Scams Bulletin – March 2019

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The purpose of this scams bulletin is to enable Hampshire residents to be aware, and therefore guard against the type of scams currently being reported to Hampshire County Council Trading Standards Service.

White Goods Insurance Policy Scam

The Trading Standards Service warns Hampshire residents about receiving an unsolicited telephone call from someone offering to sell them an insurance policy for their white goods.

The caller may say that a current insurance or warranty cover has expired and that this must be extended, or they will try to sell a new policy. They will want to take payment for the policy immediately which may be anything from approximately £28 upwards. Although paperwork with details of the cover will be sent, invariably the policy will not exist or it may be unnecessary or not needed.

Case Study

Mrs K, who was recently widowed, received a call from a trader offering insurance cover on her washing machine. She said the call caught her off guard and worried her because she was used to her late husband dealing with the financial paperwork. Therefore, she agreed to pay £32 to extend an insurance policy for a year. Shortly afterwards, she received a copy of the policy but also received further calls from different traders offering further polices on white and electrical goods. This resulted in Mrs K spending over £300 on polices that were worthless and in some cases for goods she did not own. Mrs K received such a call when her carer was present who recognised this as a scam. With her help, Mrs K managed to cancel some of the policies and obtain refunds. However, many of the traders were not contactable by telephone or letters were returned as ‘addressee has gone away’. Mrs K was given advice on dealing with unsolicited telephone calls and was advised to purchase a telephone whereby she could screen her calls. 

Fifa / Tokyo 2020 Lottery Scams

With the Olympic Games coming up in 2020, fraudsters are taking advantage of this global event and sending letters or emails alleging the recipient has won a large cash prize. Whilst the communication can include logos or branding that look official, they may also be badly written and contain mistakes. Invariably pressure will be placed upon the recipient to act urgently or the prize will be lost, and there may also be a warning not to tell anyone about the prize.

Such communications are a direct attempt to gather personal information from members of the public (known as ‘phishing’) that can then be used fraudulently or sold on to criminals. In other instances, once contact has been made, the perpetrator may ask for payment to process the ‘prize’. 

It is always best to exercise caution should you receive a similar letter. Remember;

  • If you have not entered a lottery you can not possibly have won a prize. 
  • Always be wary of any request for personal information.
  • Always be wary of any scheme that asks for money upfront.
  • Always be wary if pressure in placed to respond quickly or not to tell anyone. This is a classic tactic used be scammers. 
  • Look out for poor grammar and spelling mistakes in unsolicited correspondence. 

If in doubt, DO NOT respond and check any correspondence with someone you trust.

Example of this type of correspondence.

Debt Collection Scam

Hampshire Trading Standards Service has received reports from aggrieved residents about fraudulent debt collection letters. 

In two cases, this would appear to be a ‘second wave’ scam whereby the aggrieved had previously been subjected to a time share fraud. 

Case study

Mr M received a letter from a fictional debt collection agency alleging he owed approximately £2000 to the Spanish courts in connection with a time share. They said unless he phoned to pay the alleged debt as a matter of urgency, he would receive a County Court Judgment and end up owing more money. Whilst the envelope was addressed to Mr M, the letter appeared generic and was addressed to Sir/Madam.

In a separate incident, Mrs L received an identical letter.

Both Mr M and Mrs L recognised this was most likely a scam, and thankfully no money was lost.

Treat any communication asking for money with caution, even if it appears to be from a debt collection agency or a well known organisation such as HMRC or the DVLA. If you do not owe money, and if the letter is sent from abroad, it is most likely a scam. 

Banking Scam

Hampshire Trading Standards Service continues to receive information about so called courier or banking scams.

This fraud starts with an unsolicited telephone call from someone pretending to be from the bank, fraud investigation unit, Police or a similar enforcement or official body. The caller may ask;

  • For card details, then send a taxi to pick up the bank card. 
  • The victim to draw out cash which they will then come to collect by taxi or courier.
  • For money to be transferred by online banking.
  • For money to be transferred at the bank.
  • For the victim to log onto their online bank account. The scammer may then gain remote access to either transfer money or install a ‘dummy screen’ which will show money being paid in.

Banking protocol provides that counter staff must be on the lookout for this type of fraud and question a customer over any unusual transactions. However, a worrying development being reported to Trading Standards is that the fraudster will try to keep one step ahead by asking the victim to lie or use tactics that make the transaction appear genuine. 

Case study

Miss K was contacted by a scammer who claimed to be her internet provider. They said unless she transferred money into a holding account her internet would be cut off. Miss K was advised by the scammer to visit her bank and transfer £8,000 into an account that had been set up in her mother’s name. By doing this and advising Miss K to say the transfer was for her mother, the scammer negated the need for any suspicion to be raised. Miss K was then asked to transfer further money the following day. She has transferred approximately £15,000 with little chance of recovering the money.

Miss K has received advice on protection herself from unsolicited telephone calls such as installing a call blocker or changing her telephone number.

If you are worried about a potential scam contact the Citizens Advice Helpline: