Scam Alerts and News from Coventry Trading Standards - 4 December 2015

Having trouble viewing this email? View it as a Web page.

Scam Alerts and News from Coventry Trading Standards - 4 December 2015

In this issue:


Sentences send warning about illegal tobacco

Fakes Hotline

Four people were fined a total of £15,600 for trying to sell illegal tobacco with a street value of £3,000 this week.

In three separate cases at Nuneaton Magistrates Court Trading Standards officers told how they have found 798 packs of illegal cigarettes and tobacco for sale in Coventry.

Three shops, European Foods of 98 Clay Lane, European Mini Market of 153 Far Gosford Street and World Mini Market of 28 Far Gosford Street were all visited and were found to be in possession with the intent to supply illegal cigarettes.

For full details please see our press release.

In the case of European Foods the owners were using a motorised shelf to hide the illegal cigarettes and this was only found by using sniffer dogs.

Illegal tobacco includes counterfeit cigarettes and hand rolling tobacco and also cigarettes and tobacco which are not labelled with the English language health warning and have avoided duty payments. Illegal cigarettes are a fire risk as they may continue to burn when they are not being actively smoked.

Keep illegal tobacco out of the City by reporting anonymously to Trading Standards on: 0300 303 2636. It might stop your child or someone else’s getting hooked on smoking. 

Back to top


Thousands of unsafe 'hoverboards' detained over past seven weeks


More than 17,000 self-balancing scooters, or ‘hoverboards,’ have been examined at UK national entry points since 15 October due to safety concerns. Of these, over 15,000 (or 88%,) have been assessed as unsafe and have been detained at the border. 

Many of these items were found to have non-compliant plugs without fuses, increasing the risk of the device overheating, exploding or catching fire. There has also been problems with cabling, chargers, batteries or the cut-off switches within the board, which often fail.

In recent months these faults have caused extensive damage to people’s property. We are therefore urging consumers to be vigilant this Christmas and avoid putting households at risk with unsafe products.

Whether you already own one of these products or are considering purchasing one this Christmas, follow these tips:

  • Never leave the device charging unattended – especially overnight: many products have been found with a faulty cut-off switch which could lead to the device overheating, exploding or catching fire.
  • Check the device: look at the shape of the plug and check for traceable information, such as the name and contact details of the manufacturer and / or importer.

If buying online, look closely at the website before hitting the ‘buy’ button:

  • Search for reviews of the seller – are they genuine? 
  • Look for spelling or grammatical mistakes.    
  • Where is the company is based? Do they have a landline number you can call? Remember a company based abroad may make it harder to get a complaint dealt with or return a faulty product.
  • Is there an ‘s’ at the end of the ‘http’ part of the web address, or is there a padlock symbol in the task bar indicating the website is encrypted keeping your details more secure.
  • Don’t be dazzled by a bargain: If prices look too good to be true, they probably are.
  • Criminals will exploit high demand: When popular must have Xmas presents start to sell out at well-known retailers, the void is quickly filled by crooks churning out poor quality imitations that can put people in danger.
  • Don’t ‘panic buy’ from the first website you find – do your usual common-sense checks.

Buying online for onward sale online? If you do this you are assuming the legal responsibilities of a business to ensure that what you’re selling complies with product safety and intellectual property legislation. For information about this visit

Locally, we have recently checked local importers and no major issues were found.

Back to top


Dating agency scams


An elderly Styvechale resident has come forward in the hope that their story may prevent others from suffering the same financial and emotional loss they did.

After subscribing to a dating website for senior citizens someone posing as an international gold dealer made contact and befriended the resident. They then persuaded them to part with substantial sums of money which was needed to pay for taxes to release gold that he had travelled to United Arab Emirates to collect. The scammer then asked for money to cover ‘tax payments’ to help the gold travel through Europe to the UK where he vowed to refund his victim.

Dating scammers typically create fake online identities with photographs taken from other sources in order to lure their victims in. Once a victim is found, the scammer expresses strong emotions for them in a relatively short period of time and may even send them gifts to prove their devotion.

They may take several weeks, or even months, to build up a trusting relationship. Once their victim’s defences are down, the scammer will inevitably ask for money, gifts or banking/credit card details.

They may claim money is desperately needed for medical treatment for a sick relative, to support a struggling business venture, to pay for flights to visit their victim or to pay for taxes or administration fees to release property, such as gold, or funds which are located abroad. The scammer will typically promise their victim a share of the funds.

Our advice to anyone who is or may be considering using dating websites:

  • Never send money or give bank / credit card details to anyone you haven’t met.
  • Remember, people you meet with online may falsely claim to be UK-based or send you a photo claiming it is of them.
  • Be suspicious if someone insists you communicate by email instead of using the dating site. 
  • Report any concerns you have to Action Fraud
  • Trust your instincts – if something feels wrong it probably is. 

Dating fraud cost the public £33.7m in 2014/15. Police believe the total value of fraud may be higher than reported due to the victims embarrassment stopping them reporting the fraud.

Back to top


New bank charges reclaim phone scam

Stay Calm

We are warning residents to be wary of bogus telephone calls referring to compensation for overpaid bank charges.

The advice follows a report of a resident in Stoke who received a phone call from a man claiming to work for  ‘The Government Claims Agency’ and gave a contact number of 0203 289 7220.

The caller said they had been contracted by the Government to recover such compensation and had obtained a cheque for £3,600 for them.

Internet research shows that a large number of people have been targeted where an upfront fee of £360 is requested to be paid by MoneyGram. Once this is confirmed as having been paid, it is promised that a solicitor will then bring the cheque round to the address. Obviously, this cheque will never materialise.

Our advice: Never agree to send money or give out any personal or bank details to anyone for anything that you have not asked for.

If payment is requested by way of a voucher, be aware that many electronic payment vouchers are untraceable and irrecoverable, making them highly attractive payment methods to fraudsters. Treat them and use them as you would use cash.

The Financial Ombudsman Service can provide advice on bank charge claims. Visit: or call 0800 0234567.

Back to top


People's Postcode Lottery

Postcode Lotto

We first warned against this scam in June 2014, and again in August of this year. However, we have now had another report from an Allesley Park resident who has received a letter claiming to be from the Postcode Lottery saying they had won £285,000. However, to claim their prize, recipients are asked to contact the Foreign Service Manager of Prime Finance Company, and there is a unspecified clearance fee to be paid.

This is a clear scam and if you send any money you will get nothing in return. If you send one payment, they will contact you again and try to con you out of even more.

Protect yourself and ask yourself how could you win a lottery if you haven't bought a ticket? Never reveal credit card or bank account details unless you're sure who you're dealing with.

Back to top


Mandate fraud - businesses beware!

Mandate Fraud

Millions of pounds are lost to mandate fraud every month. Mandate fraud is where fraudsters obtain details of direct debit, standing order or account transfer details and amend them to transfer monies to other accounts.

Fraudsters make an approach via email, letter or phone call impersonating a familiar contact, such as a supplier, your manager or your company’s CEO.

The fraudster will ask you to change the sort code and account number of a usual/familiar payment or as a one off payment.

The payment goes through to an account controlled by the fraudster and the liability of the financial loss will normally fall with your company.

How do I avoid it?

Always verify changes to financial arrangements with the person or organisation directly, using known contacts wherever possible.

Ensure computer systems and information is secure to prevent information falling into the wrong hands.

Key points 

  • Be suspicious of any request to change a bank account or payee details. 
  • Emails may have been hacked, meaning that a legitimate email from ANYONE requesting bank account changes need to be verified. This includes from within your organisation. Always do your own individual verification checks. 
  • Payment details must be checked against known and original details, never from the details on the request.  Changes must be verified with whoever is asking for the changes. This request could come from within your company or from your supplier. Take a sceptical approach.

Back to top


Safety notice – Hotpoint, Indesit and Creda tumble dryer

Tumble Dryer

The following notice has been issued by Indesit:

"We have identified a potential concern with two types of tumble dryers manufactured between April 2004 and September 2015. In some rare cases, excess fluff can come into contact with the heating element and present a risk of fire. The affected brands are:

  • Hotpoint
  • Indesit
  • Creda

We are activating an extensive consumer outreach and service action plan in order to provide our consumers with products that are updated to higher safety and quality standards. 

We will arrange a visit from an engineer, free of charge, to modify your appliance. The service call will take approximately one hour. The improvements we believe are necessary will further enhance the safety and quality of your dryer."


In the meantime consumers may continue to use their products, provided that appliances are not left unattended whilst operating. We also remind customers of the need for proper cleaning and maintenance, as outlined in the user manual.

Check your tumble dryer

Please use the ‘self service’ model checker to confirm if your appliance is affected and for next steps should your model require corrective action.

Back to top


For more information on scams, visit:

How to report scams