Category Archives: Fraud

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CAB News 19 July 2019

Image result for youtility home finacies website

Friday 19 July 2019

Research into energy pricing discrepancies across the country has been published by home finances website Youtility.

National

Energy

Utility prices vary across Britain as regional pricing reveals discrimination

Mirror.co.uk, 18/07/2019, Graham Hiscott

Families in Liverpool typically pay £81 a year more than those in Leeds for energy, home finances website Youtility has found.

It explains the different pricing depends on how much suppliers are charged by Britain’s 14 distribution networks operators.

The article refers to Citizens Advice’s finding that network firms are making £7.5 billion in excessive profits. While it recognised that there were different costs to build the infrastructure and transport energy in some parts of the country to others, it said the “excessive profits we’ve identified are not reflective of the underlying network costs.

More than half of UK public “don’t trust energy suppliers”

Energy Live News, 18/07/2019, Jonny Bairstow

According to the latest Public Attitude Tracker from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy “more than half of the UK public say they do not trust energy suppliers very much or at all.”

The results of the survey do show however that levels of trust were highest for Citizens Advice and Trading Standards.

Experts call for heat networks to be regulated

This Is Money, 16/07/2019, Fiona Parker

Households reliant on heat networks – hot water to heat multiple households through insulated pipes, removing the need for boilers – for their hot water and central heating must be given greater protection.

Citizens Advice has called on Ofgem to commit to regulating the sector by July 2022 amid rising complaints, often involving billing errors and high standing charges.

A spokesman for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy says it will consult on how to better regulate the sector.

Consumer

‘We’ve been charged £7-a-month for a Sim card my autistic son never received’: O2 customer left unable to cancel a contract due to GDPR

This Is Money, 18/07/2019, Grace Gausden

An O2 customer claims the telephone provider has been taking money from her son’s bank account for the last seven months – even though he had never received the Sim card promised.

The article refers to information on Citizens Advice website on what to do if you’re paying for something you haven’t received. The advice states that if you bought something from a business to be delivered, it’s the seller’s responsibility to make sure the item is delivered to you.

You can also report the seller to trading standards if you think they have broken the law, for example, if they took your money and refused to deliver the item.

Scams

Facebook launches tool to shutdown online scams

FT.com [paywall], 16/07/2019, Madison Darbyshire

Facebook has launched a new tool aimed at shutting down online scams following a lawsuit filed by Martin Lewis.

The tool will allow users of Facebook UK to flag advertisements on the social media site that link to scams. Facebook has also dedicated £3 million to anti-scam initiatives run Citizens Advice.

Martin Lewis said: “Millions of people know a scam when they see it, and millions of others don’t. So now, I’d ask all who recognise them to use the new Facebook reporting tool to help protect those who don’t — which includes many who are vulnerable.”

Gillian Guy said: “This project means we cannot only support people who have been targeted, but also raise awareness of what to look out for to help prevent online scams happening in the first place.”

News of the new service has also appeared in the the Sun (page 28), Metro (page 8), Daily Mail (page 20), Guardian, BBC, Sky.

Katie Martin, Director of External Affairs spoke with BBC Radio 5 Live about the new service saying: “We want to help people identify what a scams is, ideally we want people to not fall victim to them in the first place.”

My quest to track down the tricksters who targeted my mum in cruel lottery scam

Mail Online, 14/07/2019, Jeff Prestridge

Jeff Prestridge – whose 83-year-old mother was targeted by a lottery scam – goes in search of the people allegedly behind the scam. Prestridge has little luck going to the addresses listed on the scam letters, one being a building site and another not existing at all.

Citizens Advice said 38 per cent of all mail scams it received details of last year involved fake lotteries. Gillian Guy said: ‘Lottery scams are worryingly common and usually target people who are isolated or in vulnerable situations. Remember that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.’

Housing

Renting: How landlords can refuse to let to tenants with children

BBC Online, 12/07/2019, Kevin Peachey

Tom Dedynski who has two children, aged nine and five, found a two-bedroom home to rent in Peterborough with enough room for his children but was unfortunately turned down by the landlord.

“I was honest with the letting agent that the kids would visit,” the 33-year-old says. “I was told the landlord did not want children – and that was that. I was disappointed. It felt a bit harsh. This was a small family home.”

There is nothing in law across the UK that compels a landlord to have to rent to tenants with children despite 1.7 million families raising children in rental properties across England. The article points to Citizens Advice toolkits prospective tenants can use if they think they’re being discriminated against.

In other news

Water bills in England and Wales are set to fall by an average of £50 between 2020 and 2025, under plans published by the industry regulator.

More than 600,000 members of so-called ‘Generation Rent’ are facing an “inevitable catastrophe” of homelessness when they retire.


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CAB News 21 June 2019

Friday 21 June 2019

Our research that revealed customers are left picking up a £172m bill for failed energy companies has been covered across national print and online media today.

National

Energy

Households face £172m bill from failed energy suppliers

Financial Times (subscription required), 21/06/2019, Nathalie Thomas

The report was covered in the Financial Times, which also revealed that some customers who owed money to failed suppliers had been subject to “aggressive” debt collection techniques from administrators.

We have recommended that suppliers be forced to make more frequent payments towards certain levies, such as those supporting renewable energy generation, to prevent the accumulation of large unpaid bills.

“Consumers shouldn’t have to foot the multimillion pound bill left behind when companies collapse — and they certainly shouldn’t lose their usual protections in the process,” said Gillian Guy.

Households face £172m bill after slew of energy suppliers fail

City AM, 21/06/2019, p10, August Graham

The story was also picked up by City AM, which reported on our call that consumers should not be left to pick up the bill for failed energy companies.

Companies that go bust are unable to pay their industry bills, such as for renewable energy generation. Funds for infrastructure and gas and electricity meters also have holes.

Gillian said: “This leads to people, including those in vulnerable circumstances, being contacted by debt collectors and asked for sums they can’t afford at very short notice.”

This story was also covered across major print media such as The Times, The Sun, The Daily Mail, The Daily Mirror, and The Guardian.

Consumer

Firms that overcharge loyal customers could face fines

Guardian, 19/06/2019, p13, Julia Kollewe

Image result for loyalty penalty scams

Our response to the government’s announcement that it plans to clamp down on the loyalty penalty by giving the Competition and Markets Authority new powers was included in a previous article by the Guardian.

It reported that we welcomed the move on the mobile phone loyalty penalty, but that this was just the tip of the iceberg.

“The FCA and Ofcom have had six months since the CMA issued its findings on our super complaint and there has been little progress,” Gillian Guy said.

“They need to set out their plans urgently on how they will tackle this systematic scam.”

Overcharging loyal customers will be banned under new plans unveiled by the Government

Daily Telegraph, 18/06/2019, p1, Sam Meadows

Our response to Prime Minister Theresa May’s announcement that the government plans to fine firms who charge customers for loyalty was featured on page 1 of the Daily Telegraph.

Our research has shown that loyal customers pay as much as £1,000 a year more than those who switch. That adds up to around £4billion in overpayments on mobile, broadband, savings, mortgages and insurance products.

Gillian Guy said: “It’s right that the Government wants to abolish the mobile phone loyalty penalty, which has cost consumers £341m since we made our super-complaint.

“But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Across the four other essential markets we focused on, consumers have been left £2.6bn worse off since our super-complaint in September.”

Debt

Number of people with guarantor loan debt issues doubles

Daily Mail, 17/06/2019, George Nixon

Our figures that show the number of people coming to see us with problems relating to guarantor loans has doubled to 3,000 in the past three years were used in the Mail Online.

Our statistics also showed that one in two people who came to us with a problems had an issue with guarantor liability for the debt.

The figures were also used in the BBC’s 1pm news programme and on BBC Radio 4’s You and Yours programme in advance of last night’s Panorama documentary, which investigated the high-cost-credit market in light of the collapse of Wonga.

Fiona Phillips investigates shocking truth behind high-interest guarantor loans

The Daily Mirror, 17/06/2019, p21, Siobhan McNally

Our statistics and a quote from Gillian Guy were used in a Daily Mirror story this morning that’s trailing Panorama’s investigation into guarantor loans, which is due to be aired on BBC1 this evening.

Our data showed that 3,000 people sought our help with this type of loan in the past 12 months, up from 1,500 in 2017.

Gillian said: “Agreeing to guarantee a loan for someone is not a decision to be made lightly.”

Watchdogs must take action on loyalty scams

Mail on Sunday, 16/06/2019, p94, Gillian Guy

An opinion piece by Gillian Guy that expressed disappointment on regulators’ lack of action on the loyalty penalty was featured in the Mail on Sunday yesterday.

“We understand that fixing problems like this takes time, but consumers continue to get ripped off every day this is allowed to continue,” Gillian wrote.

“The CMA was clear in its response that charging loyal customers more is not acceptable. It said it wanted to see urgent action and that the relevant regulators – Ofcom and the Financial Conduct Authority – needed to report back on their progress within six months.

“That six-month deadline is on Wednesday, and it would be fair to say we are disappointed by the lack of progress so far. ”

In other news

One city is to build its first council homes in 30 years.

Child poverty has increased since the launch of the Northern Powerhouse scheme.

Poverty among working families is rising, according to a new report.

Councils’ removal of “homeless camps” have trebled.


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CAB News 14 June 2019

Image result for fca regulations buy now pay later borrowing

Friday 14 June 2019

Our reaction to the Financial Conduct Authority’s changes to the regulations on Buy Now Pay Later borrowing, which includes catalogue credit, store cards and retailers that offer finance at the point of sale, has been reported by both the broadsheet and tabloid national newspapers.

National

Financial regulator to tighten ‘buy now pay later’ rules

Financial Times (subscription required), 12/06/2019, Sarah Provan

Citizens Advice featured prominently in the Financial Times’ reporting of the FCA’s decision to tighten the rules on “buy now pay later” policies, potentially saving consumers up to £60m a year.

Gillian Guy said: “The new rules won’t stop people being hit by these unexpected costs on unpaid amounts.

“To better protect people, the FCA should go further and only allow firms to charge interest once the promotional period ends.”

The story was also covered by The Times and The Sun. The Times reported that these debts are the second most common credit issue after overdrafts that Citizens Advice is asked to help people with. The Sun listed some of our advice on how to cut the cost of your debt.

You can read our full statement here.

Universal Credit

Help to Claim will make a difference to those who find it hard to claim

Today in Parliament, Radio 4,12/06/2019, Sean Curran (23.41pm – about 10′ into clip)

Our Help to Claim scheme was held up as a way of improving the experiences of people applying for Universal Credit on the Radio 4’s Today in Parliament.

The programme featured the evidence of Department of Work and Pensions Minister, Will Quince, to a parliamentary committee investigating the difficulties of people applying for the benefit.

The Work and Pensions Committee was focusing on women who have turned to sex work – so-called “survival sex” – because of delays in the system.

The minister said he desperately wanted to see improvements and Help to Claim was a relatively new partnership which would help people who found the application process difficult.

Advice

Can life insurance be cancelled? When’s the best time to act?

Daily Express, 11/06/2019, Jess Sheldon

The advice on our website on how to cancel a life insurance policy was used by the Daily Express.

“As Citizen’s Advice explains, the cooling-off period is 30 days for those who have bought life insurance,” as opposed to 14 days for other policies,” said the paper.

The story used a large amount of our advice, including the tip that if you want to cancel a policy because you’ve found a better deal “it may be easier and cheaper to wait until your policy is due for renewal.”

Fraud

‘It didn’t feel like a scam, but I lost £520’

BBC News, 10/06/2019, Simon Read

Our Scams Awareness campaign continued to receive national media coverage. On the BBC website Christine, who come to us for help after being scammed out of £520, explained why she decided to talk about her experience:

“People need to speak up about this sort of thing. Had I known the warning signs of scams – like being asked to pay up front in cash – alarm bells would’ve rung and I’d have thought twice about handing over my money.”

Gillian Guy told the BBC: “Even in this digital age where online scams are on the rise, scammers are continuing to use traditional routes to prey on people.

“Tactics like doorstep selling, sending unsolicited letters and cold calling give scammers the opportunity to build a relationship with their victim.”

Citizens Advice

“I urge you to go to Citizens Advice” – Judge Rinder

itv, 07/06/2019, Judge Rinder

“I urge you in the strongest possible terms to go an get assistance from Citizens Advice and take this matter further,” Judge Rinder told a couple on his show who had split up, and were now arguing about a joint debt to a utility provider which had escalated from £700 to more than £1,300.

After appearing before Judge Rinder, the couple were seen agreeing to go to seek help from Citizens Advice.

Get free advice if you’re worried about an overdraft

We were also mentioned on ITV’s Lunchtime News on Friday when Financial Expert Jasmine Birtles, talking about changes to bank overdraft fees, said people who were experiencing difficulties with budgeting should not “suffer on your own,” but contact “great charities” like Citizens Advice.

And Martin Lewis, on yesterday’s edition of This Morning, also on ITV, also urged anyone with money worries to contact Citizens Advice.

How we started out

Civil Society, 29/05/2019, Kirsty Weakley

An article in Civil Society outlined the history and development of some of the country’s best known charities, including Citizens Advice.

The magazine noted that we’ve been giving out eggs-cellent advice for decades: one early enquiry was whether you could still get an egg ration if your hens didn’t lay any.

In other news

Childcare crisis hitting poor families hardest.

Social housing residents ‘second-class citizens’ over home repairs.

Alcohol labelling ‘not up-to-date’.


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“Tried-and-tested scams still pose huge threat” says Citizens Advice, as fraudsters on average pocket almost £3,000 per victim

Friday 14 June 2019

Over 11,000 complaints were made to Citizens Advice consumer service last year by people suspicious about possible offline scams.

These classic tactics from the scammers’ playbook include unsolicited doorstep selling, mail and cold calling, and saw people lose an average of almost £3,000. Scams sent through the post resulted in the highest average loss at £5,435.

Citizens Advice found that, despite an overall increase in online scams, more than half (58%) of scams reported to the charity in the last year were using these well-established methods. Fraudsters using these methods are known to overwhelmingly target older, more vulnerable people.

A total of 19,500 scams were reported to the charity’s consumer service in 2018, an 8% increase from the year before.

Additional polling commissioned by Citizens Advice showed six in 10 people (61%) reported being targeted by a scam in the past two years. Of those targeted, less than half (48%) said they told anyone about it.

Christine, 70, from West Sussex was scammed by two men who knocked on her front door:

“Since my husband passed away I’ve not kept up with work on the outside of the house – that was always his job. So when two men knocked on my door saying my gutters needed cleaning and roof tiles needed replacing urgently I agreed, and handed over £520 in cash.

“When they said they were finished I went to look at their work but one distracted me by saying he’d give me a certificate for a 10-year guarantee. But when he went to the van to get it, he just drove off. I looked at the gutters and I could still see the weeds, and nothing had changed with the roof. I was clearly scammed.

“The worst part was that it didn’t seem, or feel, like a scam. They looked professional and said they’d completed work on my neighbours’ houses. People need to speak up about this sort of thing. Had I known the warning signs of scams – like being asked to pay up front in cash – alarm bells would’ve rung and I’d have thought twice about handing over my money.”

Under the slogan “Stop, report, talk: Be #scamaware” Citizens Advice and Trading Standards have launched their annual Scams Awareness campaign to encourage people to talk about their experiences and look out for others.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“Tried-and-tested scams still pose a huge threat. Even in this digital age where online scams are on the rise, scammers are continuing to use traditional routes to prey on people. Tactics like doorstep selling, sending unsolicited letters and cold calling give scammers the opportunity to build a relationship with their victim. Unfortunately, it’s usually more vulnerable and isolated people who are affected.

“The gap between the number of people recognising they’ve been targeted and those actually speaking up it about shows the importance of this Scams Awareness campaign. We must work together to combat fraudsters by being more open about scams and helping each other understand what to look for.“

Leon Livermore, Chief Executive of Chartered Trading Standards Institute, said:

“With newer, more sophisticated scam techniques often dominating headlines, it’s easy to forget that ‘tried-and-tested’ scams are still out there, and are just as dangerous as they have always been – especially for the most vulnerable within society.”

“Through campaigns like Scams Awareness, and initiatives like Friends Against Scams, we can inform and arm consumers with the power to spot potential threats, so they know where to turn if they need help.”

Lord Toby Harris, Chair, of National Trading Standards, said:   

“As more of our day-to-day activity takes place online, a lot of attention is rightly focused on online scams that can catch people out. However, the more traditional scams – from doorstep cold-callers to mail fraud – have not disappeared. Instead, we’re seeing these scams increasing as criminals adopt more sophisticated techniques to avoid detection, such as sending scam mail via third party countries and using of ‘blank’ envelopes.

“Importantly, these types of offline scams can cause significant harm emotionally as well as financially, particularly when people – often in vulnerable situations – are deceived and put under pressure in their own home. That’s why we’ve launched the Friends Against Scams initiative, which provides training and support to empower people to take a stand against scams: www.friendsagainstscams.org.uk.

“We believe that the number of complaints about these scams is the tip of the iceberg – only five per cent of scams are reported. That’s why we’re calling on communities to look out for anything suspicious and report suspected scams to the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06.”

If you’re worried that someone you know has become victim to a scam, look out for the following. Are they:

  • Receiving more mail than usual?

  • Receiving unsolicited calls or spending more time on the phone?

  • Struggling with money or have they withdrawn large amounts of cash recently?

If you think someone you know is being scammed, take the following steps:

  • If you’re worried about telephone scams look into installing a call blocker

  • Encourage them to tell their bank immediately if there is any suspicious activity or transactions from their account or credit cards

  • Report the scam to the Citizens Advice Consumer Service online or by phone on 03454 04 05 06. They will give you advice on what to do next and report the scam to Trading Standards

  • Report the scam to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040

  • If they’re struggling to pay bills or outstanding debts encourage them to visit their local Citizens Advice

You can also take the following steps to safeguard yourself and others:

  • Be suspicious if you’re contacted out of the blue, even if it’s from a name you recognise

  • If it sounds too good to be true it probably is

  • Never send money to someone you’ve never met

  • Never give out your bank details unless you are certain you can trust the person contacting you

  • Don’t be rushed – you never need to make a decision straight away and if you feel pressured say “no”

  • Suspect a scam? Hang up, wait five minutes to clear the line or use another phone to call

  • Don’t suffer in silence – speak out about scams

Citizens Advice is urging anyone who thinks they may have been targeted by a scam to report it to the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06, or 03454 04 05 05 for Welsh language speakers. Citizens Advice will give advice on what to do next and report the scam to Trading Standards.

Scams can also be reported to Action Fraud, the national fraud reporting centre.