Scam Alert – Phantom Debts
Norfolk Trading Standards are highlighting a warning from Action Fraud in regards to phantom debt frauds.
Action Fraud has recently experienced an increase in the number of calls to members of the public by fraudsters requesting payments for a ‘phantom’ debt. The fraud involves being cold-called by someone purporting to be a debt collector, bailiff or other type of enforcement agent. The fraudster may claim to be working under instruction of a court, business or other body and suggest they are recovering funds for a non-existent debt.
The fraudsters are requesting payment, sometimes by bank transfer and if refused, they threaten to visit homes or workplaces in order to recover the supposed debt that is owed. In some cases, the victim is also threatened with arrest. From the reports Action Fraud has received, this type of fraud is presently occurring throughout the UK.
It is important to recognise that there are key differences between the various entities who seek to settle debts or outstanding fees in England and Wales. These differences range from the type of debt they will enforce to the legal powers they possess. To learn more, please take a look at some of the helpful information and links on the Step Change Debt Charity website.
Action Fraud offer the following advice to protect yourself from this type of fraud:
- Make vigorous checks if you ever get a cold call. Bailiffs for example, should always be able to provide you with a case number and warrant number, along with their name and the court they are calling from; make a note of all details provided to you.
- If you receive a visit from a bailiff, they must always identify themselves as a Court Bailiff at the earliest possible opportunity. Ask to see their identity card which they must carry to prove who they are, this card shows their photograph and identity number. They will also carry the physical warrant showing the debt and endorsed with a court seal.
- If you work for a business and receive a call or visit, be sure to speak with your manager or business owner first. Never pay the debts yourself on behalf of the business you work for; some fraudsters have suggested employees make payment suggesting they can then be reimbursed by their employer when in reality the debt is non-existent.
- Exercise caution believing someone is genuine because you’ve found something on the internet; fraudsters could easily create fake online profiles to make you believe them.
- Double check with the court, company or public body they claim to work for to confirm whether the call is legitimate If you use a landline make sure you hear the dialing tone prior to dialing as the caller could still be on the line and you could potentially speak to the fraudster(s) to confirm the non-existent debt. Also be sure to independently search for a telephone number to call. Never use a number provided by the caller without carrying out your own research.
- Do not feel rushed or intimidated to make a decision based on a phone call. Take five and listen to your instincts.
- If you know you have a debt, keep in regular contact with your creditor and be sure to establish the debt type at the earliest opportunity if you are not aware. This will help you to understand who might be in contact with you regarding any repayments or arrears.
If you receive a suspicious call about in this style contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or via the Action Fraud website.
Rogue Trader Alert – Doorstep and telephone cold callers regarding solar panels
Norfolk Trading Standards are warning residents with solar panels on their property to be on their guard for doorstep and telephone cold callers which appear to be targeting homes with solar panels.
The cold callers are making a number of claims regarding existing systems, often stating that the company that installed the panels originally have ’ceased trading’ and they have taken over. The claims have then included:
- That the solar panel system needs servicing, with charges of up to £600 being made for this ‘service’ which may include cleaning the panels
- That a ‘warranty check’ or ‘maintenance’ on the panels is required by the new company. If allowed access to the panels they then attempt to sell ‘add-on’ products such as invertors and battery packs by claiming that further energy savings could be made through purchasing these products or by stating that they have found faulty parts in the existing system.
- That existing systems need to be ‘assessed’ to ensure they are not ‘at risk of fire’. If access is allowed the ‘assessor’ will claim that ‘isolator switches’, ‘black boxes’ or other modifications are ‘urgently required to prevent fire’. Costs for this work are then quoted, in a recent incident a homeowner was told this work would be in excess of £2,000.
Trading Standards advises always be very wary of any approach made in a doorstep or telephone cold call and never agree to services, to having work done or for someone to visit your home if approached in this manner.
Trading Standards also advise that solar panel owners should always talk to their supplier before allowing any work or ‘maintenance’ to take place on their panels. Generally a solar panel system does not need servicing but it may benefit from being cleaned if the panels are dirty.
Trading Standards also recommends that traders who work on a solar panel system are members of the Solar Trade Association and that any work on the electrics of a solar panel system should be carried out by a qualified electrician. Suitably qualified electrician can be found on the Norfolk Trusted Trader website or via the Electrical Safety First Website.
If you need advice about doorstep r telephone cold calling or have agreed to a visit during a cold call contact us via our partners the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on their online reporting form or by telephone to 03454 04 05 06.
Scam Alert – Emails claiming to be from ‘TV Licensing’
Norfolk Trading Standards are warning about emails circulating claiming to be from TV Licensing stating you are due ‘a refund’ and then offering a link to ‘process the payment’.
These emails are not from TV Licensing and anyone following the link will be taken to a fake version of the TV Licensing website which will attempt to gather personal and financial details.
TV Licensing advise they ‘never send refund information by email’ and advise anyone who receives this or a similar email to delete it.
Scam Alert – Telephone cold calls claiming to be from BT
Norfolk Trading Standards are continuing to receive reports about telephone cold calls claiming to be from BT. Recent reports have included:
- Reports of cold calls stating that they can offer ‘discounts’ on your bill ‘depending on your age’ which then attempt to get the call recipient to reveal their date of birth and amount currently paid per month. From this the cold caller will claim that ‘as you are over xx years old’ they can offer you a discount, usually in excess of 50% per month, but now paying quarterly. The cold caller will then attempt to gather credit or debit card details.
- Further instances of cold calls claiming that BT or BT Openreach have ‘detected issues with your Broadband Router’ and will then make a number of claims about scammers, hackers or malicious software ‘accessing your router’. The cold caller will then tell you to switch your router off then back on again and let them ‘know which lights are showing’. They will then attempt to convince the call recipient that any lights that are flashing (which is common on most routers whilst restarting) signifies a problem. The cold caller will then try to gain remote access to the call recipients’ computer to ‘fix the problem’.
We always advise to be wary of telephone cold calls and the claims made during them. If you receive a suspicious call claiming to be BT do not give or confirm any personal or financial details, hang up, wait five minutes and then contact BT customer service on 0800 800 150.
If you have received a telephone cold call which you believe to be a scam you can report it to us via our partners the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 03454 04 05 06.
Scam Alert – Telephone cold calls about home and loft insulation
Norfolk Trading Standards has received a number of reports of telephone cold calls about home and loft insulation. Recent reports have included:
- Calls asking if the home owner has had additional insulation installed ‘as part of a government scheme’. In this case when the call recipient confirmed they had the cold caller claimed that ‘a large amount of insulation installed on these schemes is the wrong type’ and that the insulation may be ‘breaking up to dust’. They went on to claim that this could lead to ‘problems’ like ‘breathing difficulties’ or that the dust could pose a ‘fire risk’. The cold caller then attempted to make an appointment for one of their ‘staff’ to visit and undertake an ‘inspection’.
- Calls asking ‘how long ago it is since your loft was last inspected’ and then stating that ‘their company had a contract that covers all of Norfolk to arrange loft inspections to establish whether they are well enough insulated’. When questioned the cold caller went on to claim that ‘Council Tax will rise from April 2018 if you do not have an Economy Performance Certificate showing you have sufficient insulation’, that their work was part of the ‘Government Clean Growth Strategy’ and that ‘Increased Stamp Duty would apply on new purchases of property’.
Trading Standards advises always be very wary of any approach made in a telephone cold call and never give or confirm any personal details or agree to someone visiting your home if approached in this manner.
Impartial advice on energy saving and accessing genuine grant schemes is available for the Energy Saving Trust.
If you need advice about telephone cold calling or have agreed to a visit during a cold call contact us via our partners the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on their online reporting form or by telephone to 03454 04 05 06.
Scam Alert – Telephone cold calls claiming to be from ‘CAB’
Norfolk Trading Standards are warning residents about telephone cold calls claiming to be from ‘CAB’ and ‘Citizens Advice’ regarding ‘debts’.
This follows reports in recent days from Norfolk residents who have received calls.
Please remember Citizens Advice do not cold call regarding debt issues. If you receive one of these calls do not give or confirm any personal or financial information, hang up and report it to us via our partners the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 03454 04 05 06.