Consumer

Copycat Websites

Copycat websites are those which offer services from government departments or local government, but are not the official site and charge an often substantial premium for those services, often with no tangible benefit to the customer. They achieve this by using website tools to achieve high positions in search engines such as Google, often ranking them higher than the official site and making it appear as though they are ‘official’ or ‘authorised’. They also have website addresses designed to confuse with the official site, and often feature a similar look and feel and brand design.

Google does not allow promotion of firms which charge fees for services that are free from an official site, yet the copycat sites persist. They are meant to prominently display that the service they are offering is available free of charge or for a lower fee, but this often displayed in small type at the bottom of the page, or not at all. At least one government agency has taken action with the Advertising Standards Authority against sites which have copied their official logo and branding.

Get started…

Always be sure that you are using the official website, as copycat sites can occupy many of the top listings on your search engine page and end up costing you unnecessary money.

The Risks

  • Being misled into paying excessive prices for official services which can be purchased on the government department or local government site at the correct price. These services include:
    • Passports.
    • Birth and death certificates.
    • Fishing licences.
    • Driving licences.
    • Driving tests.
    • Congestion Charge.
    • European Health Insurance Cards (EHIC).
  • Being told that using copycat sites make a particular process or application faster or easier, when in fact you could do it yourself equally quickly and easily.

Searching and Buying Official Services Safely

  • Do not automatically opt to use the first website(s) you find in a search engine, even if the address seems authentic and you are in a hurry.
  • Instead, take time to look for the official website. You can normally tell that site is official if it ends in ‘.gov.uk’, it has the department, agency or council’s authentic logo and contact details and the prices are cheaper.
  • If you do opt to use an unofficial site to purchase official services, make sure that the payment page is secure by checking that the address begins with ‘https://’ (the ‘s’ is short for ‘secure’) and there is a locked padlock in the browser window.

If you think you have been misled into overpaying by using an unofficial site:

  • Contact the site to insist on a refund, saying you think you were misled.
  • Contact the relevant government department or agency or local government organisation and report the copycat site.

#scamaware

Get Safe Online
https://www.getsafeonline.org/shopping-banking/copycat-websites/

Talk about scams

Anyone can be scammed. Scammers are intelligent, charming and persuasive – but feeling embarrassed or ashamed about falling for a scam can stop people from reporting them or getting the help they need.

Read Michael’s story to see how it could happen to anyone.

Play your part and share your experience on social media with #scamaware and help stop scams.

“I saw my dream car being advertised on Facebook. I had many conversations with the seller and it all seemed above board. All I needed to do was pay a deposit of £3,850 and when the car was delivered I would pay the balance.

“The next day I waited for my car and it didn’t arrive. I tried calling the seller but he never responded.

“I went to my bank and they said their fraud team would investigate. A few weeks later they got in touch, said they had retrieved my money and would be transferring it back to me.

“I will say that if you see something that seems too good to be true, then it probably is and if I am ever asked to do a bank transfer again I’ll decline as your money is not protected.”

Michael

Citizens Advice
http://scams.citizensadvice.org.uk/

Is someone you know being scammed?

Older people and those who are isolated in their community are often targeted by scammers. If you know or visit someone who might be a target you can support them by keeping an eye out for potential signs of scams.

Someone you know might be being targeted if they:

  • have letters piling up – usually from abroad or what looks like junk mail
  • have a lot of items delivered, such as health or beauty products or fake jewellery
  • are anxious when the phone rings, or get a lot of phone calls
  • become secretive when discussing finances or have unexplained expenses to ‘friends’

Citizens Advice
http://scams.citizensadvice.org.uk/

Why you should report scams

Reporting is really important in the fight against scams and fraud. It might help you to recover your losses and it helps the authorities to learn more about the tactics used by scammers.

The more we know about scams the better we can tackle them.

If you suspect a scam report it to Action Fraud – you can use their online reporting tool: www.actionfraud.police.uk/report_fraud.

If you’ve lost money in a scam, tell your bank, finance company or pension provider.

For more advice call the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06.

#scamaware

Citizen’s Advice
http://scams.citizensadvice.org.uk/

How to spot a scam

Scams are often hard to spot as they’re complex and use psychological tricks. You can keep yourself and others safe by knowing when it might be a scam.
If you’re not sure if something is a scam, get advice.

Talk to friends and family if something seems too good to be true, or call the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06.

It could be a scam if you:

  • Get a call, text or email out of the blue – genuine companies and banks won’t ask for your full personal or security details
  • Are rushed to make a decision or give someone your details – if it’s real, you shouldn’t have to make a decision straight away
  • See a deal that’s very cheap or too good to be true
  • Are asked to pay for something up-front, like collecting a loan, or starting a job
  • Are asked to send money or your bank details to someone you’ve never met, especially friends online
  • Get a text or email saying that your bank needs to contact you ‘urgently’ especially if there’s a link to a website or a premium rate number

Find out more about common scams:
www.citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer/scams/scams/common-scams/

#scamaware

Citizens Advice
http://scams.citizensadvice.org.uk/

Acting on product safety

If there is a problem with the safety of a product, its manufacturer is responsible for making arrangements for its repair, replacement or refund for the owner. This includes contacting the person who has purchased it where possible, and publishing a notice drawing attention to the risk the product poses and what the manufacturer is doing to remedy the issue.

Grenfell Tower fire update

A Hotpoint fridge freezer has been identified as the initial source of the Grenfell Tower fire. At this stage, the manufacturer Whirlpool Corporation has not issued a product recall. Consumers who believe they may own a Hotpoint fridge freezer model number FF175BP (white) or FF175BG (grey) should call Whirlpool’s freephone hotline on 0800 316 3826 or visit the Hotpoint Service website to register your details for further updates.

Check

latest recalls

Register

your appliance

Contact Information

(more…)

Vehicle Online Shopping Fraud

Action FraudFraudsters have been advertising vehicles and machinery for sale on various selling platforms online. The victims, after communicating via email with the fraudster, will receive a bogus email which purports to be from an established escrow provider (a third party who will keep the payment until the buying and selling parties are both happy with the deal).

These emails are designed to persuade victims to pay upfront, via bank transfer, before visiting the seller to collect the goods. The emails also claim that the buyer (victim) has a cooling off period to reclaim the payment if they change their mind. This gives victims the false sense of security that their money is being looked after by this trustworthy third party, when in fact it is not and the money has gone straight to the fraudster.

Protect yourself:

  • When making a large purchase such as a new car or machinery, always meet the seller face to face first and ask to see the goods before transferring any money.
  • If you receive a suspicious email asking for payment, check for spelling, grammar, or any other errors, and check who sent the email. If in doubt, check feedback online by searching the associated phone numbers or email addresses of the seller.
  • Contact the third party the fraudsters are purporting to be using to make the transaction. They should be able to confirm whether the email you have received is legitimate or not.
  • False adverts often offer vehicles or machinery for sale well below market value to entice potential victims; always be cautious. If it looks too good to be true then it probably is.

If you have been affected by this, or any other type of fraud, report it to Action Fraud by visiting www.actionfraud.police.uk, or by calling 0300 123 2040.

Action Fraud 12 June 2017
www.actionfraudalert.co.uk/da/182306/Vehicle%20Online%20Shopping%20Fraud.html

Tougher measures to target rogue landlords

New rules in force from 6 April 2017 will help crackdown on rogue landlords that flout the rules and improve safety and affordability for renters.

Announcing the measures, Housing Minister Gavin Barwell confirmed the powers will give local authorities the tools to crack down on the small minority of rogue landlords who shirk their responsibilities.

This comes as part of the government’s plan set out in its housing white paper to create a bigger and better private rental sector that meets the needs of tenants and landlords alike, giving those who rent a fairer deal.
www.gov.uk/government/publications/fixing-our-broken-housing-market

Councils are now able to impose fines of up to £30,000 as an alternative to prosecution for a range of housing offences. They will be able to retain all of the income to make sure it is used for private sector housing enforcement purposes.
www.gov.uk/government/publications/civil-penalties-under-the-housing-and-planning-act-2016

Rent repayment orders, which can be issued to penalise landlords managing or letting unlicensed properties, have also been extended to cover a wider range of situations. These include the illegal evictions or harassment of the occupiers of a property, using violence to secure entry and the breach of a banning order.
www.gov.uk/government/publications/rent-repayment-orders-under-the-housing-and-planning-act-2016 (more…)

Banning letting agent fees paid by tenants

Department for Communities and Local Government

Opens: 7 April 2017
Closes: 2 June 2017

This consultation seeks views on the implementation of a ban on letting agent fees paid by tenants.

The government announced at the 2016 Autumn Statement that it would consult on introducing a ban on letting agent fees paid by tenants, to improve competition in the private rental market and give renters greater clarity and control over what they will pay.

This consultation paper invites views and comments on how the ban on letting agent fees paid by tenants in England should be implemented and enforced.

To support the consultation process, the government has organised a series of workshops. Places will be allocated on a first come first served basis and the workshops will be tailored to different parts of the sector. Find out more details on the workshops and book your place. (more…)