HOW TO RECOGNISE A SCAM
How scam artists succeed - they will :
- Catch you unawares, contacting you, without you asking them to, by phone, e-mail, post or sometimes in person.
- Sound pleasant, well spoken and kind ( on the phone or at your door ) and want you to think they're your friend.
- Have slick, professional leaflets and letters.
- Be persistent and persuasive.
- Rush you into making a decision.
- Ask you to send money before you receive their tempting offer to win.
New scams from the UK and Overseas appear every day - so it is important to know how to spot them.
They offer you something for nothing - such as :
- You've won a prize in a draw or a lottery ( even though you haven't entered one ).
- An exclusive entry to a scheme that's a surefire way to make money.
- A way to earn easy money by helping them get untold millions out of their country.
- The chance to join an investment scheme that will make you huge amounts of money; and so on.
There are hundreds of examples but we can all protect ourselves by being sceptical. Is it likely that someone you don't know, who has contacted you out of the blue will give you something for nothing ?
They'll ask you to :
- Send money up front - an administrative fee or tax, the list is endless but its always a ruse to get you to give them money.
- Give them your bank account details or other personal details.
- Ring a premium rate number ( all UK premium rate numbers start with 090 ).
- Buy something to get your prize.
They will lie to you and give you what seem to be good reasons why you should do what they say. They will answer all your objections.
Don't send any money or give any personal details to anyone until you've checked them out and talked to a professional or family member and friends. If they ask you to do any of these things they're trying to cover their tracks and get your money and it's likely to be a scam.
Other things to look out for :
- They ask you to send money straight away.
- They give you a PO Box number as their address.
- They ask you not to tell anyone about the deal.
If you come across a Scam :
Stop and be sceptical, tell your friends and family.
If you have been a victim of a scam you should report it to Consumer Direct on : 08454 04 05 06 ; or you can contact your local Police Station.
Useful places to get information :
The Office of Fair Trading
Telephone : 08457 22 44 99
Website : www.oft.gov.uk/consumer/scams
Financial Services Authority
Telephone : 0845 606 1234
Website : www.fsa.gov.uk
Over the last couple of years European and UK legislation has reduce the amount of work that DIYer's can do around their homes. You cannot do work on Gas appliances; you are limited to the amount of electrical installation work. Then there is the unsavoury jobs that need to be done.... do you really want to put your hands down a drain when it gets blocked up ?
One of the big potential work area's requiring a Tradesman coming up in the next couple of years is the switch over of Television to Digital. Remember that unless your TV is really ancient you DO NOT need to change your television ( I have a portable TV that is over 25 years old working via a digital set top box - STB ). You just need to ensure that the STB you purchase has a co-axial output and not just SCART. The set top box costing from £25 and it's connection is not the problem, it's the aerial where the problems occur. Some older aerials will not allow you to pick up all of the Digital TV channels or the picture may occassionally freeze. The aerial will probably need to be changed to cure these problems and can cost hundreds of pounds. New aerials can experience similar problems and normally need to be re-aligned with the TV transmitter.
For many years residents have been bothered by potentially bogus workman knocking on their doors offering to replace broken roof tiles, flashing etc. Obviously this will not stop, but the next "service" that will be offered by these people will be aerial replacement. Even the building supplier "Screwfix Direct" is suggesting that aerial installation is a good business set-up opportunity !
So, if you want some complicated work done around your home in these area's you are reliant on a trades person. Obviously one of the best ways to find someone to do work is by word of mouth recommendations from Friends and Family. Sometimes this doesn't work if for example they live miles away. In these cases you may be able to find a Builder or Electrician etc from Yellow Pages, but that doesn't tell you about their quality of work, if they have insurance cover and after sales service. So what is the alternative ?If you want to purchase a washing machine you may look at a "Which" report from the Consumer Association. Well some well known trades have their own trade bodies that are now checking on the integrity of their members apart from just issuing out membership numbers ! But do check that firm's are not using any Association Registration and logo's illegally.
TrustMark is a new, award-winning scheme supported by the Government, consumer groups and building industry to help you find reputable firms to do repair, maintenance and improvement work inside and outside your home. How it can be new and award winning is beyond me !
If a firm displays their TrustMark logo you know that a trade association or other certification organisation has approved and checked the firm and found that it meets certain standards the Government has set.
SAFE - GAS INSTALLATIONS
Nb: previously this task was undertaken by CORGI
This organisation is the national watchdog for gas safety in the United Kingdom. It's goal is to make people safer when they use trades people. They are meant to be there to improve standards in the industry and help the consumer find and use safe and competent trades people.
They maintain an up-to-date register of qualified gas installers and other trades people. The SAFE badge is meant to be a guarantee of quality, making it the standard to look for when employing a tradesman. SAFE registration numbers are allocated to individuals so ask for registration numbers before the commencement of any work. The SAFE website allows consumers to check for qualified tradespeople by area.
NICEIC - ELECTRICAL INSTALLATIONS
NICEIC Group is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Electrical Safety Council.The Electrical Safety Council is an independent non-proft-making organisation, registered as a charity, set up to protect the safety of consumers. Supported by all sectors of the electrical industry as well as local and central government, they deal with all electrical safety matters on behalf of consumers.
NICEIC has been assessing the technical competence of contractors for over 50 years. Their aim is to protect everyone who uses electricity from unsafe electrical installations in their homes, places of work and leisure. To achieve this, they maintain a register of electrical contractors that they assess as complying with the various standards, codes of practice and Scheme rules.
Contractor assessment covers a representative sample of the contractors work, their premises, documentation, equipment, and the competence of their key supervisory staff. Once contractors become registered with NICEIC, they are re-assessed on a regular basis to ensure continued compliance.
Enrolment with NICEIC is voluntary, but electrical contractors that are competent and conscientious about the service they offer customers would consider it a priority to enrol. Over 20,000 contractors are registered by NICEIC, covering the whole of the UK, including Northern Ireland.
Some of the main benefits of using a contractor registered by NICEIC include:
- Registered Contractors are assessed for competency on a regular basis.
- Contractors registered to NICEIC Building Regulations Schemes are authorised to self-certify their work.
- The NICEIC provide an Insurance Backed Warranty that covers work undertaken by contractors registered to the NICEIC Domestic Installer Scheme.
- NICEIC operates an independent complaints procedure governing the technical standards of electrical installation of its Approved Contractor and Domestic Installer Schemes.
NATIONAL SECURITY INSPECTORATE
The National Security Inspectorate (NSI) is an independent, not-for-profit approvals body providing inspection services for the security and fire industries.
For over 30 years, NSI has been protecting the customer by insisting on the highest standards and operating the toughest inspection regime. Companies are inspected regularly by highly qualified, full-time inspectors, to prove their ongoing competence.
NSI's Customer Care support process reinforces the reliability and integrity of the companies it inspects.
All NSI schemes meet or exceed the appropriate requirements of the Police, Fire Service and Insurers.
The TRUSTMARK website recommends that the Electrical Contractors Association (ECA) should be consulted for alarm installation. Their website is : www.eca.co.uk
GLASS AND GLAZING FEDERATION
The Glass and Glazing Federation (GGF) is the recognised leading authority and voice for companies within the flat glass, glazing, window, home improvement, plastics and applied window film industries in the UK.
Their members work across the industry from emergency glazing, applied film, conservatories, windows, doors, fire resistant glazing, glazing components, flat glass, curtain walling, mirrors, toughened glass, curved glass, extrusions, hardware, glass merchanting, insulated glass and laminated glass.
All of their members are meant to have been vetted to ensure quality of service. The vetting process includes making a site visit to the company's premises, checking three year's of their accounts and taking up references.
All of their members are meant to work to A Code of Good Practice and to the Technical Standards laid out in the Federation's Glazing Manual.
The GGF are also meant to have a Customer charter which offers consumers advice on what and where to buy, a deposit indemnity scheme, safeguards of purchases, quality service, continued customer care and a free Conciliation Service.
FEDERATION OF MASTER BUILDERS - BUILDING AND ASSOCIATED TRADES
The FMB's Masterbond builders have been given the seal of approval by TrustMark, the government's new consumer protection initiative. TrustMark helps customers find reliable and trustworthy tradespeople for home improvements and repairs.
MASTER LOCKSMITHS ASSOCIATION
The Master Locksmiths Association is a non-profit making body; established to set and promote standards of conduct, practice and materials within locksmithing. It also encourages its members to further their knowledge through ongoing education.
Standards of entry to the MLA are high and its motto of "Skill and Integrity" emphasise its determination to ensure that the public, government and industry receive the correct service and advice on security matters from its members.
MLA Licensed companies are inspected periodically to stringent standards including a sampling inspection of recent installations undertaken. All companies are meant to be properly insured to carry out security installations on, or to, customers premises.
The MLA is recognised as the authoritative body for locksmithing by: -
- The Police
- Home Office
- British Standards Institute
- Association of British Insurers (ABI),
- Building Research Establishment (BRE)
The MLA operate a database of members on their website that can be accessed by consumers.
CONFEDERATION OF AERIAL INDUSTRIES
The CAI is the recognised body for the aerial and satellite industry. The CAI is committed to raising Standards within the industry and whilst the criteria for membership is extremely high, the consumer is assured of a quality installation at a fair price.
One of the many membership requirements is that any installing member company will agree to the examination and test of any equipment manufactured or supplied, the inspection of any installation or investigation into conduct which could have a detrimental effect on the reputation of the CAI or its Members. CAI Members are only meant to employ qualified personnel whose work has been monitored by an CAI Inspector. All Members are required to work to the exacting standards laid down in the CAI's Codes of Practice.
All CAI Members are meant to guarantee their installations for a minimum of twelve months. In addition to this, the CAI undertakes to back-up this guarantee with its own twelve months guarantee, for domestic installations only.
All CAI Members are required to have full insurance cover to cover all aspects of their business. There is also a minimum requirement of £2,000,000 for public liability insurance.
The CAI operate a database of members on their website that can be accessed by consumers.
The door to door salesperson
Some area's experience some form of potential scam / con on a weekly basis. We have all probably experienced the person knocking on our door. On openning the door we are greeted with the familiar salutation " Hello, I am xxx and I represent the company yyy. I am not selling anything, but I am here to offer you the opportunity to have a free survey for double glazing / damp proofing / guttering / bedroom furniture / brain surgery" !
The main question you should be asking yourself is, if they are not selling anything, why are they here ?
Mobile phones and bluetooth
There have been some reports of a scam involving Mobile Phone, Blue Tooth and Premium rate numbers. It appears that someone has set up some form of premium rate telephone service. Then someone with a Bluetooth transmitter constantly dials the premium rate number ( already mentioned ) in a busy area (ie. a mainline station, busy shopping area, etc). Any innocent passerby with an activated Bluetooth telephone will have it dial the premium rate number. Those innocent mobile phone owners on a monthly contract will see a premium rate call and wonder how and why. Those individuals with Pay as you go mobiles will just see that their credit has been depleted and be none the wiser.
The moral of the tale. Turn off your Bluetooth when not required, which may be hard when you need it for your handsfree in your car !
British Gas Homecare Service - the small print
Within other articles in this section there has been ways mentioned to avoid cowboys. Some articles have also reiterated that if you are going to have any work done on a gas appliance it must be carried out by a registered CORGI Maintainer or Installer. This is just a little warning about terms and conditions.
If you have gas fired central heating there is a good chance that you have paid to have a service agreement for emergency call out and a regular system service. There is also a very good chance that the contract was taken out with British Gas as the major player in the field. So is you system completely covered ? Well Homecare 100 covers just the boiler; whilst Homecare 200 covers the boiler, controls, pipework and radiators. So, Homecare 200 is the one to go for, the whole system is covered and you can rest back knowing that if anything goes wrong you are okay. Well not quite, have a look at your Homecare terms and conditions. One of the most important items is not covered. You will not actually see any wording referring to it in the British Gas terms and conditions ( as of 30th November 2007 ). It's the actual water flowing in the system to heat the radiators. If it leaks out from a pipe, pipe connection, boiler, pump etc. you are okay. It's when the water has been left in the system for any long period of time that the problem starts. Corrosion then takes place and then there is the limescale from the water. Those two ingredients in the water produce sludge and that will block the pipes. The symptoms are radiators having cold spots or not heating at all. Removing sludge is NOT covered by the Homecare service.
Also note that British Gas does not have any form of policy to advise its customers to have any form of preventative maintenance done on their central heating system to reduce the liklihood of sludge build-up ( typically £200 - £300 - system drain, system flush, fill-up and add corrosion inhibitor ). Instead if a blockage occurs they will give you a quote for carrying out remedial action ( Powerflush ) for a sum of around £800.
By the way. In the British Gas Homecare terms and conditions one of the services that they offer to it's customers is "Advice"! When asked, both a British Gas Service Centre Manager and a Field Staff Manager stated "we do not have a policy for providing preventative maintenance advice".
This is not a case of buyer beware, just one of being aware.
British Gas Homecare Terms and Conditions web page :
DISCLAIMER : All of the information on this website has been provided in good faith. In no way can we guarantee any services recommended, trades people recommended, views or other content of the websites mentioned on this page.