Scams Bulletin – May 2019

This bulletin helps residents to be aware and guard against currently reported scams.

Drain Surveys

Hampshire Trading Standards Service is warning residents about receiving an offer for a ‘free’ drain survey. Starting with an unsolicited call on the phone or at the door, the caller will say they are carrying out a survey of drains in the area. However, when they examine the drain, they will claim expensive remedial work must be done. Once completed, it is very difficult to prove whether the work was required or has been done at all.

Case Study

Miss M received a telephone call from a trader who said they had some money from the government to carry out free drain surveys. Miss M said she agreed to this as she had lived in her house for many years and had never considered there may be an issue with her drains. An engineer arrived and explained he was going to put a camera down her main drain then look at the results on his computer. After the examination, which took about fifteen minutes, he showed Miss M some photographs on his computer and said there were cracks in the lining of the drain. He told her he could install a new lining and gave her a quotation for £3,500. Although the paperwork included the statutory cancellation period of fourteen days, he told her if she left the drain as it was, even for a couple of weeks, the crack would worsen and may be expensive to put right. Therefore, he said if she signed to agree for the work to commence that day, he would allow a £500 discount. Miss M went to her bank to withdraw the money. Although the bank asked her what the money was for, Miss M was adamant the work was required. When she returned to her home about half an hour later, the engineer said the work was complete and took the money. Miss M told her friend about the work who said this was probably a scam.

Be aware

  • Of any unsolicited caller offering work of this nature.
  • Claims that the money is part of a government initiative.
  • Any pressure to have the work carried out immediately. 
  • Of being shown any ‘evidence’ such as photographs on a computer.
  • Request for quick or cash payments.

Take your time to think about the contract and remember

  • Use the fourteen day cancellation period to talk to family or friends and obtain another opinion.
  • Don’t feel pressured. If the trader is reputable they will wait.

When work is agreed away from trade premises e.g. in the consumer’s home, The Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 provides that paperwork must be given. This includes the trader’s full precontractual information such as a description of the work, the cost and a statutory fourteen day cancellation period. Although the consumer can sign to agree the work may commence within the fourteen days, they can cancel the contract at any time within this period (but may be liable for the cost of any goods or services provided up to this point).

Social Media Scams

Social media is a great way to keep up to date with news and in contact with people. However, scammers are taking advantage of this medium to commit fraud. Social media scams to look out for include;

  • A notification or message alleging you are locked out of your account. You will be asked to supply information to unlock your account, giving the scammer your password and personal details at the same time.
  • A ‘friend’ request from someone you know. If the same person is already on you list of contacts, the chances are this is a fake request from someone using your friends name and image. Do not accept any notification of this type and warn your true friend that someone has stolen their details.
  • Adverts for designer goods at a good price. If you place an order you risk giving out your personal and bank details. You may not receive the goods and if you do they may be fake or poor quality with little chance of getting your money back.
  • Lottery and gift card scams. A ‘pop up’ advert will appear asking you to complete a survey with a chance of winning a cash prize or a gift card. This may be in a different currency, highlighting the fact it is not genuine. Always treat such offers with caution and take care not to click on any links.
  • A message from a ‘friend’ telling you they are aboard and have been robbed. They will ask for your help and request you to transfer money. Do not respond to these requests, check with your friend through a reliable contact and warn them that their identity has been used and exploited.
  • Romance or relationship scams whereby the perpetrator will form a friendship online. They will use a fake identity and over time will build up trust and a bond with their victim. Once established they will start asking for money. At this stage the victim will believe they are in a genuine relationship with the scammer and do what they ask. This can not only lead to financial hardship but can cause estrangement from family and friends.

Case study

Mr N received a friend request from someone who worked for an organisation he had some dealings with. Because the profile was listing mutual friends, Mr N accepted the request. The next day Mr N received a private message which he thought was unusual as he did not know the person well. This was followed by another private message asking if he knew anything about a development grant. Mr N asked if this was national funding and the person responded that they had received $100,000. At this stage Mr N recognised this was scam. On checking the person’s profile, he could see this was a duplicate of the genuine one. He deleted the fake profile and warned the genuine account holder that their identity was being misused.

Stay safe online – do not click on any adverts or offers that seem too good to be true and never divulge personal information including bank details.

Scams Awareness Campaign 2019

Scams Awareness is a yearly campaign which aims to create a network of confident, alert consumers who know what to do when they see a scam. This year's campaign will take place over two weeks, from the 10th - 23rd June 2019.

Citizens Advice runs Scams Awareness Month in close collaboration with the Consumer Protection Partnership. This brings together key partners in the consumer landscape to identify, prioritise and coordinate collective action to tackle detriment.

Partners include Trading Standards and the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

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