Trading standards - news

Warning over criminals posing as officials

Across the country, Trading Standards are urging people to be aware of who they let through their door.

As well as distraction burglaries, rogue traders and pushy salesmen, some people are now posing as fake officials including fake police, trading standards and NHS workers.

One elderly couple have lost £900,000 in a scam involving a bogus trading standards officer. This situation was made worse by the fact the couple had already been fleeced for £300,000 by cowboy roofers, and believed the officials were there to assist in recovering the money. They were tricked into paying £600,000 in 'up-front fees' with promises to recover the money.

If you think you have been a victim of a scam report the scam to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 and get advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06.

Some top tips to guard against doorstep callers:

  • fit and use a door security chain when you open the door
  • check the identification of a caller by ringing their employer, use the telephone number from your telephone book and not one they might supply - genuine officials will not mind waiting for their identification to be checked
  • do not let anyone carry out work on your house until you get a second opinion and never agree to callers who say 'we are only in the area today'. If you are unsure ask them to come back a different day once you have had a chance to check them out
  • never keep large sums of money in the house and keep purses out of sight, not near the door
  • tell a friend, neighbour or relative about any scams you become aware of

Doorstep scams

Protect yourself from doorstep crime. If you’re not sure don’t open the door.

Top 5 tips to take a stand against doorstep scams:

  • Use a door chain to check who’s calling.
  • Don’t trade on the door step.
  • Ask a trusted friend or family member for advice on reputable traders.
  • Display a “No Cold Calling” sticker outside your door.
  • Always report any suspicious activity.

Remember if you’re not sure, get advice and always report a scam.

For advice on scams call Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline: 03454 04 05 06. To report scams contact Action Fraud: 0300 123 2040.

Mail scams

A short video made by our colleagues over at Essex Trading Standards to raise scam awareness.

Trading Standards try and aid scam victims, but firstly the scams need to be reported.


Everyday, thousands of people become a victim of mail scams. Don’t believe the false promises and protect yourself.

Top 5 tips to take a stand against mail scams:

  1. Never send money to a company in order to claim a prize or winnings.
  2. Watch out for letters with too good to be true offers, it’s probably a scam.
  3. Don’t disclose personal information to people or companies you do not know.
  4. If you get a lot of mail get a trusted friend or family member to help you sort through it.
  5. If you think the letter is a scam report it and shred it.

Remember if you’re not sure, get advice and always report a scam.

For advice on scams call Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 03454 04 05 06. To report scams contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.

Online scams

The internet gives easy access to criminals to scam consumers out of money. Be online savvy and protect yourself.

Top 5 tips to take a stand against internet scams:

  1. Be wary of emails from unknown sources asking you for personal details.
  2. Set up a junk mail filter to stop unwanted emails entering your account.
  3. Always go to a bank’s official website to get information, don’t follow links within emails.
  4. Make sure your payments online are secure, look for the padlock symbol in the address bar.
  5. Say no to strangers offering to put money in your account, this could be illegal.

Remember if you’re not sure, get advice and always report a scam.

For advice on scams call Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 03454 04 05 06. To report scams contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.

Telephone scams

Scammers often use the telephone as a method to gain personal details and con people out of their life savings. Avoid being one of them, protect yourself.

Top 5 tips to take a stand against telephone scams:

  1. Never give out personal or bank details over the telephone.
  2. Don’t feel pressured to make a decision over the telephone.
  3. If the caller is vague about giving out their company information, hang up.
  4. Don’t open texts or answer calls from unrecognisable numbers.
  5. Consider a call blocking device to filter out unwanted calls.

Remember if you’re not sure, get advice and always report a scam.

For advice on scams call Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 03454 04 05 06. To report scams contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.

Flight problems - what are your rights

Flying abroad this year? Be aware of what rights you have for cancelled flights, long flight delay and denied boarding. Under EU regulation 261/2004 you may be entitled to reimbursement, rerouting or compensation.

Cancelled flights

You should be offered either a refund or re-routing (to your final destination). However this does not include any other parts of your trip such as hotel or transfer costs.

If there is a delay due to re-routing, compensation in the form of refreshments or accommodation is normally owed by the airline dependant on the distance of the journey and the time delayed.

Denied boarding

An airline can refuse to allow you to board for various reasons. One of the most common being they have overbooked your flight. If ‘bumped’ off your flight you are entitled to some compensation in line with the distance of the journey and the time you are delayed.

To be entitled to compensation three conditions need to be satisfied:

  • you must have a valid ticket
  • you must have a confirmed reservation
  • you must have checked-in by the deadline given to you by the airline

Flight delays

For delayed flights the airline might have to provide assistance. The length of delay and the distance of the flight will reflect the level of assistance provided. This assistance could include:

  • meals and refreshments
  • two free telephone calls, emails, telexes or faxes
  • hotel accommodation and transfers
  • reimbursement of ticket

More information about air travel compensation can be found online at the UK European Consumer Centre website.

Skin lightener warning

Skin lightening products have become ever more popular in recent years. However tests carried out in Bracknell and other local authorities have found numerous skin lightening products to contain very harmful chemicals.

Many of the products tested contained levels of hydroquinone, mercury or corticosteroids; all banned substances in cosmetics due the potential resulting problems of skin thinning, discoloration, organ damage and even cancer.

Trading Standards are working to remove these dangerous products from sale.

In the last several weeks eight London businesses have been ordered to pay fines and costs totalling over £100,000 for their involvement in the supply of cosmetics that either contain banned or restricted substances or failed to comply with safety rules on labelling and traceability, and some 2690 products were seized.

Bracknell Forest Council Trading Standards warns anyone using these products to be aware of the potential issues some such products can cause, particularly with long term use.

The dangers of lift-up beds

Bracknell Forest Council are warning residents about the dangers of lift-up based beds (Ottomans), after an incident in Derbyshire where a mother found her toddler hanging unconscious from the lifting loop.

The two-year-old child was found hanging from the loop and after being rushed to hospital made a full recovery.

This style of bed have lift-up bases hinging either at the headboard or on one side to provide hidden storage space. A loop is attached to assist the lifting operation which then continues using hydraulics but needs adult weight to close.

In this unfortunate incident the child had triggered the lift but his weight was insufficient to close the bed after catching the loop round his neck.

The matter of these beds is now under investigation by trading standards colleagues alongside the UK bed industry specialists.

We would urge anyone who has a bed fitted with a similar loop, or other similar products with straps or loops, to remove, cut or tie them to prevent a strangulation hazard.

Nuisance calls crackdown

Plans are in place for cold callers to no longer be able to hide or disguise their phone numbers, as the government attempts to crack down on nuisance calls.

The government is expected to confirm any day now that cold calling marketing companies registered in the UK will soon need to display their phone numbers when making unsolicited phone calls, even if their call centres are abroad.

The ICO can investigate and take enforcement action against callers who persistently and deliberately break the rules.

Such calls are incredibly intrusive and can cause significant harm particularly to elderly and vulnerable members of society.
This change in law is aimed to improve consumer protection, making it easier to refuse or report unwanted marketing calls.

Companies can risk fines of up to £2 million from Ofcom and a further £500,000 from the ICO if they continue to bombard consumers with unwanted calls.

If you are receiving unwanted phone calls and want to complain contact OFCOM or ICO.

Alternate dispute resolution (ADR)

Want to complain about a purchase?

You can opt for alternative dispute resolution instead of going to court.

ADR is the term used to describe different ways of resolving a complaint that don't involve going to court. It is also known as mediation, arbitration, conciliation or a complaints board. Typically you ask a neutral third party to step in and act as an intermediary between you and the trader you're complaining about.

This person may:

  • suggest a solution to your complaint
  • impose a solution on you and the other party or
  • just bring you both together to discuss how to find a solution

ADR is often easier, quicker and more cost effective than going to court. Originations providing ADR are audited and must meet certain standards set by the regulatory body.

Due to recent change in legislation there are now 25 approved ADR schemes. Everything from retail and higher education to furniture and the motor industry are included. More information is available from the European Commission's website.

Usually if you have a dispute with a trader outside the UK there is not a lot that can be done. The UK European Consumer Centre can support and advice UK consumers in dispute with a trader based in an EU country outside the UK. They can be contacted on 01268 886690 or UK European Consumer Centre.

Buying tickets online

Festival season consumers should be aware of where they are buying their tickets from.

Online ticket fraud increased by 55% and at least £5.2m was lost to ticket fraud in 2015 alone. Consumers are attracted by good prices for the events, where elsewhere they are sold out. On making payment they don't receive their tickets and the seller no longer responds to their correspondence. The nature of the frauds can vary, but it usually involves tickets being sold that either don’t exist or never materialise.

Some people are too embarrassed to own up to being scammed, while others decide to write off the loss.

A few steps to follow when buying tickets online:

  • remember paying by credit card offers greater protection than with other methods. It provides protection from fraud, guarantees and non-delivery
  • check the website for the company’s address and full contact details - if it is not easy to find, ask yourself why?
  • buy tickets from venue box office, promoter, official agent or a reputable ticket exchange site
  • ensure the site is secure - look out for the ‘s’ in https - a padlock on the payment screen is also a mark of security
  • beware of buying tickets once an event is ‘sold out’
  • contact the organiser of the event and ask if the seller is authorized by them
  • check ticketing forums to find feedback from people who have purchased tickets from the website

If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

If you have any doubts about the tickets you have bought please contact citizens advice bureau on 03444 111 306 for further advice.

Illegal tooth whitening

Trading standards warn you of the dangers of illegal tooth whitening practices. Teeth-whitening should only be carried out by a dentist or dental professional.

Many beauty therapists now offer a tooth whitening service. They provide self administration using pre-loaded trays and the beautician on hand providing advice. This is illegal.

Products containing less than 0.1% hydrogen peroxide can be bought as home treatments, but are not always effective.

In test purchases across the country, some kits had 300 times the legal limit of hydrogen peroxide. This can cause painful chemical burns. Long term usage could lead to possible lasting enamel damage.

Some didn’t list hydrogen peroxide on the ingredients list. They claimed to be peroxide free. These contained sodium perborate which releases hydrogen peroxide. This can cause amongst other issues, infertility and foetal abnormalities.

Please report illegal teeth-whitening. Contact Trading standards via the Citizens advice consumer helpline on 03454 04 05 06.

Your package has been seized

Consumers beware new scam email claiming to be from Royal Mail.

Fraudsters are sending out virus infected emails. If opened it can steal information such as account names, email addresses and passwords.

The email says a package has been seized by HM Revenue & Customs upon arrival into the UK. It suggests you have a potentially counterfeit item. It provides a .zip attachment with more information about the matter.

Do not click on any links or download any attachments and report it to Action Fraud.

Royal Mail will never:

  • send an email asking for credit card numbers or other personal or confidential information
  • ask customers to enter information on a page that isn’t part of the Royal Mail website
  • include attachments unless the customer has contacted Royal Mail with an enquiry or has signed up for updates from the same
If you believe that you have been a victim of fraud you can:
  • report it online on Action Fraud or
  • by telephone on 0300 123 2040 or
  • for advice contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 03454 04 05 06

Fraudsters harvesting signatures

Look out for rogue traders knocking on your door and beware unexpected parcel deliveries.

Fraudsters use lots of techniques to run scams. They commit different frauds depending on the type of personal information they steal. Your identity is a precious commodity. You should take every precaution to ensure that it isn’t abused or stolen.

Your signature can be the final piece. Once they get hold of it they can drain your bank account or commit identity crime.

In an interview, a convicted fraudster said, “If we want to get someone’s signature it’s really easy. All we do is put on a fluorescent coat or vest, knock on the door and ask the person to sign for a letter or a flyer. They don’t need signing for but nobody ever questions why and we don’t hang around for a chat! Once we have the signature we can make changes on their bank accounts and authorise fraudulent money transfers.”

How to protect yourself

  • not expecting a delivery? Be suspicious.
  • question what you are signing for and look for official identification. If you do sign, just print your name.
  • check your bank and financial statements
  • report anything suspicious to the bank or financial service provider concerned

If you believe that you have been a victim of fraud:

  • report it online at Action Fraud or
  • telephone 0300 123 2040 or
  • for advice contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 03454 04 05 06

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