriminals access to it.
Trading Standards advises if you receive this e-mail do not open the attached file and delete the message.
Ash die back disease - 15 March 2013
Coventry Trading Standards have been made aware of incidents in other areas of the UK where rogue traders are cold calling on householders telling them that the ash tree on their property must be felled or pruned because of the ash dieback disease.
Trading Standards advises consumers not to deal with cold callers on the doorstep and never be pressurised into agreeing to have work done immediately. Always deal with reputable companies, like members of Coventry's Trusted Traders Scheme.
If you are concerned about Rogue Trader activity contact our colleagues at the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 08454 04 05 06.
Looking for a Trader you can Trust? Coventry's Trusted Traders offers a list of accredited traders covering everything from plumbing to gardening. For more information please see our website: www.coventry.gov.uk/tradingstandards
Other cold callers - 15 March 2013
We continue to receive reports from various locations within the City of cold callers offering general gardening work, pruning and property repairs such as rendering the front of the house, guttering, cleaning of drives/block paving. Some reports indicate that some of callers have been aggressive. Our advice is not to deal with such cold callers as often their work will be of a poor standard and although a low quote may be initially mentioned this usually increases when they 'discover' further work that needs to be done. You may also have difficulties in tracing them again should you need to call them back!
Fraudsters who set up car brokers to sting motorists - 15 March 2013
If you are buying a car watch out for so called 'car brokers'. This is a new tactic that has been brought to our attention to trick unsuspecting buyers into handing over their cash before seeing the car they want to buy.
The way it works is that the fraudster sets up a supposedly independent broker that claims it will secure third party payments until the deal goes ahead.
A London victim was persuaded to part with £7,000 to a firm that claimed they 'protected consumers from fraud'.
After responding to an Internet advert the seller suggested that as he lived in Northern Ireland he did not want to risk bringing the car to London only for the buyer not to turn up. The seller then suggested the services of a broker which the buyer would deposit their money with and this would only be released following an inspection of the car and when the buyer authorised the release of the funds.
Unfortunately after depositing the money to the fake broker the buyer only realised that he had been a victim of a scam when the seller never turned up. The buyer was unable to reverse the payment so lost their £7,000.
A similar incident has also been reported but this time the seller used a website that mimicked Google Wallet into which the buyer transferred the purchase price.
World Consumer Rights Day - 15 March 2013
To coincide with World Consumer Rights Day, Which? have launched a new & free consumer rights website designed to help people get clued up about their consumer rights. Containing straightforward advice on various problems from shopping rights to travel complaints and mobile phone issues, it also includes practical help to take action to get your money back - www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/
Trading Standards urges residents to be cautious over Council Tax claims - 13 March 2013
It is that time of year when Council Tax bills for the next financial year are being prepared and sent out but it is also an opportunity for some people to contact residents promising to secure a drop in council tax bills in exchange for a fee.
Over the years Trading Standards have received a number of enquiries from residents who have been contacted by people suggesting their property may have been incorrectly rated for council tax purposes and implying they are paying a higher level of council tax than their neighbours in the same area.
However, should you accept their offer of help there may be an upfront fee charged plus a further 30% of any savings as a result of any successful re-grading.
Although it is not illegal to offer such a service provided residents are not mislead, Coventry Trading Standards points out that a free valuation is available to any resident.
There may be many reasons that properties may have different council tax band ratings such as extensions to the home. Also worth noting is that in some cases a property's grading can reveal that the property needs re-grading to a higher council tax band.
Information about your council tax banding and the process for applying to have your council tax banding reviewed can be obtained FREE of charge by contacting your local Valuation Office on 03000 501 501 or by visiting the Valuation Office website
Suspicious call from the "Electricity Board"! - 13 March 2013
A resident in Potters Green alerted us to a couple of suspicious telephone calls they received from a male with a foreign accent saying that they were from the 'electricity board'. However, when challenged about the existence of the 'electricity board' the caller swiftly put the phone down. A 1471 search gave no number recorded
This clearly has all the hallmarks of being some kind of scam and had the conversation continued no doubt some kind of service would have been offered requiring personal information, such as bank account details and possibly an upfront payment via some kind of Money Transfer scheme such as MoneyGram® service or Ukash Vouchers, all of which are untraceable.
Do you have an old pension you no longer pay into? - 13 March 2013
If you do then you may want to look out for a text message from 60066 which a resident in the Westwood Ward received. The text said: "Do you have an old pension you no longer pay into? You could be eligible for a tax free lump sum. Reply 'CASH' to this text or 'OUT' to opt out."
Thankfully the local resident did a bit of research on the Internet and found numerous sites warning against this particular text.
As with any kind of service being offered an upfront fee will be required and there may be additional charges of up 20% to 30% which will be taken out of any funds by way of a 'Management Fee" leaving the owner of the pension with the rest.
Trading Standards advice is to delete the text but if you think you may have paid into a pension scheme but no longer have the