Summary of Police, crime and trading standards news for May 2016:
Warwickshire Trading Standards Service has launched a new information campaign to warn consumers about the dangers of sharing their personal and financial information in marketing related questionnaires, surveys and “prize draw” forms.
Danger Comes in Many Forms A5 flyer
05/05/2016 Small business publisher warning
Small businesses are warned to be wary of approaches from traders seeking advertising in magazines. One Warwickshire business paid a £180 to advertise in a magazine following a unexpected phone call. However, the business now believes that the magazine was never published or distributed. Bogus publishers use high pressure selling techniques to sell advertising in magazines with little or no circulation, making the advert, (should it ever be produced) worthless. They may claim that the publication is being produced in support of a charity, emergency service or health education and will be distributed locally. Businesses contacted are advised to put the phone down immediately. NEVER request further information or an example of the magazine. Bogus publishers will use any expression of interest as an agreement to advertise and will invoice the business.
The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) and Action Fraud have noticed a rise in the reporting of pets, and in particular puppies and kittens, being advertised for sale via popular online auction websites. The fraudsters will place an advert of the pet for sale, often claiming that the pet is currently held somewhere less accessible or overseas. Upon agreement of a sale, the suspect will usually request an advance payment by money transfer or bank transfer. However, the pet does not materialise and the fraudster will subsequently ask for further advanced payments for courier charges, shipping fees and additional transportation costs. Even if further payments are made, the pet will still not materialise as it is likely that the pet does not exist.
- Stay within auction guidelines.
- Be cautious if the seller initially requests payment via one method, but later claims that due to ‘issues with their account’ they will need to take the payment via an alternative method such as a bank transfer.
- Consider conducting research on other information provided by the seller, for example a mobile phone number or email address used by the seller could alert you to any negative information associated with the number/email address online.
- Request details of the courier company being used and consider researching it.
- Agree a suitable time to meet face to face to agree the purchase and to collect the pet. If the seller is reluctant to meet then it could be an indication that the pet does not exist.
- A genuine seller should be keen to ensure that the pet is going to a caring and loving new home. If the seller does not express any interest in you and the pet’s new home, be wary.
- If you think the purchase price is too good to be true then it probably is, especially if the pet is advertised as a pure-breed.
- Do not be afraid to request copies of the pet’s inoculation history, breed paperwork and certification prior to agreeing a sale. If the seller is reluctant or unable to provide this information it could be an indication that either the pet does not exist or the pet has been illegally bred e.g. it originates from a ‘puppy farm’. A ‘puppy farm’ is a commercial dog breeding enterprise where the sole aim is to maximise profit for the least investment. Commercial dog breeders must be registered with their local authority and undergo regular inspections to ensure that the puppies are bred responsibly and are in turn fit and healthy. Illegally farmed puppies will often be kept in inadequate conditions and are more likely to suffer from ailments and illnesses associated with irresponsible breeding.
- If you are buying a puppy or kitten, you should ask to see it with its mother and the rest of the litter.
- When thinking of buying a pet, consider buying them in person from rescue centres or from reputable breeders
If you have been affected by this, or any other scam, report it to Action Fraud by calling 0300 123 2040, or visiting www.actionfraud.police.uk 04/05/2016 Quiz text warning
A Warwickshire resident fell foul of a scam after receiving an email (purportedly from a well known supermarket) inviting him to take part in a £100 prize draw. The resident filled out his details, including his mobile phone number and then received a text message with a PIN which he was required to enter in to his phone to ‘win a prize’. What the resident had actually done however was to sign up for a weekly competition service costing £4.50 per week. Warwickshire Trading Standards advised the consumer on how to stop the ‘service’. Consumers experiencing similar issues can make a complaint to the premium rate phone services regulator PhonepayPlus. PhonepayPlus also has an advice page for consumers including a phone number checker for consumers to check unusual numbers on their phone bills. The supermarket was unaware that their name was being associated with this scam. Consumers should be aware that simply because an email carries photos/brand markings of a High Street business, this does not mean that the business has any knowledge of the email or in anyway endorses it. 03/05/2016 ‘Lizard Squad’ warning to Warwickshire businesses
Within the past 24 hours a number of businesses throughout the UK have received extortion demands from a group calling themselves ‘Lizard Squad’.
Method of Attack: The group have sent emails demanding payment of 5 Bitcoins, to be paid by a certain time and date. The email states that this demand will increase by 5 Bitcoins for each day that it goes unpaid. If their demand is not met, they have threatened to launch a Denial of Service attack against the businesses’ websites and networks, taking them offline until payment is made. The demand states that once their actions have started, they cannot be undone.
What to do if you’ve received one of these demands:
- Report it to Action Fraud by calling 0300 123 2040 or by using the online reporting tool
- Do not pay the demand
- Retain the original emails (with headers)
- Maintain a timeline of the attack, recording all times, type and content of the contact
If you are experiencing a DDoS right now you should:
- Report it to Action Fraud by calling 0300 123 2040 immediately.
- Call your Internet Service Provider (ISP) (or hosting provider if you do not host your own Web server), tell them you are under attack and ask for help.
- Keep a timeline of events and save server logs, web logs, email logs, any packet capture, network graphs, reports etc.
Get Safe Online top tips for protecting your business from a DDoS:
- Consider the likelihood and risks to your organisation of a DDoS attack, and put appropriate threat reduction/mitigation measures in place.
- If you consider that protection is necessary, speak to a DDoS prevention specialist.
- Whether you are at risk of a DDoS attack or not, you should have the hosting facilities in place to handle large, unexpected volumes of website hits.
Warwickshire Trading Standards is aware of a large number of residents receiving threatening automated telephone messages that falsely claim to be from HMRC or Customs and Excise. The automated phone calls state that the recipient must not ignore the phone call and phone back, with a threat of legal action if they don’t. The fraudsters then claim that the recipient owes money for unpaid taxes, sometimes claiming they will visit the residents home, arrest them or take goods! This is a scam. Never phone back or engage them in conversation. Never pay any money to unsolicited telephone callers. Do you have information on a gang of rogue traders that targeted Nuneaton?
A gang of rogue traders targeted at least three Nuneaton residents recently taking money and causing damage to their properties. Warwickshire Police and Warwickshire County Council Trading Standards became involved following concerns at the amounts of money demanded by the gang for property repair work. On each occasion the gang initially approached the householder about a small job such as fixing a slipped tile, cleaning gutters for £20 or offering cheap “left-over” fascia boarding. Within minutes of the resident agreeing they pulled tiles off the roof and pretended to discover rotten battens, or invented some other ruse for escalating the job into major repairs. At two homes, after removing roof tiles without permission and pretending to discover rotten roof battens, they used alarmist tactics, suggesting the roofs were in danger of collapse. At a third property, after removing fascia boarding, they again claimed it was rotten and needed to be replaced. Householders who told the traders to leave were left with holes in the roof, those that opted to pay had thousands of pounds in cash taken after which the gang disappeared leaving them no better off. The offenders used two vans, a blue Peugeot Partner (now in the possession of Warwickshire Police) and a smaller white van with ladders on top. They are believed to have been working in the Nuneaton area in April. After failing to stop in a police pursuit the blue van was abandoned in Frank Street from where the 4 men ran off on foot. Warwickshire Trading Standards would like to hear from anyone who was approached by the gang looking for work. Maybe you know someone who had work done by them, or maybe you saw them on foot around 2.30pm in the area of Frank Street on Friday 15th April after they had their vehicle seized by the police. If you have any information that could help us find those responsible, please contact Warwickshire Trading Standards via the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 040506. 11/05/2016 Prison sentence and Civil Injunction for ‘unrepentant, disreputable and unscrupulous’ Nuneaton trader
Paul Mahon, a washing machine repairer described by His Honour Judge Gregory as an ‘unrepentant, disreputable and unscrupulous trader’ has been sent to prison for 12 months and banned from returning to his former business once he is released. 11/05/2016 Leamington Spa stores sold alcohol and cigarettes to children
On Tuesday 10th May Warwickshire Trading Standards Officers visited four stores in the Leamington Spa area to carry out some undercover under-age sales test purchases of alcohol and cigarettes. Working to Home office guidelines, the premises were chosen based upon previous intelligence. Two child volunteers under the age of 16 attempted to buy alcohol from three stores and cigarettes from one store. This led to one sale of alcohol and one sale of cigarettes to the children. Further investigations are now being made. It is illegal to sell alcohol or cigarettes to someone aged under 18. Trading Standards support Challenge 25 and carry out this work to protect the health of young people and reduce anti-social behaviour. 10/05/2016 Carbon credit recovery fraud warning
Consumers, who initially invested in carbon credits between 2011 and 2013, have reported recent contact from firms offering exit strategies for their carbon credit investments in exchange for an advance fee. The reports received by the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau suggest that when the advance fee is paid, the consumer receives no further contact from the firm, or a financial return for the sale of their carbon credits.
How does it work?
Consumers (predominantly aged 55 to 80 years old) who have previously invested in carbon credits between 2011 and 2013 are being targeted by cold callers. Some callers falsely state they are calling from a financial regulator, such as the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), to persuade members of the public that their initial carbon credit venture was fraudulent; therefore they should pay an upfront fee for insurance to recover their investment. Other consumers have experienced cold callers who offer to sell their carbon credits due to the company becoming insolvent or have promised higher returns on their preliminary investment. In order for them to sell the victim’s carbon credits, the victim is required to pay an advanced fee directly to the suspects’ account via bank transfer. The caller states a fee is required to cover costs for reasons such as:
• Insurance • Administration • Security Bond • Converting Verified Emissions Reductions (VER’s) to Certified Emission Reductions (CER’s) • US income tax – if the carbon credits were held by a US firm
However, once the upfront fee is paid, the company selling the carbon credits can no longer be contacted, or the promised high returns are not paid to the victim. Over the past 12 months, there have been 78 reports on carbon credit recovery rooms recorded by Action Fraud, with a total reported loss of £570,000. In 60% of Action Fraud reports, victims have claimed that suspects are located in the City of London, in multi-occupancy offices, which are utilised for their prestigious address. The firm may only use the London address to re-direct their mail and may not physically operate from the address, or have any association with the address at all.
Who is affected?
Victims from the UK have been contacted by recovery fraud boiler rooms offering high returns for carbon credits previously purchased. Victims who have been targeted have been aged 55 to 80 on average.
Police Message 11.5.16
NHW SA WK Beware – Courier Fraudsters are active again in South Warwickshire – Don’t be their next victim
This message is sent on behalf of Inspector Goddard of South Warwickshire Police:
Over the past two days Warwickshire Police have received a number of reports relating to courier fraud. This involves elderly people being targeted by fraudsters who make telephone contact purporting to be a police officer from the Metropolitan Police.
They will ask people to call them back to confirm their identity but this will simply put the victim straight back through to the fraudster. Fake couriers will be sent to the victim’s address to collect cash and cards.
Police advice is to terminate the call immediately and contact 101 to report the matter. Please look out for your elderly neighbours and family members to assist us in preventing further people falling victim to this type of distressing offence.
Download the poster here.http://www.naptonparishcouncil.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/CourierFraudPosterMay2016.pdf
Police Message 4.5.16:
We were recently contacted by a member of public from Southam who’d had contact with a female known as Gill Hope. This person also uses the names Gill Wallace and as you can see from the below open source email links, has quite a colourful past.
Her latest scam was to claim that she was working on behalf of Justin Welby (Arch Bishop of Canterbury) to help bring Syrian refugees over to England. She also claims to be a UN Ambassador. Whilst in Southam she made efforts to gain the support of the local churches.
Hope/Wallace is believed to have left the Southam area on the weekend of 23/04/16. It is not known where she has gone but there is still the possibility that she is moving within the local community.
I would be grateful if you could make your local communities aware, specifically religious groups and church congregations.
Could I also take the opportunity to apologise for the sporadic nature of the crime newsletters. We recently lost our volunteer but have a new one starting this week who we hope to have up to speed soon.
Thank you for your assistance and patience,
PC 1638 Jamie Cramp
Southam Safer Neighbourhood Team Beat manager
Warwickshire Police and Warwickshire Trading Standards are investigating after police officers discover £10,000 worth of suspected counterfeit cigarettes and tobacco stashed in car boot. Read full article in Nuneaton News. 25/04/2016 Nuneaton restaurant’s lamb curry was 100% beef!
The owner of a Nuneaton restaurant has been found guilty of selling a lamb curry that was 100% beef following an investigation by Warwickshire County Council’s Trading Standards Service.
At Nuneaton Magistrates Court on 19th April 2016, Mr Mohammed Islam (age 33), owner of the Rajdhani Restaurant, Horeston Grange, Camborne Drive, Nuneaton was found guilty of one offence under the Food Safety Act 1990 and one offence under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations (CPRs) 2008 and ordered to pay £1785.15 in fines and costs.
A new investment fraud trend is targeting members of the public who are seeking to sell their wine investment. Fraudsters agree to purchase the victim’s wine, but instead transfer the stock into their own account without paying the victim. The fraudulently obtained wine is then believed to be sold on to other, unsuspecting victims. How does it work? Fraudsters set up fake companies and websites as well as exploit the names of legitimate, established companies to facilitate this fraud. They cold-call the victims and offer to purchase their wine for significantly more than the actual market value. Fraudulent documents, such as purchase agreements, are used to facilitate the fraud and are sent to the victims via post and email. Some fraudsters have gone as far as setting up fake escrow services in order to fool the potential sellers that the payments have been transferred. The fraudsters send the victims instructions to transfer their wine into storage accounts held within legitimate bonded warehouses. The victims are informed that upon doing this they will be paid the agreed amount. The use of storage accounts held within legitimate bonded warehouses adds an air of legitimacy to the process but in actual fact these storage accounts are controlled by the fraudsters. Once the wine is transferred into the new storage accounts the suspects break off all contact with the victims. The wine is then moved again, normally within days and often abroad, and, needless to say, the victim never receives the money from the agreed sale.
- Never respond to unsolicited phone calls – if in doubt, hang up
- Always check that the details of the organisation or company contacting you (such as website, address and phone number) are correct – the fraudsters may be masquerading as a legitimate organisation
- Never sign over your wine (or any other investment) to another party without first checking they are authentic
- Don’t be fooled by a professional looking website, as the cost of creating a professional website is easily affordable
- Escrow services are regulated by the FCA under the Payment Services Directive 2009. Only deal with a registered Authorised Payment Institution. You can check the FCA register online
- Consider seeking independent legal and/or financial advice before making a decision
The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) has recently received an influx of reports that fraudsters are targeting the public, via social media, in relation to football tickets. Fraudsters are posting pictures or statuses online telling members of the public to contact them via Direct Message for football tickets. This then leads to a mobile messaging conversation. During the conversation, bank details are provided by the suspect so that the tickets can be purchased. After the victim has paid for the ticket the fraudster blocks them to stop further conversation, leaving victims without the tickets and out of pocket. Protect yourself:
- Check the security of the website and validity of the post
- Avoid taking the conversation offline to private messages
- When purchasing any products over the internet always try to make the payment via PayPal or a credit card where you have some sort of payment cover
A Warwickshire resident reported receiving an unexpected phone call from someone offering her an £8000 reward for being a good citizen and paying her bills on time! Had she asked to receive these funds, she would undoubtedly be asked to supply her bank account details or to pay money in advance to receive her bogus reward! 18/04/2016 Bogus High Street survey scam
A consumer has reported losing over £80 in a bogus high street survey scam. The consumer received an email asking him to take part in a survey for a High Street trader. On completing it the consumer was then offered a ‘reward’ for which he was only asked to pay for postage. The consumer chose an e-cigarette/vapourizer and provided his credit card details. Later, on checking his statement, he realised that almost £80 has been taken by the e-cigarette/vapourizer supplier. Consumers are warned to beware of any offer for ‘free’ gifts or trial products when they are asked to pay for postage using a debit/credit card. Often, hidden in the terms and conditions is a subscription to purchase a monthly supply of the product. It is unlikely that the High Street store survey had anything to do with the scam. The scammers simply used the existence of survey as a convenient cover. 18/04/2016 Solar panel ‘Government grant’ warning
We understand that Warwickshire residents are being cold called and offered solar panels. The customers’ details are then used to obtain finance (government grants), potentially fraudulently. Consumers are urged to NEVER reveal personal or financial information to unexpected doorstep callers or cold telephone callers. Put the phone down and keep your door closed.
Trading Standards Seizes over 100 unsafe Petzl harnesses
Trading Standards are issuing an urgent warning to anyone who has bought a Petzl Aspir climbing harness from ‘surplusandlost’ online. They should stop using it immediately and return it to the supplier. Over 100 dangerous climbing harnesses were recently seized by Suffolk Trading Standards following a tip-off that previously destroyed equipment was being sold on e-bay.
“Surplusandlost online”, a Suffolk based business was selling safety harnesses (advertised as cut, repaired and tested) on eBay for £12.99.
An investigation into the Petzl Aspir harnesses revealed they had been cut and disposed of to prevent their sale; only to be recovered by a third party in France and have their straps crudely stitched back together. Lyon Work & Rescue, the authorised representative in the UK confirmed that the products had not been repaired through an authorised channel and that there is a risk of serious injury or death should the repairs fail. Trading Standards immediately contacted the seller who has issued a product recall and are contacting all their customers who have purchased the harness to warn of the risks and offer a full refund.
Trading Standards is not aware of any other affected sellers and do not have safety concerns over Petzl climbing harnesses where repairs have been carried out by the authorised representative.
13/04/2016 Latest newsletter for business published
‘The latest edition of Trading Standards Business News has now been published online. The Spring 2016 edition includes features on food supplements, consumer rights and age restricted products. The publication aims to help local businesses to comply with Trading Standards laws.’