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2010

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OFT Scam, 'Bank calls' & TOP UP Card Scam -Trading Standards Warning

30 November 2010

Please warn your friends and neighbours of the following:

1. Calls purporting to be from the Office of Fair Trading and/or the VAT Department claiming that the consumer is due to receive a refund of VAT, of around £2,500. The caller advises the money will be received once a deposit of £250 is paid. Payment was to be made via a money transfer, the consumer was to collect the money transfer form from the post office and someone would ring him to help him fill in the form. Once filled in someone would call at his home to collect the money gram and the £2,500 handed over when the paperwork had been processed.

Checks with the OFT have confirmed the telephone number given by the caller is not one of theirs, but the legitimate OFT address was given

2. Lancashire residents have again been receiving phone calls allegedly from their bank asking for bank details using reasons such as 'there have been problems with your card'.. Within a short space of time substantial amounts of money have been spent, in one instance an item purchased for £6,500.


3. As the weather turns colder owners of prepayment electricity meters are being warned not to be duped into buying discount prepayment cards on the doorstep. Prepayment meters allow customers to put in a key or card, which can be ‘charged up' with cash, c riminals are using cloned keys to top up credit illegally and con members of the public into buying them. Over 114,000 households throughout Britain have already been affected by this scam with customers of all of the leading energy companies (British Gas, EDF Energy, E.ON, npower, Scottish Power and SSE) being affected.

Electricity companies do not sell top-up electricity door-to-door they only use official outlets displaying the Paypoint or Payzone logos.

Postal Scam Chain Email 2010 Phonepayplus Statement


17/11/2010 00:00:00



PhonepayPlus, the phone-paid services regulator, is aware that a chain e-mail about an alleged postal scam is being circulated on the internet. The email refers to the Royal Mail, Trading Standards and ICSTIS (PhonepayPlus' former name).
•PhonepayPlus appreciates that recipients of the email may want to find out more information about the alleged scam and has therefore issued the following statement:
•The chain email refers to a service (operating on 0906 6611911 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 0906 6611911 end_of_the_skype_highlighting ) that was shut down by PhonepayPlus (then ICSTIS) in December 2005.
•PhonepayPlus subsequently fined the company that was operating the service, Studio Telecom (based in Belize), £10,000.
•The service is NO LONGER running and has NOT been running since December 2005.
•You do NOT need to contact PhonepayPlus, or the Royal Mail, about this service as it was stopped almost four years ago.
•If you receive a copy of the email warning you about the alleged scam, please do NOT forward it to others. Instead, please forward this statement from PhonepayPlus.
•If you receive a delivery card through your letterbox which you do not believe is genuine and which asks you to dial a premium rate number, you can contact PhonepayPlus on 0800 500 212 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 0800 500 212 end_of_the_skype_highlighting (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm) for further guidance.
•Please go to http://www.phonepayplus.org.uk/output/FAQ.aspx  for useful information about how to recognise phone-paid services and understand what they cost, and some simple tips to help you enjoy using services with confidence.
•For more detailed information about PhonepayPlus' work, please visit www.phonepayplus.org.uk .



Virus and Business opportunity Scam -Trading Standards Warning

16 November 2010

Lancashire Trading Standards is warning consumers to beware of bogus telephone callers currently ringing Lancs residents. The callers claim to be from one of the large software providers. They inform consumers that their computers are full of viruses, and then request credit card details in order to charge a fee of typically around £70. As well as the loss of money, there is also the potential future fraud once criminals get hold of a customer's credit card details. An additional worry is in case they ask consumers to install a program to give the scam company remote control of your computer.

Secondly, computer users are being warned to be wary of an email asking to contact Kelso Consulting UK for 'profitable business ventures'. Whilst the unsolicited email implies it has originated in the UK , the wording of the email suggests this is not the case. The main body of the email is printed below:

Dear Sir

In line with the recent international business for profitable investment opportunity across the globe, we seek this medium to increase our client's interest in global and domestic alliances via various services Including Import and export of commodities in and outside your Country, Micro Financing, Real Estate Business, Building of small or big scale company or factory, expansion of any good business And a host of other profitable ventures.

If you think you are good in any of the mentioned business sector. Kindly contact us for possible business co-operation. (We take care of the finances)

Please do not hesitate to contact us true our private email: james_kane@263.net

Regards.

James Kane

Police Alert

Police in Northamptonshire would like to make people aware of the following report on BBC's “Watchdog” programme featured on 4 November 2010 about the following survey that is soon to be sent to over 1 million homes.

N-Power, Unilever and Talk Talk are among the many companies sponsoring a survey that is to be sent out by TNT. They request you fill in a questionnaire detailing your personal information and to leave it on your doorstep in an unsealed paper bag for collection the following day.

The questionnaire is five pages long and contains one hundred and eighty six questions about your personal circumstances.

The Information Commissioner's Office has stated that;

"These surveys usually require people to provide a large amount of personal information - ranging from whether they have any outstanding medical conditions, to details of their household income. Anyone approached to fill in one of these surveys should think twice before leaving information like this on their doorstep. They should be aware that anyone could potentially pick it up, opening the way to identity theft. People completing these forms should also understand who will have access to their information and what it will be used for."

More advice and information is available from the Watchdog website link. < http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/watchdog/2010/11/tnt_survey.html >



Windows Scam -Trading Standards Warning


27 October 2010

Consumers are warned to beware of traders who are making unsolicited phone calls, offering to repair a non-existent virus or software fault on the computers of Lancashire residents.

Some complainants have lost around £97 on credit cards after handing card details over on the phone. They may also ask the consumer to open a website or run through a program on their computer- the worry is that this may give the caller access to other personal information.

The caller will generally begin by saying that there is a problem in our area due to "an infection regarding Windows" or may claim to be linked with Microsoft.  The callers often know the name and address of the computer owner and know that they are Windows Users, which makes them seem more legitimate.

The callers tend to have strong non-Lancashire accents and ask for the user's computer to be switched on, in order for them to run tests. When challenged, the callers may try to give name and number details or may hang up altogether.

Consumers are warned not to hand card details out over the phone to any company they do not know and trust.

Bank Calls -Trading Standards Warning


26 October 2010

Lancashire Trading Standards service has received complaints relating to unsolicited phone calls to consumers, where the caller states that the call is from the 'F raud Credit Line'.

The caller then claims to be ringing on behalf of a named bank. They ask the recipient for their credit card number and other personal information, but do not ask any of the usual verification questions or give the caller's name when requested. The caller asks for the consumer by his or her full name including middle names, but when challenged refuses to give any contact details for the consumer to check on or call back on, and ends the conversation.

We can only assume this is another bogus company attempting to obtain personal information and advise extreme caution when contacted unexpectedly in this fashion.

Scam -Trading Standards Warning


13 October 2010

1. Residents are warned to beware of unsolicited texts offering the chance of accident compensation, sent by various sources, which have been widely distributed in Lancashire over the last few weeks. An example text is printed below:

FREEMSG:

Our records indicate you may be entitled to 3750 pounds for the Accident you had. To claim for free reply with CLAIM to this msg. To opt out text STOP.

Consumers need to be aware that there are many variations on this theme out there at the moment, and that they are standard texts sent at random in the hope that a percentage of the recipients will have been involved in an accident and may feel the text is linked to a reputable service. Responding in any way is likely to be expensive for the recipient.

2. Please be aware that we are receiving complaints that unsolicited El Gordo Spanish Sweepstake Lottery winning letters are sweeping the county once more, requesting personal and banking information to be sent to 'Frontiers security Company SA'. As usual, you need to be in it to win it, and all such winning lottery letters are of course fraudulent. However we still have vulnerable victims who are falling for such scams, hence we would ask for vigilance if anyone has neighbours or family members likely to fall for this letter.

3. Complaints have been received about unsolicited calls fraudulently claiming to be from the recipient's bank, and stating that they have good news- the bank has overcharged them and they need to make a small payment to their bank in Delhi in order to secure the refund. Mention is made of overseas banking operations and an account in Delhi for the money to be sent to, and the consumer is told they will receive a confirmation call from the Office of Fair Trading.

4. Consumers are receiving unsolicited phone calls claiming to be from the Telephone Preference Service or other companies, promising to prevent cold telephone calls, and offering this service for a one-off payment of typically £35, made over the phone. Be aware that the Telephone Preference Service does not cold call and the registration service is free. Any calls that can be stopped should be stopped by registering with them. Call 0845 070 0707 to register.

Please r efer any complaints to Lancashire Trading Standards Service, 55 Guildhall Street , Preston , Lancs PR1 3NU via Consumer Direct tel 08454 040506. If anyone received threats or has lost money they should contact the police.

Bogus crime prevention calls and publications
-Trading Standards Warning

01 October 2010

Lytham and St Annes:


Consumers are warned that unsolicited phone calls are being received by residents from a company that claims that it is operating on behalf of local Crime Prevention, and that the caller is looking to set up a Neighbourhood Watch Zone. The purpose of the phone call appears to be to find out personal details about the resident. Please be aware that these calls appear to be unconnected with either the police or Neighbourhood Watch. We advise people never to give out personal details on the phone when cold-called.

County-wide:

Small businesses are warned that unsolicited phone calls are being received by farm shops, hairdressers and hardware shops, selling space in publications variously claiming links with the council, the police or the fire brigade (sometimes just sold as 'funding the emergency services'). The claims are far-fetched to say the least, and it is unlikely that such publications will be distributed as promised. Be aware that any agreement on the phone or by email will result in the company claiming they have a binding contract with the business, often for three years. Our advice is to shop around for reputable publications and advertise in those, never just accept the word of a cold-caller discussing an unknown publication.

Please r efer any complaints to Lancashire Trading Standards Service, 55 Guildhall Street , Preston , Lancs PR1 3NU via Consumer Direct tel 08454 040506. If anyone has lost money they should also contact the police, or alternatively refer to Action Fraud via their website www.actionfraud.org.uk or number 0300 123 2040.

Fraudulent Tax Rebate Emails -Trading Standards Warning


27 September 2010

Yet again there are hoax emails being sent out to people regarding tax refunds – some of them look very convincing this time around, sometimes using HMRC logos.  As you can see from the information below issued by HMRC, they never correspond with customers about tax refunds by email.  

From the HMRC website:

"Phishing emails

HMRC will never send notifications of a tax rebate by email, or ask you to disclose personal or payment information by email.

You should never disclose your personal and/or payment information in reply to an email that may look like it's from HMRC, you may well be revealing your details to a fraudulent website.

If you have received an email claiming to be from HMRC that you suspect may be fraudulent, please forward it to phishing@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk .

However, if you have already given any of your personal information, for example your HMRC User ID, password or National Insurance number, in reply to a suspect email please forward brief details to security.custcon@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk .

Please do not disclose any of your personal details or information in the email report to us. However it would help us to investigate if you would tell us the type(s) of information that you disclosed to the suspect website. For example - I gave my Name, Address, Date of Birth, bank card details, HMRC User ID etc.

Unfortunately HMRC cannot reply to every email, but please be assured that action is taken on each report received."

As well as emailing HMRC as requested above, please r efer any complaints to Lancashire Trading Standards Service, 55 Guildhall Street, Preston, Lancashire PR1 3NU via Consumer Direct tel 08454 040506. If anyone has lost money they should contact the police, or alternatively refer to Action Fraud via their website www.actionfraud.org.uk or number 0300 123 2040.



Fraudulent loan Applications


15 September 2010

Complaints have been received regarding letters received by consumers from MCO Capital Limited about a repayment of a loan.   

It is believed that MCO Capital Limited is a legitimate loan company and that a number of people from across the UK have had their identity stolen in order for fraudsters to take out loans, in various names, with MCO Capital Limited.  

If you have received one of these letters and have not taken out a loan, DO NOT IGNORE IT . It may affect your credit rating and you may find bailiffs on your doorstep if you do not take action to inform MCO you did not request this loan.  

In the circumstances MCO have asked that complainants should write to them care of their registered office address to confirm that a loan has not been requested and payment has not been received. Their address is Imperial House, 15-19 Kingsway London WC2B 6UN.  

Anyone receiving such letters may also wish to conduct a credit reference search (with an agency such as Equifax or Experian) to ascertain if any fraudulent applications have been made against their name and address. There will be a charge for this service.  

If you have lost money to a fraudster, please report it as soon as possible.



Email Scam

15 September 2010

Consumers are warned to beware of the following variation on the 'respond and you will get lots of money' scam. The unsolicited email gives a Yahoo email address to respond to and is a way of hooking vulnerable people into giving personal details. The main body of the email is printed below:

RE: MY LAST WILL

Assalam Allekum,

My name is Mohammed Ahmed. I am a dying man who have decided to donate the sum of $18m million dollars.) to you for the good work of the humanity.

Please contact me via email for details information on this noble project of mine Please note

that I have WILLED $18m to you by quoting my personal reference number s/Jds/577/0018/HtrI/33ln/eg so that i can confirm that you actually received my email notice to you.

Wassalam and regards,

Mohammed Ahmed

Consumers need to be aware that there are thousands of variations on such a theme out there at the moment and that they are all fraudulent- there is no reason for a stranger to hand out money to someone he does not know in another country.

Rogue Tarmacers

9 September 2010

Consumers are warned to beware of traders targeting rural Lancashire residents, by offering to tarmac roads and drives using material allegedly left over from council work.

On one occasion an older farming couple in the Hyndburn area was told that the men were working on a neighbouring road and had ordered too much tarmac, which is not believed to be true. They were charged over £2000 to cover their drive with tarmac.

On a second occasion a cold caller used a similar story and told a farmer in the rural outskirts of Chorley that he was working for the council and had left-over tarmac to use up, which was offered at £2.50 per square foot.

These individuals are not council contractors and Lancashire County Council would like to make it clear that they are not carrying out official work on the highways.

A fake address in Sheffield is given and the work is overcharged and consists of a surface skim which is unlikely to last long. One of the men has an Irish accent and drives a silver car.

Bogus callers

3 September 2010

Consumers are warned to beware of scam merchants making phone calls to unsuspecting Lancashire residents. Please warn your friends and neighbours of the following:

1. Calls purporting to be from the Office of Fair Trading claiming that the consumer is due to receive a refund for overpaid bank charges, of around £800 to £3,000. The money will be received once a deposit of £195 is paid at the nearest post office, probably by money transfer (we do not have a complainant who has paid so far). The consumer will be given a receipt and later that day an official from the OFT will deliver a cheque to their door.

2. Calls purporting to be from Microsoft, claiming there are viruses on the computer and they need to sort this out. Consumers are asked to log on to various websites where they will be talked through certain steps, involving running a programme which may allow the caller to take control of the computer. On some occasions consumers are asked for bank details, on other occasions they take steps which allow another to obtain access to their computer, which may include access to personal details.

3. Bogus calls to students from 'Student Finance' informing them there has been a hitch with their student loans, and they will have to give their bank details again by clicking on a computer link if they wish to receive the money.

4. Cold calls falsely claiming to be from utilities companies, asking if there is anyone over 70 in the house, offering various energy-saving products and charging £100 for them.

5. Resurrection of the scam where a cold caller falsely claims to be from a borough council and attempts to get bank details out of a consumer in order to repay them previously overpaid council tax charges.

6. A scam where consumers who have previously lost out on shares frauds with American links are informed the US government has a scheme where they recover the defrauded amounts, and then pay 85% of the lost share value. The consumer needs to pay for this service, and on one occasion the amount quoted was £25,000. The trader claims to be linked to a British bank and gives a name listed with the Financial Services Authority.

Bogus loan caller

5 August 2010

Residents are asked to be aware that a company calling itself Quick Finance  is somehow following up on queries made about loans. Their operatives cold call by telephone, claiming to be linked to the major loan provider or credit broker at which enquiries have been made, and offer loans of £20,000 or £30,000 when a fee is paid to India by money transfer. If a fee is paid, more money will be demanded. One Lancashire resident has paid over £1,000 and still has no prospect of the loan she needs, and there other complaints from throughout the Northwest.

Consumers should not give bank or credit card details over the phone unless they are sure that a company is genuine, and should be aware that money transfer payments are impossble to get back when things go wrong.

Job Hunter and 2012 olympic Ticket Sales


2 August 2010

JOB-HUNTERS are being warned that some adverts for mystery shoppers, offering earnings of £300 per week, which have recently appeared in newspapers, are likely to be a sophisticated way to acquire bank details. When responding to an advertisement consumers are then asked for personal details and up-front payment.
This is yet another home-working scheme designed to part job-hunters from their money while offering very little in return. We are strongly advising people not to get involved with anything involving the words "Mystery Shopper". When applying for any home-working job, the moment there is any mention of asking for up-front payment people should walk away.

Trading standards officers are also warning residents to beware scams involving tickets for the 2012 Olympic Games. Be aware that tickets will not be available until 2011 and will only be sold through the official website and authorised ticket resellers. Residents may pre-register for tickets free of charge from the official 2012 Olympic website although pre-registering does not guarantee tickets. You will not be asked to pay money or sign a contract till 2011. If any website offers bargain tickets before 2011 it will be fraudulent.

Cleaner Sales


17 June 2010

Residents are asked to be aware of the following practice currently targeting the Adlington area in Chorley , but also recently reported elsewhere:

A b usiness selling vacuum cleaners is intensively leafleting houses, distributing raffle tickets to win a Nissan Micra or a free carpet shampoo. Customers who give their details on the raffle tickets may then be contacted and informed they have won a free carpet shampoo. During the visit to carry this out, they will be subject to a sales pitch for an expensive vacuum cleaner costing between £1000 and £2000. Residents need to be aware of the sales business behind this free cleaning offer. Tradesmen should always leave premises when asked- if not, report them to Trading Standards.

Consumers agreeing to deal with traders where the contract is agreed at the consumer's home should be aware that they will have a cooling off period to cancel any work agreed to, or any purchases made over £35, although in certain circumstances the customer may have to pay for any goods installed or work carried out so far. Also be aware that the contract will not be enforceable against the customer unless information about your right to cancel is given in writing.

We advise residents never to deal with cold-callers, to ensure you obtain full name, address and landline details from all workmen, and to double-check identification and references from other customers- do not assume credentials are genuine. Also ensure any price you are quoted is fair and genuine by obtaining estimates from other traders or sellers, and by ensuring the work agreed and the price to be charged is written down on a quotation before you agree to the work starting. Using a credit card for a purchase over £100 may give extra protection should problems arise further down the line.

Roofs and Driveways- Trading Standards Warning

16 June 2010

Lancashire Trading Standards are warning that June has brought an increase in the incidence of cold-calling driveway and roofing complaints, and that residents are asked to be on guard against the gangs of workmen targeting towns across the region, and to look out for any vulnerable or older neighbours who may be pressurised by cold callers. No one gang is responsible for the complaints- descriptions of the traders vary vastly.

Complaints about cold-calling roofers have come in from Hutton, Bamber Bridge, Burnley, Nelson, Barnoldswick, Leyland, and Skelmersdale and include aggressive practices, cracked tiles, vastly increasing prices throughout the job, newly-installed cappings hanging off, peeling paint, and fairly new roofs painted with 'sealants' for extortionate prices. Typically the traders are uncontactable when things go wrong or promise to return to fix problems but never arrive. In some cases the roofers have pestered householders until they have finally given in and reluctantly agreed to the work.

Complaints about cold-calling paving and driveways companies have been received from Morecambe, Preston, Leyland, Ormskirk and Fleetwood and include persistence until the resident agrees to the work, messy concrete or broken tarmac, blocked drains caused by the work, and in one case a resident left unable to open the shed door due to the tarmac outside it. Yet again faults remain unfixed since the workers often leave uncontactable numbers.

Residents are advised to use reputable traders with land lines, local addresses and references. Alternatively check for a trader on the County Council-backed Safe Trader website www.safetrader.org.uk .

Boiler Room Scams -Trading Standards Warning

15 June 2010

Following on the heels of a fraud in Lancaster where a lady lost over £90,000 on bogus shares, it has been revealed that thousands of other Lancashire residents are at risk from crooked share scamsters, according a recently- recovered master list used by boiler room fraudsters.

Boiler room frauds occur when victims are cold called out of the blue and sold bogus or unsellable shares, often penny shares. The usual method is to make three phone calls to an existing share-owner. The first call will be friendly and chatty, and mention some shares that are doing well. The second call will inform the customer that the previously-mentioned shares have increased in value considerably, and suggest purchasing some in the future, but end the call without closing the deal. The third call will then go for the jugular, applying pressure to close the deal, and may use threats and claim that a contract was made on the previous call and is now being broken. The sellers commonly have fake UK addresses and route their phone lines abroad.

The list is the biggest the Financial Services Authority has ever recovered and is believed to still be in active use by boiler rooms operating in the UK and abroad.

It contains the names and addresses of more than 38,000 people, including over three thousand from Lancashire and Yorkshire , believed to be the intended targets of get-rich-quick scam merchants, who contact their victims out of the blue and offer them worthless or bogus shares.

Every person on the list will be written to by the authorities to warn them that they could be the target of share fraud, and to inform them how to avoid getting scammed.

Advice to those approached by cold calling share sellers is never to buy anything and to put down the receiver straight away. It is very unusual for a genuine company to sell shares by telephone. Consumers should therefore always assume any cold-called approach is suspect, and should never agree to buy or sell shares in this way. Anyone selling shares should be registered with the Financial Services Authority (FSA) -this register can be checked on-line or on the phone.

The estimated cost of boiler room fraud in the UK is £200 million per year. The average victim reporting the scam loses £20,000.  

Anybody who thinks they may have been targeted by a boiler room should call the FSA's customer contact centre on 0845 606 1234. Advice is also available from Consumer Direct on 08454 040506, while anyone who has been the victim of fraud should report the case to the police.

Warning issued by Lancashire County Council Trading Standards Service.

Computer Viruses and World Cup Scammers -Trading Standards Warning


15 June 2010

Lancashire Trading Standards is warning consumers to beware of bogus telephone callers currently ringing Lancs residents. The callers claim to be from one of the large software providers. They inform consumers that their computers are full of viruses, and then request credit card details in order to charge a fee of typically around £70. As well as the loss of money, there is also the potential future fraud once criminals get hold of a customer's credit card details. An additional worry is in case they ask consumers to install a program to give the scam company remote control of your computer.

A second warning is linked to lottery scammers, who have seized on the World Cup to mass-mail Lancashire consumers with 'winning' letters purporting to be from the '2010 FIFA World Cup Promotion'. The worry is that many people will have purchased tickets and entered competitions related to the World Cup, and are therefore more likely to respond, believing the letters to be genuine. This particular letter fraudulently bears several brand logos from World Cup sponsors- McDonalds, Budweiser, Continental etc- and purports to be from the UK Bond Security Company, giving false addresses on Canary Wharf and Oxford Street in London . Consumers are asked to phone or fax their bank details to numbers provided.

Scam Warnings 25/05/10

25 May 2010

LANCASHIRE County Council is warning consumers to beware of hard-selling alarm salesmen peddling cheap alarms that come with expensive maintenance contracts.

These companies are currently hitting the Preston, Penwortham, Ashton on Ribble, Whittingham, Fulwood, Lytham, Chorley , Fleetwood, and Whitworth areas, but have also been all over the county in recent months and have been the subject of previous warnings.

Residents are telephoned by salesmen and women who make appointments to come round and sell alarms for £1, however if the offer is taken up the arrangements entered into will cost several thousands in maintenance contracts over several years. Sometimes consumers are tied into credit agreements which can then almost double the maintenance cost.The company is alleged to use hard-sell tactics and to say that the resident has lost a great opportunity if refusing, & that they would now be contacting another household in the area with this great offer. There are also indications from some salesmen that residents have been specially chosen to take part in a survey, or that the company has crime prevention or other official links.

We would be grateful to receive any further intelligence on sales pitches and claims made, although we are stressing to consumers that they should refuse these offers at once, and not make appointments with any cold callers. Please refer any complaints to Lancashire Trading Standards Service, 55 Guildhall Street, Preston, Lancs PR1 3NU via Consumer Direct tel 08454 040506 and ask them to pass the information to trading standards straight away.

Scam Warnings
25/05/10

25 May 2010

LANCASHIRE County Council is warning consumers to beware of fish salesmen travelling down from the North East, persuading householders into buying hundreds of pounds worth of fresh fish.


The traders have recently been door to door in Preston and Lytham, asking residents if they would like to buy some fish. A piece of fresh white fish is shown, and fish such as 'wild' salmon (which is then supplied labelled 'farmed') is offered at "cheaper than supermarket prices".

Householders think they are only buying a few pieces but they are then supplied with a large amount of often unlabelled fish, some of it unfit to eat and requiring instant disposal, and a bill for over three hundred pounds.

When buying fish this way, the purchaser has no way of knowing how it has been stored or whether it is safe to eat. Furthermore, a lack of cancellation rights or a receipt makes any problems difficult to sort out. These traders originate outside of Lancashire and the absence of paperwork makes tracing them a problem.

We would be grateful to receive any further intelligence on these salemen, especially if they are currently trading in any area. Please refer any complaints to Lancashire Trading Standards Service, 55 Guildhall Street, Preston, Lancs PR1 3NU via Consumer Direct tel 08454 040506 and ask them to pass the information to trading standards straight away.

Scam Warnings 12/05/10

12 May 2010

Please be advised that a number of complaints are being received relating to cold calling by men selling intercoms systems to residents of sheltered accommodation and local authority housing throughout the Leyland, Preston, Lancaster and Burnley/ Pendle areas.

Various reports have been received and there are believed to be two companies currently operating in this way.

One company, which gives a Blackpool address, advises residents that the cost of the intercoms is usually £80 but will cost £40 if purchased through the Council. Sometimes residents believe the intercoms are linked to police schemes, or to their housing provider, none of which is true.

A second set of two salesmen, sometimes giving Lancaster addresses, are operating in the east of the county and appear to be charging around £250 for intercoms systems. Residents are led to believe the company is connected with the housing provider and are shocked at then having to pay.

Plesae be aware these companies have no official links, the products may not work, and damage may be caused to doors etc when a drill is used during the fitting.

We would be grateful to receive any further intelligence on these salemen, especially if they are currently trading in an area. Please refer any complaints to Lancashire Trading Standards Service, 55 Guildhall Street, Preston, Lancs PR1 3NU via Consumer Direct tel 08454 040506 and ask them to pass the information to trading standards straight away. If there is any fraud or criminal damage the matter should also be referred to the police.

Scam Warnings 04/05/10

4 May 2010

Residents are advised that there are a number of scams in circulation at the moment.

One involves second hand cars sold at attractive prices on the Autotrader website. When enquired about, the vehicles are currently based abroad and a quick sale is desired for personal reasons. Potential buyers are informed that the vehicle will be sent over using a shipping agent, typically costing £600 or so, either to be halved between the seller and buyer, or paid by the buyer. There will then be a chance for inspection. If the buyer is not happy the shipping cost will be refunded. Be aware that this is a variation on an ongoing vehicle-purchase scam- the vehicle does not exist, and the 'seller' intends to take the money and run.

Buyers are advised to be suspicious of email-only sales where they cannot speak to a seller. Also be careful when purchasing items to be sent from abroad- it can be dangerous to send money up front. Check that a seller in the UK actually lives at the house he claims to be resident at, and that a logbook is produced where addresses tie in.

A second scam involves Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which claims consumers have made large amounts on stocks and shares but that a fee has to be paid to release the money. This is easy to fall for if the consumer, although chosen at random, happens to possess such investments, but is of course another fee scam.

A further reminder is issued relating to clothing collection company Supporting Arms, currently collecting in the county– please be aware that this company is not a registered charity and any goods given are going to a business operation.

Scam Warnings 29/04/10

29 April 2010

Residents are advised that a number of issues have arisen relating to the alleged non-arrival of concert tickets purchased from www.worldwideticketstore.com , which is believed to be a possible scam.

The site does not appear to be accessible at the moment but may start up again.

If ordered tickets are not received, and customers cannot get in touch with the supplier, they should contact their credit card company in writing explaining the problem and asking for their credit card to be refunded with the amount paid, under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974. If a debit card has been used this section does not apply, however in this case the credit card issuer should be asked if there is a chargeback scheme for contracts where fraud or non-performance is an issue.

Please refer any complaints to Lancashire Trading Standards Service, 55 Guildhall Street , Preston , Lancs PR1 3NU via Consumer Direct tel 08454 040506. If there is any loss of money the matter should also be referred to the police.

Doorstep Warnings 08/04/10

22 March 2010

Residents are advised that there are several possibly unfair practices hitting Lancashire at the moment.

Euxt on, South Ribble area: R esidents are being telephoned in the early evening by a male who says he is from "The Crime Prevention Office" stating that the police arenot happy with the alarms in this area, as they are very unreliable & they will not respond to an alarm sounding. Soon after, a female rings, not giving a company name, but saying her company is marketing wireless alarms, & they could arrange a house visit & survey for only one pound. The alarm would cost approximately £2000, but it would be linked to a private company, who would respond if the alarm sounded.
The company is alleged to use hard- sell tactics and to say that the resident has lost a great opportunity if refusing, & that they would now be contacting another household in the area with this great offer. This sales tactic appears to be a new variation on the recent flood of sales attempts throughout Lancashire where residents have been "chosen" for a free alarm system. Once in the house they will be signed up to a maintenance agreement costing thousands.

Needless to say, the company is not linked to the police or to their crime prevention officers.

Fleetwood- young men have been leafletting houses for a window company while wearing jackets bearing the word "Police". When quizzed they said they were designer jackets. Residents should bear in mind that operatives selling such goods and services door-to-door will not be connected to any official organisation.

The Ribble Valley : A company called International Awards, which is based abroad, possibly in the US , is writing to consumers to inform them they have won a sum of money. They are sent a cheque for £1900 and asked to bank it. The consumer is then asked to send the money back via cheque as a matter of urgency in order to pay taxes, on the promise that there will be a very large amount delivered by special courier in less than 72 hours, although the consumer must not disclose this to anyone for security reasons. Once the second cheque is cashed and the money vanishes from the consumer's account they find out that the original cheque has bounced.

Throughout Lancashire: We are receiving lots of complaints from small businesses about various companies cold calling by telephone and demanding payment for

previously-agreed advertisements in various types of publications, ranging from health and safety magazines, to wedding planners or hotel brochures. In many cases card details are given on the understanding that the contract was agreed by another partner or the company boss, when in fact no contract is in existence. In addition, many of the publications do not appear to exist. Businesses are requested to advise their admin or accounts staff to double-check all payment requests for advertising.

Throughout Lancashire: A company hands out draw tickets for a car, they then ring consumers to tell them they have not won the car but have won the opportunity to have a carpet shampooed free of charge.  They do not inform consumers on the phone that they are going to try to sell them a Kirby vaccuum cleaner for almost £2,500. Consumers may then face a long session of demonstrations and hard-sell tactics in their home, as well as further sales attempts by phone. Trading Standards advises that unless residents really want an expensive vacuum cleaner they should not accept the offer of a free carpet clean, since it is easy to say yes to an unwanted product once salesmen are in your home.

Throughout Lancashire: Consumers are receiving emails purporting to be from HSBC, informing the consumer that they have logged in unsuccessfully for internet banking, and asking them to re-try. The emails are scams attempting to obtain personal information from consumers and should not be responded to.

Residents are advised of an incident involving cold calling traders which occurred today in an established No Cold Calling Area in Thornton Cleveleys.

Two UPVC window salesmen entered the signed No Cold Calling Area and informed householders that they had been authorised by the local police to enter the zone. When challenged by one resident, they gave him a police log number which they claimed exempted them from the usual NCCA controls. The resident rang the police in front of the salesmen, who then ran away. The log number was of course bogus. We have no details of the window business the salesmen were from. Our advice to NCCA residents is not to be taken in by this ploy and to continue refusing all business with cold calling traders.

Please refer any complaints to Lancashire Trading Standards Service, 55 Guildhall Street , Preston , Lancs PR1 3NU via Consumer Direct tel 08454 040506. If there is any loss of money the matter should also be referred to the police.

Doorstep Warnings 15/02/10

15 February 2010

Residents are advised that there are several scams and possible unfair practices hitting Lancashire at the moment.

South Ribble- consumers have complained about a cold caller who phones, saying that he is from British Telecom, and that he is offering a new service called "Do Not Call ". For a one off payment of £9.95 the consumer can take advantage of a life-long service banning cold calls. Financial information to pay for this service is then requested over the telephone. Consumers are warned that these phone calls are not made on behalf of BT, and asked not to give personal information to companies they do not know over the phone.

South Ribble, West Lancs- " Supporting Arms " bags have been left for collection at various locations, asking for unwanted goods. These are not left on behalf of a registered charity, and unfortunately the collections sometimes coincide the collection of other bags left by properly registered charities. Please be aware that the profits from sales of goods given to such companies as Supporting Arms are likely to go to support private businesses rather than charitable enterprises.

Throughout Lancashire- consumers selling goods on ebay are warned that after notification by ebay that a sale has been successful, you may receive a fake email, very official in appearance and purporting to be from Paypa l, requesting that you post the item and send them the tracking number. The email states that payment has been received but is in a holding account till paypal receives the requested information, at which point they will release the money. Believing that the email is genuine, the seller then posts the item abroad, only to find later that the paypal email is fake when no payment is received. Please be very careful when sending any goods abroad, especially to Africa where many of these scams originate.

Throughout Lancashire- Businesses, schools and nursing homes across the county are being warned to watch out for bogus invoices that claim to be from directory publisher Yell in relation to its products and services. The warning comes after a number of complaints, including one from an Accrington primary school that recently received a bogus £500 invoice. The scammers seek to mislead Yell customers into signing up to fake advertising contracts which sometimes result in repeated requests for payment by phone. Some people may be duped into thinking they are taking out Yell advertising or renewing existing advertising programmes. Bogus order forms are sent by e-mail or fax and contain look-alike "Yellow Pages" branding. Customers who return the form subsequently receive invoices and requests for payment. Some have even received threatening telephone calls. In one instance, scammers set up copycat websites resembling Yell.com. Yell customers should be particularly alert to any correspondence they receive containing contact or bank account details in Holland or Germany . Some of the names to beware of are:
• Yellow Page UK  or Yellow Page AG , which displays an inverted "walking fingers" logo.
• Yellow Pages 24 .
• UK  Yellow Guide .
Anyone receiving contact from these traders or anyone similar should ignore any order forms and should not pay any invoices.

Throughout Lancashire- Another lottery scam apparently based in Italy- the name given is Chic Express , giving an address in Piemonte- the unsolicited letters claim the consumer has won £66,000 but needs to send a £20 administration fee in the envelope provided. The letters purport to come from Collins & Partners Practice, so-called experts in security & financial transfers.

Residents are strongly advised never to give out personal bank details in response to an unsolicited call or mailing.

Doorstep Warnings 26/01/10

26 January 2010

Residents are advised that there are several scams and possible unfair practices hitting Lancashire at the moment.

Chorley and Adlington- men with strong accents are cold calling residents by telephone and pretending to be from Chorley borough council. They claim that the resident's house has been over-rated for council tax, that it is being dropped a band and hence a refund is due, and that the consumer needs to give the caller his or her bank details so that the refund can be given. Needless to say this is a scam, and residents should be strongly warned about these calls.

Rossendale and South Ribble- there are reports of a companies, one giving a Blackpool address, calling consumers and offering to claim back missold payment protection insurance or bank charges. Credit card details are requested and amounts then taken from accounts. Consumers should be aware that a recent Supreme Court judgement ruled for the banks on the issue of allegedly unclear overdraft charges, hence it is more difficult to claim back banking charges. In addition such businesses should be registered as claims management companies with the Ministry of Justice, which is often not the case. Be aware that anyone giving card details over the phone may end up paying more than anticipated. There are proper free channels to investigate overcharging and mis-selling- firstly complain to the bank, and then to the Banking Ombudsman if the response is unsatisfactory.

Rossendale and Ribble Valley- consumers have complained that a cold caller has phoned, said he is sorting out their computer problem when they have not reported one, and then asking for personal and financial details.

Rossendale- a company claiming to be based in India are cold calling residents by telephone and claiming to be collecting income tax. Discounts are offered for agreeing to pay over the phone, and payment details are requested.

 

Preston and South Ribble- burglar alarm salesmen have been cold calling by telephone offering free alarms to residents and discussing the crime problems in the respective districts to persuade the consumers to agree to survey visits. Be warned that while the alarms may be free, consumers sign up to expensive service agreements which may last several years and cost a total in the thousands.

Residents are strongly advised never to give out personal bank details in response to an unsolicited call or mailing.

Doorstep Warnings
22/01/10

Doorstep Issues

22 January 2010

Residents are asked to be aware of the following trader currently operating in Lancashire :

Following several consumer queries, Lancashire Trading Standards Service wishes to warn Lancashire residents that sacks which have been left on people's doorsteps on behalf of Essex-based company Supporting Arms Ltd  should not be mistaken for the ones usually deposited by charities.

The firm involved in this case is a profit-making concern. We cannot say for certain that no money is ever given to charity, however it is likely that the only people who benefit from the public's generosity in this instance is Supporting Arms Ltd and those employed by or for them.

The company has been handing out bags (usually blue) throughout Lancashire, recently targeting the Preston area, and currently collecting in the Chorley and Eccleston areas. It requests donors to supply it with anything from clothes to household goods which are then apparently sent to Eastern Europe and Africa where people are employed to sort out the goods for sale and distribution. The managing director of the company is Lithuanian but based in Essex .

We do not believe any criminal acts are being committed by the company, but are anxious to ensure that residents do not read more into the wording on the bag than is actually stated. The number on there- 06846572- is a registered company number and not an indication that Supporting Arms Ltd is a charity or has any charitable status.

Doorstep Warnings 21/01/10

Doorstep Issues

21 January 2010

Residents are asked to be wary of the following traders currently operating in Lancashire :

Thornton Cleveleys: Following the arrest of a gang of four for offences relating to work carried out on a pensioner's drive in Thornton Cleveleys on 18 January, in a joint Police and Trading Standards operation which saved the consumer at least £2500, Lancashire Trading Standards Service is warning residents that the gang is believed to have been targetting older residents throughout the county for some time. They operate from sites in various parts of the county, often giving Skelmersdale or Preesall addresses, and are described as white men, some with Irish accents, using a white Ford Transit and a white Ford Flatbed. They cold call and start work washing, then digging up and tarmacing, driveways almost at once. They also offer to mend gateposts or paint roofs. Free work (usually washing drives) may be offered initially though this may then be charged for. High pressure sales tactics are believed to be used and consumers are unclear exactly what has been agreed to. No written cancellation rights are given- a criminal offence. It is believed the work offered may be unnecessary.

The leader of the arrested gang is already being prosecuted by a neighbouring Trading Standards Service after targeting older consumers for unnecessary or misdescribed work, and is believed to be based in Lancashire but working across the North West.

Residents are asked to warn all their neighbours about a group of Irish men cold calling and carrying out this type of work county-wide and beyond, and keep an eye out for anyone vulnerable in the area.

This incident is only one of 39 complaints from Lancashire consumers in December and January, relating to cold calling traders, received and investigated by Lancashire Trading Standards Service.

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