Crime

Beware the BBQ-bandits

Tips to keep your garden safe:

  • Lock valuables away: in the event of a theft claim your insurer will want to know if the item was locked in an outbuilding and will usually ask for proof of forced entry.
  • Defend your property: make sure gates have locks fitted and use security lights to deter thieves. Shrubs and plants along borders may put intruders off scaling walls.
  • Secure your bike: always keep bikes locked in an outbuilding. Some policies may even stipulate that bikes themselves should be locked to an unmoveable object within.
  • Know your policy: check what your policy covers. Insurers often limit claims for garden items.

Homeowners planning barbecues and garden parties this weekend are being urged to keep their properties secure, as the number of garden thefts soar.

According to the Crime Survey for England and Wales the number of garden thefts rose by 23% to 595,000 in 2018, up from 483,000 the previous year.

Amongst the most frequently stolen items were barbecues, lawnmowers, play equipment, garden furniture, plants and strangely even garden gnomes.

During the same period thefts from inside properties fell by 2% to 669,000.

Commenting on the figures, Steve Gibbon, a former police detective who now runs his own security consultancy says: “Garden gadgets are an increasingly attractive prospect for thieves. A high-end barbecue or a robotic lawnmower can cost a lot of money these days – but we do not treat them with the same care as other valuables.

“We leave them outside and unlocked in a way we would never do with a laptop or a mobile phone worth the same value.

“We feel garden equipment is safe within the grounds of our house, but it is not hard to move a lawnmower or even a barbecue on wheels.

“It might be an inconvenience, but people should keep their garden equipment under lock and key when they are out – in a garden shed or fixed to something with a decent padlock to reduce the risk.”

(more…)

Avoid Holiday Fraud

Each year, fraudsters target unsuspecting holidaymakers and travellers conning them out of millions of pounds. Not only are people losing substantial sums of money but many holidays are being ruined, with people unable to afford a replacement. Over the past four years, we’ve joined forces with the City of London Police, Action Fraud and Get Safe Online to raise awareness of different types of holiday booking fraud and how you can avoid becoming a victim.

What is holiday booking fraud and how to avoid the common types?

Holiday booking fraud is when people hand over money only to discover the holiday, accommodation or flight they paid for doesn’t exist.

Fraudsters are conning unsuspecting holidaymakers and travellers out of millions of pounds each year or leaving them stranded with nowhere to stay.

The most common types of booking fraud are: 

  • Holiday Accommodation: Fraudsters are making full use of the internet to con holidaymakers by setting up fake websites, hacking into legitimate accounts and posting fake adverts on websites and social media. 
  • Airline tickets: Where a customer believes they are booking a flight and receives a fake ticket or pays for a ticket that never turns up.
  • Sports and religious trips: A popular target for fraud due to limited availability of tickets and consequently higher prices. 
  • Timeshares and holiday clubs: The sums involved with this form of fraud are particularly high with victims losing typically thousands of pounds. 

Top tips to help avoid holiday booking fraud

  • Don’t reply to unsolicited emails, texts, social media or calls with holiday offers. Links and attachments in emails may lead to malicious websites or download viruses.
  • Stay safe online: Check the web address is legitimate and has not been altered by slight changes to a domain name – such as going from .co.uk to .org.
  • Do your research: Don’t just rely on one review – do a thorough online search to ensure the company is credible. If they’re suspect, other people may well have posted their experiences warning people off.
  • Look for the logo: Check whether the company is an ABTA Member. Look for the ABTA logo on the company’s website and if you have any doubts, verify membership by visiting our ABTA Member search. If you’re booking a flight and want more information about ATOL protection, or would like to check whether a company is an ATOL holder, then please visit the CAA website.
  • Pay safe: Never pay directly into an private individuals bank account. 
  • Check the paperwork: You should study receipts, invoices and terms and conditions, and be very wary of any companies that don’t provide any at all. When booking through a Holiday Club or Timeshare, get the contract thoroughly vetted by a solicitor before signing up. 
  • Use your instincts: If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Get free expert advice: For further advice on how to stay safe when booking or researching travel online, go to Get Safe Online.

How to report it

Report it to Action Fraud online or call 0300 123 2040. If they’re a member of the Association of British Travel Agents, report to them too.

ABTA
https://www.abta.com/tips-and-advice/planning-and-booking-a-holiday/how-avoid-travel-related-fraud

Action Fraud
https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/a-z-of-fraud/holiday-fraud

#scamaware

Don’t let a scammer enjoy your retirement

Find out how pension scams work, how to avoid them and what to do if you suspect a scam.

Scammers can be articulate and financially knowledgeable, with credible websites, testimonials and materials that are hard to distinguish from the real thing. Scammers design attractive offers to persuade you to transfer your pension pot to them or to release funds from it. It is then invested in unusual and high-risk investments like overseas property, renewable energy bonds, forestry, storage units, or simply stolen outright.

Scam tactics include:

  • contact out of the blue
  • promises of high / guaranteed returns
  • free pension reviews • access to your pension before age 55
  • pressure to act quickly

Four simple steps to protect yourself from pension scams

  1. Reject unexpected offers
    If you’re contacted out of the blue about your pension, chances are it’s high risk or a scam. Be wary of free pension review offers. A free offer out of the blue from a company you have not dealt with before is probably a scam. Fortunately, research shows that 95% of unexpected pension offers are rejected.*
  2. Check who you’re dealing with
    Check the Financial Services Register (www.register.fca.org.uk) to make sure that anyone offering you advice or other financial services is FCA-authorised.
    If you don’t use an FCA-authorised firm, you also won’t have access to the Financial Ombudsman Service or the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. So you’re unlikely to get your money back if things go wrong. If the firm is on the FCA Register, you should call the Consumer Helpline on 0800 111 6768 to check the firm is permitted to give pension advice.
    Beware of fraudsters pretending to be from a firm authorised by the FCA, as it could be what we call a ‘clone firm’. Use the contact details provided on the FCA Register, not the details they give you.
  3. Don’t be rushed or pressured
    Take your time to make all the checks you need – even if this means turning down an ‘amazing deal’.
    Be wary of promised returns that sound too good to be true and don’t be rushed or pressured into making a decision.
  4. Get impartial information and advice
    The Pensions Advisory Service (www.thepensionsadvisoryservice.org.uk) – Provides free independent and impartial information and guidance.
    Pension Wise (www.pensionwise.gov.uk) – If you’re over 50 and have a defined contribution (DC) pension, Pension Wise offers pre-booked appointments to talk through your retirement options.
    Financial advisers – It’s important you make the best decision for your own personal circumstances, so you should seriously consider using the services of a financial adviser. If you do opt for an adviser, be sure to use one that is regulated by the FCA and never take investment advice from the company that contacted you or an adviser they suggest, as this may be part of the scam.

Financial Conduct Authority
The Pensions Regulator

#scamaware

Report

Scam Awareness Campaign

You might be able to stop others from being scammed if you report a scam.

You should report the scam to more than one organisation – report it to:

  1. the Citizens Advice Consumer Service first
  2. Action Fraud – or Royal Mail if you’ve been scammed by post

Give as much information as you can – for example, dates, names and email addresses.

Get help if you’ve shared your bank details. Your bank might be able to refund some of the money or block your cards.

If you’ve been threatened with violence, report it to the police on 101.

Report a scam to Consumer Service

Report the scammer to the Citizens Advice Consumer Service online or by phone.

They will:

  • give you advice on what to do next
  • report the scam to Trading Standards – they might investigate to see if the business has acted illegally or unfairly

Report a scam to Action Fraud

You should report the scam to Action Fraud – the national fraud reporting centre.

They might get the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau to investigate the scam further. You’ll usually get a police crime reference number. 

It’s easiest to report scams online – either:

It’s best to fill in the form on a computer, not a mobile or tablet. It takes about 20 minutes to fill in.

You can also report the scam by phone.

Action Fraud
Telephone: 0300 123 2040
Textphone: 0300 123 2050
Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm

Website: https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/

Calls usually cost up to 40p a minute from mobiles and up to 10p a minute from landlines. It should be free if you have a contract that includes calls to landlines – check with your supplier if you’re not sure.

Reporting a postal scam

You can report postal scams to Royal Mail – they investigate scams and work to stop them.

Post the scam mail to FREEPOST SCAM MAIL – include the envelope it came in and a completed ‘scam mail report’. You can download the scam mail report from Royal Mail’s website – or you can ask Royal Mail to send you a scam mail report and a pre-paid envelope to send it in.

Royal Mail

Telephone: 0800 011 3466 – leave a message with your name, address and phone number.

Email: scam.mail@royalmail.com

Calls are free from mobiles and landlines.

#scamaware

Stop

Scams Awareness Campaign

Check if something might be a scam

A scam is a type of fraud in which someone steals your money or information. 
You can be scammed online, in person, over the phone, or through the post. 
Scams can be difficult to recognise, but there are things you can look out for.

Recognising a scam

It might be a scam if:

  • it seems too good to be true – for example, a holiday that’s significantly cheaper than you’d expect it to be
  • someone you don’t know contacts you unexpectedly
  • you suspect you’re not dealing with a real company – for example, if there’s no postal address
  • you’ve been asked to transfer money quickly
  • you’ve been asked to pay in an unusual way – for example, by vouchers or wire transfer
  • you’ve been asked to give away personal information like passwords or PINs

If you think you’ve paid too much for something

Paying more for something than you think it’s worth isn’t the same as being scammed. Usually, a scam will involve theft or fraud.

You have other rights if you think you’ve overpaid.

If you think you’ve spotted a scam

If you’ve given away money or information because of a scam, there are things you should do. Check what to do if you’ve been scammed.

If you haven’t been scammed but you’ve seen something you think is a scam, you should report it. Find out how to report a scam.

If you’re not sure if something is a scam, contact Citizens Advice consumer service. They’ll give you advice about what might be a scam and the steps you should take if you’ve been scammed.

#scamaware

Mattress scam alert

A Kent resident was recently scammed by a criminal selling mattresses from a van in Edenbridge (South Ashford has seen reports of mattresses being sold from a van in Ashford)

At best these mattresses will contain a very basic spring unit with a polyester fibre pad or a layer of cheap foam over it, all covered in a cheap outer covering material. They almost certainly haven’t undergone testing though they may display the small blue, white and black label with an image of a cigarette and match flame.

At worst, the mattress may contain an old, used spring unit along with dirty fillings. Some of the worst cases are where the rogue trader has simply placed an old mattress inside a brand-new cover! 

Kent County Council Public Protection

HM Revenue and Customs Alert

Action Fraud has experienced an increase in the reporting of malicious calls, voicemails, text messages or emails to members of the public purporting to be from HMRC.

The fraudsters state that as a result of their non-payment of tax or other duty, the victim is liable to prosecution or other legal proceedings such as repossession of belongings to settle the balance but can avoid this by arranging for payment to be made immediately by method such as bank transfer or by iTunes gift cards.

If the victim is hesitant or refuses to comply, the suspect makes a threat such as immediate arrest, bailiffs or in cases where the victim appears to be of overseas origin; deportation.

Often, the period for which the tax is allegedly due is distant enough to guarantee the victim will have little, if any, paperwork or ability to verify the claims. Once the money is paid the suspects sever all contact.

It is vital that the public exercise caution when receiving messages or telephone calls of this nature.

What you need to do
Always question unsolicited requests for your personal or financial information. Just because someone knows your basic details (such as your name and contact details), it doesn’t mean they are genuine. Instead, contact the company directly using trusted methods such as a known email address or phone number.

Listen to your instincts. If something feels wrong then it is usually right to question it. No genuine organisation will ask you to pay taxes, bills or fees using iTunes Gift Cards, or any other type of voucher.

Don’t be rushed or pressured into making a decision. Under no circumstances would a genuine bank or some other trusted organisation force you to make a financial transaction on the spot.

Report Phishing attempts. If you receive a call, text or email of this nature and have not lost money, report this as a phishing attempt to Action Fraud.

Action Fraud 7 January 2019

Police warning following theft of unsafe toys

A trailer containing an unsafe batch of Little Tikes Squeezoo Bubble Bus and Elephant toys was stolen from Wellesbourne Distribution Park. This batch of toys was on its way to be destroyed due to quality control issues and potential safety risks associated with them.

While the brand is still stocked by reputable retailers, Detective Constable Daniel Griffiths of Warwickshire Polce said: “We’re urging people to show caution when buying these toys them from a market, car boot sale, online auction site or social media.

“This particular batch of toys were on their way to be destroyed due to quality control issues and there are potential safety risks associated with them.

“We have launched an investigation to identify the offenders and retrieve the stolen toys. I’d appeal for anyone with information that could help with our investigation to contact us.”

The stolen trailer is blue curtain sided with a red chassis with the identification number C451753. The number plate may have the partial registration WT67.

Anyone with information about the theft or who thinks they have seen the stolen toys for sale should call police on 101 quoting incident 50 of 22 November 2018.

CALL 101 – INCIDENT 50 of 22 NOVEMBER 2018.

Alternatively, information be provided anonymously to the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

For advice and to report issues to KCC Trading Standards contact
Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06
Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm.

Kent County Council Public Protection
Warwickshire Police

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