Category: The Authorities

Online Watch Link

Online Watch Link known as OWL is an online service for Neighbourhood Watches, the Police and associated bodies involved in preventing and stopping crime.

It’s designed to keep people informed of what’s going on locally relating to crime prevention for both the public and the Police.

It’s used by a lot of the Neighbourhood Watches across the UK but not all so if you input your postcode in the Find a Watch scheme box on the home page – you may well get the message “Sorry that postcode is not covered by OWL”.

OWL has been featured on Crimewatch and is growing in popularity.

The website is https://www.owl.co.uk/

Q. How does OWL help?

Local authorities send out alerts via OWL about crime and local issues in your area. It can help to prevent burglary, find missing people, makes people feel safer and catch suspects.

OWL Has National Police Approval

There is some advice on the website relating to various categories of crime, but the website is all about the OWL service.

Searching the Internet shows that many communities have incorporated OWL into their local information websites and neighbourhood watches.

Owl was created by a British company based in Hatfield.

It seems a useful tool in crime prevention and the more communities and Watches that us it the more useful it will become.

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The Banks and Your Tax Residence

You may receive a strange letter from your bank or from a bank you used to have an account with, anytime from 2015 onwards.

There are endless phishing emails and calls from scammers pretending to be your bank. Mostly these are very amateurish and easily spotted but some are more sophisticated, look genuine and are harder to recognise as fake.

But the banks are sending out these unexpected letters about your tax residence and they are genuine.

These letters are in response to a piece of legislation called “Common Reporting Standards” which requires all banks to confirm their customers place of tax residence and report that to HMRC.

If you receive one of these letters, it may just mean that your account had an overseas phone number or address included or any other reason to question your tax residence.

If you are no longer a customer of the bank but did have an account with them since January 2015 then they have to ask the questions, even if the balance on the account is zero.

This is all part of a global crackdown on tax evasion.

If you do receive such a letter and you are unsure, call the bank in question using the telephone number listed on the back of your bank card or on its website.

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The Wangiri Phone Scam

This is the call back scam, which has risen to epidemic levels in Ireland.

Ireland’s phone operators say that tens of thousands of scam mobile phone calls are sweeping across Ireland in an “unprecedented” surge.

The calls, often have international prefixes including +231 (Liberia), +269 (The Comoros Islands), or +43 (Austria) and are intended to trick people into phoning back at premium rates.

The numbers are high cost international numbers and the fraudsters will get paid for each call back. The fraudsters will try to keep you on the line for as many minutes as possible.

The scam is known as a ‘wangiri’ call, (means one ring) because the mobile phone typically rings just once or twice.

The scammers hope that people will automatically call back without looking too closely at the number.

The telecoms watchdog admits there is no easy way to identify such calls but advise not calling back unless you know the number that called you and certainly do not call back if left a blank message.

Some mobile operators do block these scam numbers as they are identified and that stops them  from calling their customers and blocks their customers from returning the call.

If your receive such calls, then notify your phone company of the calling numbers.

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

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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