Category: Fight Back

Finding Trustworthy Local Tradesmen

Most homeowners have faced the problem of needing a tradesman – e.g. a plumber, carpenter, decorator and so on.

How do you make sure the person or company you choose is going to be trustworthy and do a good job.?

That’s not easy.

In recent years various websites have appeared that include ratings on tradesmen and these are very useful as a way to see customers opinions and experience employing the tradesmen. This is very different to official assessments.

Trustmark (www.trustmark.org.uk)

TrustMark is a Government endorsed scheme for trades in and around the home. They award registered firms with accreditation after vetting and on-site inspections to ensure the firm is raising industry standards and this accreditation gives customers reassurance of quality and protection from rogue traders.

TrustMark is a ‘not for profit’ social enterprise and says it seeks to continually improve and welcomes constructive engagement on how improvements and enhancements can be achieved.

The site is free to use and designed to help you to find tradesmen based on entering a postcode and selecting a trade. It does cost for transmen to get registered so not everyone does.

Trading Standards

The government website at www.gov.uk/find-local-trading-standards-office will help you to find your local trading standards web pages and office.

You will find multiple schemes that can provide information on local tradesmen.

Checkatrade, Which? Trusted Trader and Others

These websites also provide a wealth of information and reviews on prospective tradesmen.

Find a Trade Association

There are generally multiple such trade associations for any trade you select and they can also offer advice and reviews of tradesmen in your area.

There’s a lot of information on the Internet so don’t pick a tradesman without checking first.

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118 Directory Charges Capped

In the days when only BT ran a directory enquiry service i.e. to look up phone numbers for you, it was free for a long time then people complained when a modest charge was introduced by BT.

Then the government opened it up to anyone and instead of competition driving down the price – the price went up and the tricks played by the new 118 firms (i.e. directory lookup services) led almost everyone to distrust the various 118 services and the adverts on TV didn’t help as they were designed to be memorable i.e. very annoying.

The charges for the most popular 118 services for a 60 second lookup call reached ridiculous levels e.g.

  • 118 004 (Telecom2) £15.98
  • 118 118 (TNUK) £8.98
  • 118 212 (Maureen) £8.98

Whereas BT and the Post Office maintained more reasonable pricing

  • 118 500 (BT) £2.32
  • 118 555 (Post Office) £1.00

Some of the mobile phone providers offer free directory lookups for their customers.

BT also operates the free 195 directory enquiries number for people with disabilities. To sign up you call 0800 587 0195 to get the relevant form, that needs to be countersigned by a GP.

In 2018, the regulator got fed up with the rip-off prices and created a cap that took effect on 1st April 2019, bringing the charges back to 2012 levels. This meant a 90 second call would cost at most £3.65

Well done the regulator. Sometimes the free market fails to work properly and needs to be fixed.

Some of the services offer to connect you to the number you want, but beware – they make continue to charge you a premium rate per minute while you are connected to that number.

If possible, use Internet lookup to get phone numbers for free and always dial the number yourself to avoid additional charges.

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How to Reclaim Your Identity

There are criminals intent on stealing your identity so they can take-over your accounts, open new accounts in your name, take out loans etc. and everything in your name which means you can be prosecuted by any retailers or other organisations if you don’t pay the bills.

If you find your bank account has been emptied or you are locked out of your accounts or strange charges appear on your mobile phone or calls you get from debt collectors about loans you haven’t taken out,  then you may have had your identity stolen.

Recovering your identity after it’s been stolen can be difficult and stressful.  It is important that you take action immediately as that gives the best chance of stopping the criminal and recovering any money stolen.

  1. Contact the police to report the fraud and get a crime number which is needed for any insurance claims.

You can call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or make a report on their web site at actionfraud.police.uk. which also offers advice for victims of identity theft.

  1. If you have reason to think that criminals have accessed your credit card account or bank account then contact your supplier immediate.
  2. If you receive a letter from a debt collector or bailiff, this could mean someone has already been borrowing money in your name. You should contact them to explain the situation and not simply ignore the letters or calls.
  3. If you receive a court summons for non-payment of a bill, then contact the company or court straight away to explain what you think has happened. If you don’t take action right away, it could become very difficult to resolve the issue.
  4. Check your credit report. If you have reason to think that criminals have stolen your personal information, you should check your credit report for signs of unusual activity. This will show if criminals have tried to apply for credit in your name. You can get your credit report from one of the ratings agencies e.g. Experian or Equifax for a couple of pounds.
  5. Consider registering on the Cifas Protective Register. This register tells finance providers to be very careful over any changes to your accounts. They will insist on extra security checks to protect you. This can be beneficial for peace of mind but also makes it difficult for you to make any changes.

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Safer Internet Day

The Safer Internet Day for 2020 is Tuesday 11th February.

What does this mean?

The UK Safer Internet Centre has a website at www.saferinternet.org.uk and its aim is to make the Internet a safer place for everyone but they do concentrate on children and young people who are generally the most vulnerable.

They are a partnership between Childnet International, Internet Watch Foundation and South West Grid for Learning. It is part-funded by the European Union.

Their job is to promote safer us of the Internet and they have created Education Packs and complementary TV films tailored for 5 to 7 year olds, 7-11s, 11-14s, 14-18s and parents and carers.

These free packs include lesson plans, posters, presentations, activities and more! ​

Safer Internet Day 2020 will be celebrated globally with the theme: Together for a better internet.

2019 Safer Internet Day was bigger than ever! With more than 2,100 organisations and schools across the UK getting involved to help inspire a national conversation about using technology responsibly, respectfully, critically and creatively. The day’s events reached several millions of people – mostly young people.

If you want to take part – go to www.saferinternet.org.uk

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How to Recognise A Hacked Yahoo Mail Account

If your Yahoo mail account has been hacked, there may be signs of what has happened but it could just be that you no longer get any emails from your Yahoo account as it has been taken over by a criminal.

If you are no longer getting emails to your account, test it by sending a message from another account and see if it gets through to you.

If one of the following is true, then your account may have been hacked:-

  • Your Yahoo Mail is sending spam to your contacts.
  • You see logins from unexpected locations on your recent activity page.
  • Your account info or mail settings were changed without your knowledge.

Criminals can get your password by a number of ways, including:-

  • Simply guessing if your password is a common password
  • Using a dictionary attack if your password is any word in the common dictionary
  • Use a phishing email attack – i.e. they craft messages to you using whatever information on you they can find on the Internet
  • Phishing web site – a website that collects your login and password by pretending to be a reputable site

Once they get your login and password, they are likely to use your email account for activities such as: –

  • Sending out spam messages to millions of people and you will get return failure messages for many of those
  • Sending out scam messages and you may get blacklisted
  • Using your account login to guess other accounts and passwords and they click on the forgotten password button so the reset messages come to your account then they can change your password

If you are concerned someone may have changed the settings on your account, then access your mail settings and make sure none of your info or preferences were changed without your knowledge. Things to look for include:

  • Email filters
  • Sending name
  • Email signature
  • Reply-to address
  • Vacation response
  • Blocked addresses
  • Default sending address
  • Auto-forwarding address

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SMS Phishguard

UK Finance revealed that in the UK there were 43,875 reported cases of authorised push payment scams in 2018. These scams involve criminals tricking consumers into authorising payments to them by sending them messages pretending to be from their bank.

The fraudulent message will often claim that the recipient’s savings are at risk and they have to call a number provided immediately. The number really belongs to a scammer or a scam call centre where they trick the caller into providing their financial information – bank details, address etc.  and then steal whatever money they can get their hands on, plus they sell the details to other criminals.

Losses due to unauthorised fraud totalled almost £732 million in 2018 and further £236 million lost to authorised push payment scams.

In order to prevent millions of their customers from falling victim to these text message based phishing scams, the mobile networks EE, O2, Three and Vodafone have a new initiative called  SMS PhishGuard. This is led by Mobile UK, Mobile Ecosystem Forum and UK Finance.

EE, O2, Three and Vodafone have joined forces to combat SMS-based phishing attacks, with key objectives of

  1. raising awareness of phishing by SMS
  2. reducing the number of phishing attacks by SMS
  3. Making it easy for consumers to report any such attacks..

Starting with the banking industry and UK Government agencies, a new SMS SenderID Protection Registry scheduled will be jointly established by MEF (Mobile Ecosystem Forum), a cross-network initiative, to allow participants to register and protect the message headers they use in SMS communications to consumers. This initiative will widen to all merchants and other public sector bodies that use named SMS messages.

This new Registry will significantly reduce the ability for criminals to send fraudulent messages impersonating a bank or similar organisation, by checking whether the sender using that sender ID is the genuine registered party and will block any messages that are fraudulent.

Essentially, the mobile networks will block any attempt to send a text from that number that doesn’t come from the bank. The register will be widened to other sectors after the banking industry.

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