Nationally, there has been an increase in cold calls to businesses as well as the general public from bogus bailiffs requesting payments for a “phantom” debt.
Here in Coventry, Trading Standards have received a report from a small business in the Longford area who have been targeted by such scammers and unfortunately pressured into paying out nearly £400.
The fraud involves being cold-called by someone claiming to be a bailiff working on behalf of a court, attempting to recover funds for a non-existent debt. In the Coventry case, the scammers claimed to be working on behalf of the City's Council Tax department.
Fraudsters request payment by bank transfer and if refused they threaten to visit the people’s homes or place of work in order to recover the debt that is owed.
Confirm what the debt is regarding
Double check with the Court they claim they are working on behalf of or contact the originating company to confirm whether the suspects are legitimate. If you use a landline make sure you hear the dialling tone prior to dialling as the suspects could still be on the line
Request written details of the debt to access its legitimacy
Do not feel rushed or intimidated to make a decision based on a phone call.
Coventry City Council Tax department has advised us of an elderly local couple who have reported receiving a telephone call from a company. They were advised that as they were both over 80, their Council Tax bill could be drastically reduced for a ‘fee’ of £160.
Thankfully, they did not engage and refused the ’offer’.
We would advise that if any resident receives a similar call, do NOT give out any personal information, and hang up on the call. We are anxious for people not to be caught out, so please be on your guard for this or any other bogus caller.
In February, Trading Standards successfully secured two convictions regarding illegal cigarettes:
Auyob Abed Habib, 35, of Elmsdale Avenue, Coventry pleaded guilty at Warwick Crown Court to 5 charges including offences under the Trade Marks Act 1994 and for being in possession for supply, tobacco products that failed to carry the required health warnings in English.
Ms Corina Florina Ondrea, of Ransome Road, Coventry and director of M & D Cleaners Limited pleaded guilty at Coventry Magistrates Court to offences relating to illegal cigarettes found at Sam Mini Market, 681 Foleshill Road, Coventry, CV6 5JQ..
Nationally there has been an increase in the number of reports of “Green Energy” companies fraudulently targeting individuals, attempting to sell devices for their property, as well as maintenance contracts. This has resulted in substantial financial losses to many consumers who have fallen victim to this fraud.
A resident is targeted by a solar energy company. The company may use one of the following tactics to engage with the resident:
Informing the resident that their solar panel supplier has ceased trading and the panels installed may be dangerous.
Advising the resident that new legislation requires them to have a device installed, and failure to install it would mean the emergency services would not attend if the solar panels caused a fire.
Imply that they have taken over from the original supplier and are offering a “free health check”.
A sales visit is undertaken, and the resident is sold a device and / or maintenance contract for their system. The trend is to offer ‘positive input ventilation’ or PIV. Whilst this is a legitimate product, they are being sold a price significantly above their list value, and may not be appropriate for all households.
Another new method of operating for these companies is to offer maintenance contracts, possibly for as long as 20 years. These contracts are not insurance-backed, so are potentially of little value, and have no protection if the company ceases trading. In some instances, the trader is taking payment up-front for these contracts, rather than regular payments, with no service immediately provided.
Trading Standards advise:
Never agree to this or any other contract on the doorstep, and always check the identity of any caller.
Contact your original installer to confirm any information supplied about their current trading status.
The trader must give you a written notice of your cancellation rights when you agree the contract. If the trader doesn't provide you with this information, they commit a criminal offence.
You have 14 days to cancel the agreement. If you cancel, any monies that you have paid should be returned to you.
Never pay in full up front for work, and don't pay by cash. Pay by cheque (which can be traced if necessary) or if the service or goods cost more than £100 then use a credit card as this offers extra protection.