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Consumer scams

doorstep caller

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Driving licence checking services

We have heard from consumers who have applied online for driving licences and found they had in fact only paid for a checking service. This meant they still had to pay the required fee to the DVLA. Similar companies offer the same service for passports and European Health Insurance Card. These checking services make it clear on their web-site front page that they are not affiliated to the official issuing body, in this case the DVLA, but are a service which only checks your application before sending it to the appropriate authority. It is not illegal to offer such services and some people may wish to purchase such a service but they can be misled into thinking they have applied direct to the Agency and are not happy at having to pay an extra fee.

We advise everyone to check carefully and read the small print before committing to a website contract. This goes for all online purchases, not just the type of service highlighted above.

Beware of door-to-door charity collections

Scottish charity Down's Syndrome Scotland heard that a man and woman in the Ayrshire region are falsely representing the charity. The unidentified suspects have been visiting homes in the Kilmarnock area asking for donations of £1 or £2 in aid of Down’s Syndrome Scotland. Air fresheners and trolley coins were given in exchange for a donation.

Down's Syndrome Scotland alerted Strathclyde Police, Action Fraud and  East Ayrshire Trading Standards Service about this fraudulent activity.

Sharon Kane, Fundraising Manager at Down's Syndrome Scotland said:

"Down's Syndrome Scotland does not currently fundraise door-to-door in Scotland. Any door-to-door fundraising that is currently being done in aid of Down's Syndrome Scotland is therefore fraudulent. We ask people exposed to this behaviour to phone their local police immediately and notify us too.

"Down's Syndrome Scotland is a registered charity in Scotland. If you wish to give us a donation, you can be sure you’re giving directly to us by donating on our website or posting a cheque. We will send a thank you letter to acknowledge your donation."

To report a fraudulent  Down’s Syndrome Scotland fundraiser, contact Down's Syndrome Scotland on 0131 313 4225 and notify your local police station immediately.

Paypoint scammers target small businesses

A number of small businesses have received a phone call allegedly from either PAYZONE UK or PAYPOINT, companies which run terminals within small businesses to allow customers to pay utility bills.

The caller suggests their terminal is running slow, and provides a series of codes to the staff member to input into the terminal, to 'check' the system.

Ultimately this results in transactions being carried out, with thousands of pounds being fraudulently obtained.

Shortly after this, the genuine company contacts the business and alerts them to the fraud, and advises them to contact the police.

Businesses that operate these systems should be extremely vigilant and report anything suspicious to the police.

Council workers targeted

Council staff have also been receiving phone calls at work which purport to be from banks such as HBOS and Lloyds TSB. The calls concern accounts and timeshare. The caller asks for a particular person and then asks that person to confirm personal details such as date of birth, address etc.

Do not to give out any personal details to such callers. If your bank or other financial institution does contact you, they will ask you a number of security questions which you as the customer will have previously agreed with them.

Should you receive one of these scam calls, please contact Trading Standards.

Starbucks cash giveaway

An email purporting to be from Starbucks Coffee Company is being circulated. It claims to be giving away cash as a customer reward. The email asks claimants to reply to the email and provide personal details and a scanned copy of their passport or driver's licence.

This is a crude attempt at identity theft. Anyone who receives this email or any similar email should not respond to it. You should never give out personal information in response to an unsolicited email or phone call. 

Council tax scam

Some residents have received unsolicited phone calls from bogus callers who inform them that they are due to receive a rebate on their Council Tax going back several years and that the amount owed could be as much as £3,000. The caller then asks for bank account details in order to repay the money due.

East Ayrshire Council is in no way connected to these phone calls.

These unscrupulous callers are trying to obtain important and valuable personal information from unsuspecting individuals.

Never give out personal information such as bank details over the phone to a cold caller.

Telephone scam

Bogus callers have also been claiming to be representatives of British Telecom (BT). The caller demands payment for a supposed unpaid bill.

The caller asks for payment details over the phone after threatening that the householder’s line will be disconnected if the outstanding bill isn’t paid.

The caller may even use a technique to make the householder believe their line has been disconnected as proof that they are genuine. They simply stay on the line and press a mute or secrecy button. The caller cannot then disconnect the line or make further calls.

The caller may seem plausible, but these calls are in no way related to BT. The caller is trying to obtain valuable financial information from unsuspecting householders.

Never give out personal information such as bank details over the phone to a cold caller.

Fire alarm scam

Be vigilant when buying fire alarms from cold callers. An English-based company has been operating in the area and targeting vulnerable individuals.

The company phones potential customers and arranges for a representative to call, often within the hour. Once inside the home the company fits the alarms very quickly. The customer is then persuaded to sign a maintenance contract credit agreement lasting up to eight years and costing around £5,000 to £6,000.

Regulations were introduced in October 2008 regarding doorstep selling which protects consumers from high pressure selling like this. The regulations provide a seven day cooling off period for both unsolicited and solicited calls at home during which a contract can be cancelled.

Your right to come out of the agreement could be lost if you agree with the trader that you want the work to commence before the end of the cooling off period.

Remember - if you sign a credit agreement at home, then that is a separate contract. With this you have further cancellation rights. If you sign a credit agreement at home you have five days to cancel after receiving the second copy (the executed agreement) which must be posted to your home by the finance company to give you time to consider options.

When is a sale not a sale?

Be wary when shopping for bargains. There are many genuine bargains to be found but you might not always be getting the great deal you thought you were.

Sale items need only have been on sale at the higher price for 28 consecutive days in the past six months. In some shops an item which appears to be massively discounted is actually being offered at its normal selling price.

Although advertising sales in this manner is lawful, it can often lead consumers to think they have made a substantial saving against the normal selling price.

Shop around and read any small print which may appear on sale advertising to make sure you get the best possible deal.

Home repairs

Be vigilant when dealing with cold callers offering to do repairs in your home.

If you employ traders to carry out work in your home you must receive certain information including the business details of the trader and, if the cost of the work is over £35, a written notice of the right to cancel the contract. If they fail to give this information they cannot demand payment for any work carried out. 

When dealing with doorstep sellers remember the following points:

  • don’t agree to have work done on your house without a second opinion
  • don’t pay a deposit unless you are sure you want to buy
  • don’t let the seller push you into a snap decision
  • don’t let a caller into your home if you are at all suspicious

Failure to provide written notice of cancellation rights is a criminal offence. If you have not been given proper notification of your cancellation rights you should contact Trading Standards immediately using the telephone number below.   

Other scams

Telephone lottery: this includes the Canadian lottery scam and the El Gordo Spanish lottery scam, which use the names of a genuine lottery. Consumers are told they are being entered into a prize draw. They then receive a telephone call congratulating them on winning a big prize in a national lottery, however, before they can claim their winnings, they must send money to pay for taxes and processing fees. The prize does not exist.

Prize draws, sweepstakes and foreign lottery mailings: typical scams take the form of prize draws, lotteries or Government pay outs. Most appear to be notification of a prize in an overseas lottery in return for administration or registration fees.

Premium rate telephone scams: notification by post of a sweepstake or holiday offer includes instructions to ring a premium rate 090 number to claim your prize.

Investment related scams: an unsolicited telephone call offering the opportunity to invest in shares, fine wine, gemstones or other soon to be rare commodities. These investments often carry very high risk and may be worth a lot less than the sum you pay.

Nigerian advance fee frauds: an offer via letter, e-mail or fax to share a huge sum of money in return for using the recipient’s bank account to permit the transfer of the money out of the country. The perpetrator will either use the information given to empty their victim’s bank account or convince him or her that money is needed up front for bribing officials.

Pyramid schemes: offer a return on a financial investment based upon the number of new recruits to the scheme. Only the people who set up the scheme make any money.

Matrix schemes: these are promoted via websites offering high-tech gadgets or free gifts in return for spending £20 or similar on a low value product such as a mobile telephone signal booster. Consumers who buy the product join a waiting list to receive their free gift. In reality, the majority of those on the list will never receive the expensive item they expect.

Credit scams: another advanced fee fraud originating in Canada. Advertisements appear in local newspapers offering fast loans regardless of credit history. Consumers who respond are told their loans have been agreed but before the money can be released they must pay a fee to cover insurance. Once the advanced fee is paid the consumer never hears from the company again and they do not receive the loan.

Property investment schemes: would-be investors attend a free presentation and are persuaded to hand over thousands of pounds to sign up to a course promising to teach them how to make money dealing in property. Schemes may involve the opportunity to buy properties which have yet to be built at a discount. A variation is a buy to let scheme where companies offer to source, renovate and manage properties, claiming good returns from rental income. In practice the properties are near derelict and the tenants non-existent.

Work-at-home and business opportunity scams: these operate by advertising paid work from home but asking for money up front to pay for materials. Alternatively they ask for investment in a business with little or no chance of success.

If you are unsure whether something is genuine please contact us.

Contact Information

Trading Standards Service
Civic Centre South
John Dickie Street
Telephone: 01563 576790 (Option 5)