Category: The Authorities

British Scammers Caught in Spain

There is a scam prevalent in parts of Spain where hotel or restaurant customers claim to have food poisoning caused by the hotel or restaurant. This is fairly easy to claim as no evidence is required for a civil suit seeking damages against the establishment.

According to the Spanish hotel owners association (CEHAT), cases of tourists on all-inclusive packages making false complaints of stomach problems have soared over the past 12 months, with tour operators in Mallorca reporting a 700% rise. Spanish hoteliers say this racket cost them £52m in 2016 across Spain.

CEHAT estimates that the 90% of the claims – usually made through small-claims management companies who target tourists in resorts or after they have returned home – are bogus.

Were food poisoning really so widespread in Spanish hotels, it added, “a worldwide health alert would have been declared and yet the number of cases registered with the health authorities continues to fall because of the increasingly high levels of quality, hygiene and safety put in place by the Spanish hotel industry”.

CEHAT says it will gather the necessary evidence to prosecute anyone involved in the fraud and use Spanish law to target “organised groups in the commission of a crime.

Claims Management Companies

A spokesman for the Association of British Travel Agents (Abta) said UK holidaymakers on all inclusive trips were being targeted by “unscrupulous” claims management companies.

“They encourage people to submit claims by saying that they are ‘entitled’ to compensation if they’ve been ill on one of these holidays, often coaching people into what to say,” he said.

Abta says anyone approached by a claims company representative in a resort should tell the hotel management. If approached back in the UK through social media or on the phone and encouraged to lie or exaggerate their experiences, people should report them to the police.

The British Fraudsters

Debbie Cameron, 59, and her daughter Laura Joyce,  were taken into custody after a raid on the family villa overlooking the Mediterranean on Tuesday.

The operation was part of a series of raids on properties  and businesses on the island in an investigation into allegations that British holidaymakers have been filing false legal claims for food poisoning.

Mrs Cameron, who describes herself on Facebook as “the happiest networker in the world”, is  well known on the holiday island and has been at the centre of British expat life there for more than 30 years.

She is the daughter of a wealthy businessman, who ran car dealerships in the UK, and made her own fortune in Mallorca as an entrepreneur and lifestyle guru. Her own blog called “Rich Mum”, contains the mantra: “Have Fun. Make Money. Do Good.”

Judicial sources have been quoted in the Spanish media claiming that the British women were suspected of being ringleaders in the alleged fraud, which involves deploying touts at hotels to entice tourists into faking gastric illnesses in return for compensation.

Police sources said the arrests followed months of investigation after complaints from hoteliers, and that a “wealth of material” including computers and documents had been seized and was being analysed.

One local hotel operator alone reported fraud to the tune of four million euros.

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The TPS APP to Block Cold Callers

TPS Logo

TPS stands for Telephone Preference Service.

This service was setup by the government to let people register that they don’t want cold calls and any reputable Marketing organisation has to abide by the rule not to call anyone registered on TPS.

Now, there is an APP to make it simpler on your smart phone.

What does the smartphone app TPS Protect do?

For every call you receive, it can give an indication of how trustworthy that call is.

  • If TRUST = 1 then it has identified the call as untrustworthy or potentially a scam
  • If TRUST = 5 then it has identified the call as from a trusted caller

You choose the level of TRUST to accept.

You can also choose what categories of calls to accept.

  • Do you want to block all nuisance calls from accident claims providers?
  • Do you want to accept all calls from charities? That’s your choice.

If you receive a call you think should be blocked, then you register a complaint on your APP.

Also, by making a complaint you help the TPS and industry regulators to take action against nuisance callers, and help protect others using TPS Protect.

As the app relies on the feedback of its users, the more who download and use this app and report incoming nuisance calls, the better the service will be.

TPS Protect has free services:-

  • Incoming Call Screening
  • Number lookup and reporting
  • Simple TPS registration

TPS Protect also has paid for subscription services

  • Divert nuisance calls to voicemail
  • Personal block List
  • Personal Approved List
  • Greater control via custom settings

When you first download the app you will have access to the paid-for features, including call diverts to voicemail, manage a Block and Approved List, and Custom Settings for 60 days. Once the free period has expired you can renew your subscription for 99p per month.

It’s a shame you have to pay for those extra services but better than having adverts as the makers have to fund the development somehow.

Do you have an opinion on this matter? Please comment in the box below.

Legal Steps to Recover Your Stolen Money

This is a series of steps for attempting to recover money stolen by fraudsters. It has been created by Barrister  Gideon Roseman following his skirmish with fraudsters. You can read about that at fightback.ninja/amateur-detective-recovers-stolen-money/

  1. Immediately phone your bank and ask to speak with the fraud team

Explain what has happened and demand they immediately contact the fraudster’s bank, i.e.  the bank you transferred your money to.

  1. Immediately contact a solicitor or barrister who can accept instructions directly from members of the public (or alternatively you can attempt to do this yourself). Ask them to immediately make an application to freeze the fraudster’s bank account and any other bank account that the fraudster has with their bank. The application should include a request for an order that the fraudster’s bank provides the following information:
  • all contact details (mobile phone, home phone, email address, residential address etc.) for all signatories to the fraudster’s bank account and any other bank account held in the fraudster’s name or any other signatory to this bank account that is held at the bank
  • all bank statements for the fraudster’s bank account and any other bank account to which the fraudster or any other signatory has with the bank in question for a period of 6 months; and
  • the current balance of all bank accounts with the bank that is in the fraudster’s or any other signatory’s name.
  1. Once you get hold of the court order, this will need to be immediately emailed to the fraudster’s banks’ ‘court orders’ team who can process it. You can ask your bank for this email address.
  2. As soon as you receive the information from the fraudster’s bank, consider the following points:

(i) has your money been transferred or paid to any recognisable company you can contact, such as a known retailer

(ii) if you can identify a company that has received your money, you can then contact this company, explain what has happened and request they either cancel the transaction made by the fraudster or request them to hold onto the money they have received and

(iii) has the money been transferred to other bank accounts.

  1. If your money has been transferred out of the fraudster’s bank account and into another bank account, you have the option of returning to court and making an application for the information set out above and repeating the process set out above.
  2. When you have received the fraudster’s bank account statements, try to work out the dates and times of the transfers out of their accounts. Your bank will be under a duty to contact the fraudster’s bankers, who will then freeze the fraudster’s account.

If your bank has failed to act within a reasonable period of time after you have notified them of the fraud, which has enabled the fraudster to transfer your money without a trace, it is likely that your bank will have breached their duty and will have to compensate you.

Good luck.

If you have any experiences with scammers, spammers or time-waster do let me know, by email.

Equifax Data Breach

The personal data of up to 44 million British consumers was feared stolen by hackers in a massive cyber attack on Equifax.

The information commissioner said it was investigating how the hack on Equifax, a US credit rating firm, affected UK customers, many of whom will be unaware their data is held by the company.

Equifax and its UK subsidiary companies state on their websites that they represent British clients including BT, Capital One and British Gas.

The Information Commissioner’s Office has urged Equifax to alert affected UK customers as soon as possible, and said it will work with the relevant overseas authorities on behalf of British citizens.

Equifax admitted hackers had exposed the personal data of 143 million customers in the US, which was stolen between mid-May and July this year due to a vulnerability on its website. The hack was not made public until recently.

The stolen information includes names, social security numbers, dates of birth, addresses and, in some instances, driver’s license details. It is also thought that around 209,000 credit card numbers were stolen.

Equifax said: “limited personal information” from British and Canadian residents had been compromised.

A spokesman for BT said: “We are aware of the developing story and are monitoring the situation closely. Like many companies in the UK, BT uses Equifax services. We are working on establishing whether this breach has any impact on those services.”

Lenders rely on the information collected by credit bureaus such as Equifax to help them decide whether to approve financing for homes, cars and credit cards.

Equifax chief executive Richard Smith said in a statement “I apologise to consumers and our business customers for the concern and frustration this causes.”

How to check if you are affected – go online to https://trustedidpremier.com/eligibility/eligibility.html and type in your last name and last 6 digits of your social security number and it should tell you if you have been affected by the data breach.

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Amateur Detective Recovers Stolen Money

Gideon Roseman was scammed out of a lot of money. He had builders working on his home and fraudsters hacked in to the builder’s email system. They sent a message to Roseman purporting to the builder asking for a down payment to start work. Roseman paid £20,400 to what he though was the account of his builder.

The next day his wife Esther found an email from the builder warning his customers that his email had been hacked and Roseman realised his payment had gone to the hackers.

The builder had checked his emails and found messages to a number of customers demanding payment to a bank account he did not recognise.

Roseman said  “I wasn’t filled with optimism when I spoke to my bank, so I felt as though the only way I would get my money back is to take things into my own hands.”. He is a barrister so had a head start over most of us in dealing with the legal system.

He travelled to London the High Court to apply for the fraudster’s bank account to be frozen.

The judge agreed it appeared he had been the victim of fraud and granted the order.

Mr Roseman then contacted Santander’s court orders department and it froze the account.

He soon received another email from the fraudster asking for more money to “cover the VAT” on the work.

Mr Roseman played along and managed to obtain the sort codes and details of another two accounts — one at Barclays and another at Santander.

He then returned to the High Court to get these accounts frozen and the judge again approved his application.

The court ordered Barclays and Santander to release all contact details and bank statements for the frozen accounts and using these, Mr Roseman tracked down £5,655 in several Santander accounts connected to the fraudster and the bank agreed to return the money.

He also noticed the scammer had transferred around £5,000 to a haulage firm which repaid his money.

The bank accounts also revealed £9,150 was transferred out of the fraudster’s account more than 24 hours after Mr Roseman first reported the incident to Barclays.

Barclays denied any delay but later agreed to pay the remaining £9,150.

It added £200 compensation. This left £395 outstanding, which the builder took off his bill.

Mr Roseman said “Hopefully, I’ve shown that despite what the banks might say, it is possible to track down cash after it’s disappeared and get the money back.”

“My advice to scam victims is to act immediately. Call your bank, gather evidence and instruct a solicitor to get to court as quickly as you can to freeze the accounts.”

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The Royal Mail Deals with Scam Mail

Royal Mail say they take the issue of scam mail very seriously and are  coordinating an industry-wide response to tackle fraudulent mail at its source.

They have developed an industry-wide code of practice and invited all mail operators in the UK to sign-up. This code sets out how the industry can actively work together, and with law enforcement agencies, to tackle the scourge of scam mail.

The Code of Practice

Companies signing up to the code of practice will voluntarily commit to meeting the following obligations:

  1. Actively work together and with law enforcement agencies, to tackle the scourge of scam mail
  2. Proactively share intelligence of confirmed scam mailings and suspected scam mailings
  3. Terminate any mailing identified by law enforcement agencies as being used to attempt to scam the recipients
  4. Include anti-scam terms and conditions in contracts
  5. Forge closer ties with law enforcement agencies and the broader communications community to prevent scams through letters, electronic communications, telephone calls and other means
  6. Provide help and support for victims of scams by sharing information received in our enquiries with appropriate partners including the National Trading Standards Scams Team, law enforcement and other agencies.

What Can You Do?

If you think you or a family member are receiving scam mail, you can report it to Royal Mail by completing a form online and posting it to Royal Mail. https://personal.help.royalmail.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/303 and click on ‘completing an online form’).

The Freepost address is below where you can send the form along with the original envelope and any items of mail you have received that are relevant.

Alternatively, let them know your full name, address and a contact telephone number via the email or telephone options below and they will send you a form to complete together with a prepaid addressed envelope in which to return the form with examples of the scam mail received.

By post:              FREEPOST SCAM MAIL

By Email:            scam.mail@royalmail.com

By Telephone:    03456 113 413 (message service only)

As the largest deliverer of spam and scam letters, it was high time the Royal Mail did something to stop the flood of such items, especially to vulnerable people.

Let’s hope this permanently blocks a large chunk of the spam and scam items.

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The Hearing Clinic Fined £220,000

Claims Management Companies are the ones that make most of the cold calls – on behalf of their clients.

The Claims Management Regulator (part of the Ministry of Justice)  licenses firms and individuals to provide claims management services. It also has the power to take action when a regulated claims management business breaks the Conduct of Authorised Persons Rules.

The CMR received hundreds of complaints from recipients of calls from “The Hearing Clinic” about claims for noise induced hearing loss. Many complainants had previously subscribed to the “do not call” Telephone Preference Service, so the calls breached the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003.

Having investigated, the Regulator imposed a £220,000 fine on Aurangzeb Iqbal, the owner of “The Hearing Clinic” and various other businesses including “Industrial Disease Services,” “Hedging Redress,” and “We Claim 4 U.”

Various conditions were also imposed which applied to all claims management services operated under Mr Iqbal’s Regulator licence.

These included having to inform the Regulator on the 5th of every month of each TPS complaint received over the previous month. Mr Iqbal also has to provide the Regulator with full details of all subcontractors he proposes to appoint, plus an explanation and evidence of how he proposes to monitor these suppliers to ensure their compliance.

In its press release, the Regulator reported that from a peak of 3367 in 2011 the number of claims management companies has now fallen to 1752, with 105 having their licences removed in 2014. Further investigations by the Regulator are apparently ongoing and could lead to more sanctions.

Richard Lloyd, from consumer watchdog Which? said: “Hopefully this is the start of a concerted crackdown by Regulators, using their new powers to send a clear message that nuisance calling won’t be tolerated. This company made millions of unwanted calls so we welcome the Claims Management Regulator baring its teeth.

“The size of this fine should make other firms think twice before bombarding people with cold calls. We also need to see senior executives held personally accountable if their company makes unlawful sales calls.”

To complain to the Regulator, go to  https://www.gov.uk/government/groups/claims-management-regulator

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Disney Lawsuit Over Children’s Information

Amanda Rushing is suing The Walt Disney Company, Disney Electronic Content in a class action filed in California federal court.

She claims Disney is collecting personal information of children and tracking online behaviour and this is contrary to the law.

App developers can track children’s behaviour while they play online games with their mobile devices by obtaining critical pieces of data from the mobile devices, including ‘persistent identifiers,’ typically a unique number linked to a specific mobile device. . These persistent identifiers allow APP creators  to detect a child’s activity across multiple APPS and platforms on the internet and across different devices. This information is then sold to various third-parties who sell targeted online advertising.

The lawyer says that this is exactly the kind of practice the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act was enacted to prevent. Under COPPA, app developers and any third-parties working with them can’t legally collect personal information about children who are under the age of 13 without verifiable consent from their parents.

“Disney has failed to safeguard children’s personal information and ensure that third-parties’ collection of data from children is lawful”.

Rushing says her daughter was tracked while using the princess pets app, but the suit claims dozens of other games also track their users, including Club Penguin Island, Star Wars: Puzzle Droids, Frozen Free Fall and Disney Emoji Blitz.

Disney says that they have a robust COPPA compliance program, and maintain strict data collection and use policies for Disney apps created for children and families.

As it turns out, Disney had consulted with three partners to insert advertising-specific software into Disney Princess Palace Pets and some of its other applications. This gathers pieces of data and help advertisers detect a user’s activity via persistent identifiers. These persistent identifiers to track someone across multiple devices and apps with the intention of serving targeted ads.

Given this track record, parents and children might want to think carefully about downloading any of Disney’s apps. – stick to watching the movies instead.

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U.S. Charges 14 Over $147 Million Scam

Federal prosecutors criminally charged 14 defendants with involvement in a $147 million stock manipulation scheme orchestrated in a New York boiler room, which swindled dozens of senior citizens and other investors.

Employees of My Street Research, based in Melville, New York, obtained shares at below-market prices from insiders of five public companies, and conducted wash trades and other manipulative trading to drive prices up, according to  acting U.S. Attorney Bridget Rohde.

My Street Research described itself as providing “unbiased stock research” and “top notch, detailed unbiased research.”

Prosecutors instead describe it as a boiler room operation that used high pressure sales tactics to inflate prices of shares which they or co-conspirators owned in a pump and dump operation – pumping up prices, then dumping stock on clients.

Victims were repeatedly pressured in cold calls and emails to buy shares and sign up for stock tips, and five defendants tried to launder $14.7 million of proceeds from the scheme, which ran from January 2014 to recently.

One such email, for the company Grilled Cheese Truck Inc, said “URGENT!!! MUST WATCH THIS LINK REGARDING THE ‘GRILLED CHEESE TRUCK'” and provided a link to a Fox Business Channel video titled “Soup Nazi Hits the Road with New Food Trucks”.

Prosecutors said the defendants Erik Matz, of Mt. Sinai, New York, and Ronald Hardy, of Port Jefferson, New York, managed the alleged boiler room My Street Research, which was previously called Dacona Financial, Power Traders Press and Trade Masters Co.

Other defendants include cold callers, people involved with stock research, and insiders or marketers affiliated with Grilled Cheese Truck, CES Synergies Inc, Hydrocarb Energy Corp, Intelligent Content Enterprises Inc and National Waste Management Holdings Inc, prosecutors said.

If you have any experiences with scammers, spammers or time-waster do let me know, by email.

Warning: Are You on a Sucker List

Scammers trade a list between themselves of people who have fallen for scams and it’s called a “sucker list”.

Sucker lists, which include names, addresses, phone numbers, and other information, are created, bought, and sold by scammers, spammers and some dishonest telemarketers. Scammers know that people who have been tricked once are easier to trick again. As a result, these people are flooded with letters, e-mails and phone calls about inheritances, lottery wins, health cures, investments etc.

In 2015, almost 200,000 people appeared on 13 different “suckers lists” that were seized by fraud investigators. Trading Standards said those listed were being sent mailshots inviting them to take part in lotteries, prize draws, competitions and special offers etc.

The average age of people on the list is 75. You can see how scammers target the elderly and vulnerable.

If you’ve ever been scammed, chances are your name could be on one.

How Do You Know if You’re on a Sucker List?

If you have been scammed online and get more scam messages and mail than others then chances are you are on a suckers list and there is no way to get off the list except by not responding to any scam messages for a long time. Evenetually they may lose interest in you.

How to Avoid Getting on a Sucker List:

Ensure you are registered on all mail and telemarketing opt-out or do-not-call lists.

The following article explains how to do register with the various preference services.

http://www.fightbackonline.org/index.php/fightback/17-how-to-fight-back/30-how-to-stop-spam-letters

Don’t reply to offers of money, miracle cures, competition wins etc. If you didn’t enter a competition then  you cannot have won one.

If you are truly being bombarded, consider changing your email address and/or phone number, and keep them confidential/unlisted.

In 2017, sucker’s lists held by National Trading Standards contained nearly 300,000 names.

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