Tag Archives: scams

‘Protect yourselves on Black Friday and Cyber Monday’ Citizens Advice Ipswich offers top tips for safe and savvy consumers

In the last year, Citizens Advice consumer service has dealt with almost half a million consumer-related issues like faulty washing machines, undelivered parcels and fake designer goods. Over 50,000 of these were during November 2018, by far the busiest month for the consumer service.

Black Friday which is on 29 November this year, and Cyber Monday, 2 December, mark the busiest shopping weekend of the year.

With the sales just around the corner, Citizens Advice Ipswich is guiding consumers on how to buy and budget smart. Even though the prices are reduced, your consumer rights are fully protected.

If you change your mind about a purchase

Unless you made your purchase online, shops aren’t legally required to accept returns for unwanted goods. Despite this, the shop may choose to have its own returns policy. If it does, they must honour it, so it’s worth checking your receipt.

If you buy online however, unless it’s bespoke or made to measure, by law you will get an automatic 14-day cooling off period. This starts the day after you receive your order, and there doesn’t need to be anything wrong with the item for you to get a refund.

If you’re worried your purchase is faulty

If something’s gone wrong with an item you’ve bought, you may be entitled to a refund. You’ll have legal rights if you unwittingly bought an item that is broken or damaged, unusable, not what was advertised or doesn’t match the seller’s description.

You’ll have to move quickly, as you only have 30 days to return something that’s faulty with the guarantee of getting your money back. Your rights don’t end after 30 days, but after this period the retailer doesn’t necessarily have to refund you, instead they have the option of repairing or replacing the faulty product.

If you’re worried about scams

Be careful not to end up with a counterfeit item. Secure websites should start “https” and have a padlock symbol in the taskbar. Be wary of spelling or grammar mistakes, and companies that don’t provide an address.

Also seek out reviews of the seller from other buyers as these can help you decide whether or not you trust the seller. If there is a lot of negative feedback from other people, it’s a sign that something’s not right.

If you’re worried that something you’ve seen online might be a scam, you can get advice with a Citizens Advice Scams Action adviser by calling 0300 330 3003. Alternatively, you can visit Citizens Advice Ipswich at 19 Tower Street, Ipswich, IP1 3BE.

If there’s a problem with your Black Friday delivery

If you bought something to be delivered, it’s the seller’s responsibility to make sure the item is delivered to you.

If the seller used a delivery company, they should chase the company to find out what’s happened to your order – it’s not your responsibility.

Check the delivery address you gave the seller. Then contact them and ask where your order is.

Tips to stay within your budget:

    As well as making sure you’re clued up on your consumer rights, don’t get roped into buying something you can’t afford. Citizens Advice offers the following tips to make sure you’re staying within your budget:

  • Spend time shopping around, researching what deals are on offer and getting advice.
  • Always look at the total amount you will have to repay when borrowing money. A shorter repayment period may be better than a slightly lower Annual Percentage Rate (APR) amount.
  • Take care when looking at buy-now-pay-later deals. It might seem like a good option but you’ll need to make sure you pay on time in future. If you don’t these deals can be very expensive.
  • Never borrow money on the spur of the moment. Think about payment options beforehand. Work out your budget and stick to it so that you can afford the repayments.

Nicky Willshere at Citizens Advice Ipswich says:

“At this time of year many people may feel the pressure to part with their money.

“It is important that anyone thinking about turning to credit or taking out a loan to help pay for purchases understands the full costs involved and if they can actually afford to pay it back.

“If you are struggling with your finances, it is important to do something about it as soon as possible. You can get free debt and money advice from Citizens Advice to find a way forward and avoid spiralling debts.”

Why do scams work? Citizens Advice Ipswich explains some of the reasons

In the ongoing battle against SCAMS, Citizens Advice Ipswich is out and about in the town during June explaining to people why scams work and what we all need to look out for.

Visits to Ipswich Building Society, Whitton Fun Dog Day (Saturday 9 June), leaflets in our weekly Outreach surgeries and spots on BBC Radio Suffolk and Ipswich Community Radio are all part of our strategy to get the message out to as many people in the town as possible.

Nelleke van Helfteren, Deputy Manager at Citizens Advice Ipswich says: “unfortunately, there is a scam out there for everyone, whoever you are. The important thing is for us all to start to understand better what it is that scammers rely on to design an effective scam. We need to be more clued up on the tricks in a scammer’s playbook.”

Scammers use a range of tools to target the public:
They create a feeling of obligation – often contacting victims under the guise of being a figure of authority such as a doctor or a lawyer. They may also pretend to share a mutual friend or representing a well-known brand or company – “Dave who used to work with you gave me your number and suggested I give you a call….”

Scammers create a sense of urgency as they know we make worse decisions under stress and time pressure. Scammers can convince us that we need to act quickly to encourage victims to make decisions without thinking rationally, without consulting others and controlling our impulses.

Scammers appeal to our emotions – scams are designed to get an emotional response – this can be positive (eg excitement at winning the lottery or a prize) or negative (eg fear and anxiety about ‘fraudulent activity’ on your bank account.

Fraudsters make an art of understanding their target: they have different scams depending on the audience. They know that young people tend to feel immune from scams as they are computer savvy and ‘scams only work on old people’. This is not true. Every 15 seconds someone in the UK gets scammed. People who are well established in life can also feel that they are relatively confident in their ability to identify and protect themselves from scams due to their life experience. This group of people are likely to lose the highest amounts of money – average losses reported last year were around £20,000.

To help stop more people being fleeced by these types of scams, Citizens Advice Ipswich is sharing tips on how to spot them:

  • Be suspicious if you’re contacted out of the blue, even if it’s from a name you recognise
  • Don’t be rushed – you never need to make a decision straight away
  • If it sounds too good to be true it probably is
  • Never send money to someone you have never met
  • Never give out your bank details unless you are certain you can trust the person contacting you
  • Walk away from job ads that ask for money in advance
  • Genuine computer firms do not make unsolicited phone calls to help you fix your computer
  • Suspect a scam? Hang up, wait five minutes to clear the line or use another phone to call
  • Persuasive sales patter? Just say: “No Thank You”
  • Don’t suffer in silence – speak out about scams

Watch out for legal and financial scams, warns Citizens Advice Ipswich

People need to be on their guard against financial and legal scams. Ipswich Citizens Advice is showing people how to spot scams as it launches Scams Awareness Month.

A total of 1200 financial and legal scams were reported to the consumer service in the year ending April 2018 – a 6% increase on the year before.

The median loss for these scams was £330.

A range of investments scams were reported to the consumer service, including:

Cryptocurrency – Fake websites claim to offer cryptocurrency investments, like Bitcoin. Often, scammers will pretend that household names have endorsed the company to give it some legitimacy.

Binary options – Scammers pose as stockbrokers and get you to place bets on whether phoney shares will rise or fall within a certain date. They’ll promise big returns. You should check if they are on the FCA Register and not on the warning list of firms to avoid

Holiday timeshares – Scammers promise to buy your membership off you for an advanced fee.

Bogus solicitors – A scammer will intercept emails from a legitimate solicitor and pose as them. Scammers often strike when a property is being exchanged on and get the funds diverted to their bank account instead. Check if they are on the Solicitors Regulation Authority to see if they are genuine.

Nicky Willshere, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice Ipswich, said:
“Scammers can make for convincing white collar professionals, especially online, and are skilled at persuading people they are legitimate.

“The stakes are high with financial and legal scams as you can end up losing your savings or pension fund, which can put your long-term financial stability at risk.

“When you get approached about any investment, don’t rush into anything without making sure it’s legitimate first, particularly when you’re contacted out of the blue.”

To help stop more people being fleeced by these types of scams, Citizens Advice Ipswich is sharing tips on how to spot them:

  • Be suspicious if you’re contacted out of the blue, even if it’s from a name you recognise
  • Don’t be rushed – you never need to make a decision straight away
  • If it sounds too good to be true it probably is
  • Never send money to someone you have never met
  • Never give out your bank details unless you are certain you can trust the person contacting you
  • Walk away from job ads that ask for money in advance
  • Genuine computer firms do not make unsolicited phone calls to help you fix your computer
  • Suspect a scam? Hang up, wait five minutes to clear the line or use another phone to call
  • Persuasive sales patter? Just say: “No Thank You”
  • Don’t suffer in silence – speak out about scams

Citizens Advice Ipswich will be at a number of events through the month of June to help people understand what sorts of things to be aware of.

We will be at Whitton Dog Show – a Fun Dog Show, Castle Hill Park, Congreve Road, Ipswich, on Saturday 9 June. The show starts at 10:30 am and we will be there for the morning and early afternoon. Anyone who comes along can bring their dog and enter into the event as well.

We are also taking part in a session with Ipswich Building Society on Tuesday 5 June.

Failing consumer markets undermine government attempts to improve household finances

23 September 2016

People losing £23bn a year – an average of £446 per person – as consumer markets fail

Key government attempts to improve household finances such as increasing the income tax threshold and raising wages are being undermined by companies who let down consumers and rip people off, according to a major new report.

Citizens Advice today lifts the lid on the cost of consumer detriment in the UK – showing that people are losing on average almost the equivalent of a week’s pay for an average worker on shoddy services, faulty products and delayed deliveries.

While there’s been a lot of public debate about improving people’s incomes through wages and taxes, there has been less talk about the consumer problems that hit people’s money when they spend.

With consumers losing so much money owing to shoddy products and services, government changes like increasing income tax thresholds or wages, can have less impact on household finances.

Nicky Willshere, Chief Officer of Ipswich Citizens Advice said:

‘In Ipswich and surrounding districts, over a 170 people have sought our help with a range of problems with goods and services since the beginning of the year. These problems range from getting large credits held by utility companies paid back to the consumer, to getting shoddy goods replaced or money back. This is both time consuming and expensive and can cause untold stress and upset for people who just want to get value for money when shopping for goods, both essential services and treats for themselves and their families.’

The report finds:

  • People are losing £23bn a year due to consumer market failures – which is an average of £446 per person per year. There is huge variance in the average loss per person – it ranges from a large proportion of people whose average losses have been under £100 in markets such as telecoms, to a relatively smaller but still significant group who lost substantially more in areas like construction.
  • People spend an average of 22.5 hours a year – including six hours of work time – trying to clear up consumer problems. Similarly, this ranges from a large proportion of people who were able to resolve their problems very quickly to those who spent days trying to resolve a single issue.
  • 55% of consumers do not push for compensation, often because they find the process too complicated or do not think they will be compensated.

The charity says it is pleased new Prime Minister Theresa May has already identified that companies let consumers down and that she wants to strike a better deal for people.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“People are paying through the nose for the mistakes and failures of businesses.”

“Consumer markets are a vital pillar of the UK economy – but at the moment there are some companies who are ripping off consumers and undercutting businesses that do the right thing.”

“As well as hammering household finances, failing consumer markets hit essential parts of people’s lives that they rely on – like energy supply, transport, banking and insurance.”

“It’s good the Prime Minister is keen to help working people who are struggling and wants to push consumer affairs further up the political agenda. A fresh look at how businesses are failing consumers could mean people benefit more from changes to tax and wages.”

The figures, based on interviews with more than 1600 people, says the worst-offending sectors by number of problems are:

  • TV, phone and internet (27.6m);
  • Train services (9.6m);
  • Energy (8.9m);
  • Electrical appliances (6.4m);
  • Bus services (6.1m);
  • Catering such as restaurants and bars (5.1m);
  • Construction (4.8m).

Problems with TV, phone and internet – such as poor reception, higher than expected bills or difficulties ending a contract – are the most costly to consumers at £4.2bn per year. Issues with professional services, like lawyers and accountants, cost £4.1 billion, £3.5bn was wasted on construction, £2.6bn on home maintenance such as decorators, £2.6bn on property services like letting agents and £1.2bn on pension and investment services.

Of the total £23bn more than £10bn is wasted because of poor quality service, £3.2bn on failure to provide an item or service, £2.6bn of problems with prices charged and £1.3bn on poor quality goods.

The introduction of the Consumer Rights Act 2015 has helped to bring coherence to consumer legislation, Citizens Advice adds. The Consumer Protection Partnership has also been good at bringing enforcers and other consumers bodies under one roof to pinpoint and act on problems that need to be solved.

The Consumer Detriment: Counting the Cost of Consumer Problems report measured the loss to consumers by calculating money they directly lose and adding the impact of lost time.

Citizens Advice helps millions of consumers every year through its local network, national phone service and via online support. One 81-year-old man who came to the charity was contacted by bailiffs acting for his energy supplier who demanded he pay them £800 – when in fact the company owed him money. Another couple’s broadband connection cut out every 10 minutes over a three month period – it was not until they lost patience and emailed the CEO of the firm directly that engineers were sent to fix it.

Graduates reported five times as many consumer issues as non-graduates. While young people reported a higher number of problems on average, people aged 35 to 54 suffered a bigger financial loss – mainly owing to higher levels of lost earnings. This age group also reclaimed the lowest level of compensation.

The report also finds that 60% of the overall 1.2bn hours wasted trying to resolve consumers problems was lost leisure time, with 40% work time.

Citizens Advice fears today’s numbers may only be the tip of the iceberg with people also losing out on scams that go undetected and by not regularly switching suppliers on services like energy and telecoms.

Ipswich Citizens Advice and Suffolk Trading Standards set to expose tactics used by scammers

scam awareness

Cold calls, high-pressure sales tactics and automated voicemails asking for people’s details are just some of the tricks scammers are using to rob people of their hard earned money, says Citizens Advice and Suffolk Trading Standards.

The organisations are launching Scams Awareness Month on 1 July to help stop people falling prey to scams by following a three-step rule – get advice, report it, and tell others about it.

Fraud victims pay a heavy price, losing billions of pounds every year. Scams targeting people by phone or post alone cost people in the UK an estimated UK £5 billion each year.

Ipswich Citizens Advice will be out and about in the town centre over the coming month helping people gain the skills to stop scams in their tracks, by taking logical steps to learn how to spot a scam, however it is presented.

At our stalls, people will learn the tell-tale signs of fraud, from being made an offer that’s too good to be true, to being rushed into signing on the dotted line.

Informing the authorities and warning others is the only sure fire way of stopping scams, but people can be hesitant to even tell their friends and family.

Ipswich Citizens Advice volunteers will also show how speaking up about a scam is key to getting them closed down, and how to go about reporting suspected fraud to the authorities.

Nicky Willshere, Chief Executive of Ipswich Citizens Advice said:

Scams come in a variety of guises and we see new ones emerging all the time.

However, there are common hallmarks to every scam and we’re keen to show people what to look out for so they don’t fall prey to a fraudster.

Reporting suspicious offers and incidents of fraud is vital to getting scams closed down. If you think you’ve been contacted by a con artist or have been the victim of scam, seek advice and report it to the authorities.

Lesley Crompton, Scams Lead Officer from Suffolk Trading Standards said:

Scams are more common than most people realise and every day we hear from people who have lost money to a con-artist.

Some scams are one-offs that persuade you to part with a lump sum, while others go after your personal details so they can access your money or copy your identity.

We’re asking people to help us tackle scams throughout Suffolk by getting to know the common signs, warning others, and reporting incidents to us so we can investigate.

Come and visit us at our stalls in the town centre.

Press release ~ People targeted repeatedly with pension scams, say Ipswich Citizens Advice

computer and phone
1 September 2015

Over 55s are being repeatedly contacted with cold calls and emails offering fraudulent pension opportunities, warns Ipswich Citizens Advice.

Over four months after the pension reforms came into effect, figures from the national consumer body find that two in five Citizens Advice pensions staff across England and Wales have seen people targeted repeatedly with pension scams. A further one in ten saw people who had either responded or fallen prey to a scam.

Half of all local Citizens Advice pension workers think that pension scams are evolving into investment scams, targeting the cash lump sums people can release from their pension pots. A further third of staff from across the service think that scams targeting the over 55s have increased.

Emerging scams seen by Citizens Advice include:

  • Unspecified financial products: People are asked by fraudsters to give them access to their pension pots, who would then invest them into financial products on their behalf. Despite offering a high rate of return, scammers were unable to explain what the investments might be.
  • Free pension reviews: People are texted or cold-called with offers of a free pension review. The caller then asks to visit the person in their own home, bringing paperwork that would allow them to get access to their pension details. One man responded to an internet ad for a free pension review, filled in his details, and was visited by someone claiming to be an Independent Financial Adviser who couldn’t describe any investments.
  • Investments for pension cash: People are approached with offers to invest their pension cash into products such as property overseas or fine wines. One investment scam featured two salesmen – one who visited the potential customer to get access to his pension details, and a second to encourage him to invest his pension and any other savings into property in South Africa.

Nicky Willshere, Manager at Ipswich Citizens Advice said:

“Pension scams threaten people’s financial security. Scammers are finding new ways to go after people’s pension pots including offering free pension reviews and promising to invest in funds that don’t necessarily exist.

“If you’ve had an offer or signed up to a pension scheme you’re unsure about, I urge you to contact Ipswich Citizens Advice where our staff can offer free help and support. Ipswich residents can access Pensionwise guidance face to face via Ipswich Citizens Advice. Telephone guidance is also available. See http://www.pensionwise.gov.uk/ for further details.”

The full survey of more than 460 local Citizens Advice managers, staff, volunteers and Pension Wise guiders also finds that people are most likely to be contacted by cold call, followed by email. Of those who saw people who had been contacted by scammers:

  • 4 in 5 said people were contacted by a phone call
  • 1 in 3 said people were contacted by email
  • 1 in 3 said people were contacted by post
  • 1 in 5 said people were approached by text message

Previous evidence from the charity found that over 55s were more likely to report a scam to their local Citizens Advice.

If you think you may have been scammed you can contact Ipswich Citizens Advice or the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06.

Common signs of a pension scam:

  • Pension help for free: an offer of help with your pension, such as free review or help tracing a lost pension
  • High rates of return: any promotion offering you a much higher rate of return than other investors
  • Time pressure: if you are told you must give your details within a short time frame or sign paperwork from a courier
  • Early access: an offer to help you access your pension before the age of 55

How to avoid being scammed:

  • Never be rushed into making a decision
  • Check if the company contacting you is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)
  • If you are unsure, contact The Pensions Advisory Service on 0300 123 1047 or contact Citizens Advice on 03454 04 05 06
  • Look at the FCA’s Scamsmart warning list, which gives the names of investment schemes that are known scams: www.fca.org.uk/scamsmart
  • If you have already accepted an offer you think is a scam, report it to Action Fraud
  • For further information on pension scams, visit pensionwise.gov.uk