/ Money

Have you been cold called about ‘home appliance insurance’?

Ever received unexpected calls telling you that cover for your washing machine, oven, dishwasher or other home appliance cover is due for renewal?

Update 26/04/2021

Which? News: Combating the ‘appliance cover’ con

Home appliance insurance call warning

We’re looking to hear from anyone who’s been cold called and offered ‘home appliance insurance’.

Maybe you’ve given away your payment details over the phone, thinking the caller was from your existing insurance company, but later found out it was someone else?

Unfortunately this is a scam that seems to be plaguing lots of you at the moment, and is particularly targeting the elderly.

While there are legitimate insurers who will cover your household appliances if they breakdown, we’ve been investigating reports that some are fraudulently taking people’s money.

Our Scam Watch reporter Faye Lipson also looked into these calls a couple of years ago, but our inbox has recently received a huge surge in reports.

Misleading and aggressive sales tactics

We’ve been told about various ways these companies are pressuring and misleading people into handing over their bank details.

Most commonly, they’ll pretend you already have a policy with them and offer to renew it for a cheaper price. Some people who do have appliance warranties are often caught out by this.

They’ll then sign you up for pricey monthly direct debits for services that probably don’t even exist.

Others just go straight in for the hard sell, often calling dozens of times a day, offering increasingly ‘better’ deals.

Most people probably don’t even need appliance breakdown cover, as many common appliance issues are covered by home contents insurance.

Shockingly, some callers even claim you owe hundreds of pounds for a policy you apparently signed up for years ago, but never paid for.

And they’ve been known to call back several times a day, threatening legal action and visits from debt collectors if you refuse to pay up.

But the threats are hollow. These companies have absolutely no right to take money from you. The calls are best ignored and reported.

Tell us your story

We want more to be done to stop these scammers being able to freely contact vulnerable people.

What to do if you’re worried you’ve given your bank details to a scammer

We’re looking to gather as many stories together as possible from people who’ve been affected to support this.

Are you regularly pestered by cold callers from these companies? Have you been persuaded to hand over your payment details? Did you get your money back?

It would be really useful to hear about your experiences for our research – just tell us what happened to you in the comments section below.

If you’d rather contact us anonymously, you can can also get in touch at conversation.comments@which.co.uk.

Comments

I’ve had about ten calls now using the same line as to “renewing” a policy on a washing machine – a Hotpoint as it happens. From my perspective there is nothing to fall for because the washing machine was purchased 4 years ago and there was no policy on it to begin with so saying “renewal” makes no sense. Ironically, D&G legitimately did call about 6 months after I purchased it and I told them where to get off following a bungled policy with a dishwasher the previous year which proved that they were not worth the paper they were written on even when they were legitimate policies. It’s the only one I ever bought and it would be the last. This crew that call as to “renewing” for this washing machine, I’ve told to get lost before. Occasionally, the agents are difficult to understand but it’s never gone that far because I was aware that it was a scam and I get a bit of port out of winding them up. No matter what they call themselves, I’ve had Homecare and other names that I know of and now it’s AST but the number is always the same an 020 number which I have put into a reverse calling site like Who Called Me? and it’s a dead giveaway. Had a call today, they asked for my wife but then asked for Mr seeing as it was me answering and clearly not a Mrs – they know our name, our address and our phone number (obviously) and what I purchased but I never confirm anything. Today, the lady had a southern accent which is a first and I did ask who they were – claimed to be from AST and stated that I purchase something and then it is passed on to them – interested to know where they do get the information from even if I didn’t ever buy a policy, they still have the right information as to details and what I purchased. There was no point being aggressive this time, lady was quite friendly, I said that I wasn’t interested and that there was no policy to renew. No doubt they will try again. I can understand if people do take out these policies or they hit the right time for something running out but this lot are way out for it to ring true for us. Telling them to stop calling makes no difference, I get so few calls on a landline I no longer really use that it’s hardly worth any blocking tactics as we mainly use mobiles. For me, it’s an annoyance but respect that for others it is a real problem. I will report it to the ICO but I am not confident of it being stopped.

Lee, there has been an increasing number of reports lately of calls being received from a company introducing itself as AST or Aftercare Support Team. A high level of activity from one particular company is a common trend, but as complaints from consumers increase, calls from that particular company tend to cease and are then followed by further calls from a company with a completely different name.

It’s an ongoing cycle and once online forums are bursting with consumer complaints, these rogue outfits revert to using a different company name to avoid detection or enforcement action.

The ICO are taking a robust approach to these rogue organisations, but rely on consumer reports, and by consumers taking a little time to report the matter is a significantly worthwhile exercise, and the first step for the Authorities to issue enforcement action.

Lee, you mentioned you were interested to know where they might have obtained your information, even if you didn’t ever buy a policy, yet they still have the right information as to details and what you purchased.

Based on my encounters with these companies, I am of the opinion they use very dated and generic databases, that were perhaps available before the days of Data Protection laws. At two previous addresses I received calls asking for the previous homeowner who had not lived at the address for over 15 years. But of course my home number was different to the previous occupier, so their databases were only partly accurate. Yet it does beg the question from where they have obtained the new number in relation to the address, but don’t have my name as the homeowner. But overall I believe they are working from very basic information.

With regard to knowing the make of appliance you own, I am also of the opinion they don’t have this information. I recall the very first time I received one of these calls, with the caller advising the warranty on our washing machine was due to expire and the caller provided the correct make of appliance. In the following weeks, further calls followed, but on each occasion the caller stated the incorrect make of appliance. This suggested they were making an initial guess and I am sure on occasions they guess correctly, giving the consumer confidence it is their current provider calling.

But I have also had occasions when the caller has advised the make of appliance and when I have replied that is incorrect and told them a random make that we do not own, the caller replied by saying “my apologies, I have two customer records on screen and was reading the wrong one, so I can confirm it relates to your (the make I had just told them) appliance.

The other revealing factor is that any legitimate company or one acting as an authorised agent of a Manufacturer would hold details of the appliance model and serial number, rather than just the make, but I have never encountered any of these rogue companies who correctly stated the make of an appliance who were then able to provide the model and serial number. When pressed for the model and serial number information they held, they would reply by saying something like “yes, we do hold that information, but would you be kind enough to read the model and serial number from the machine so we can check it matches our records”. These rogues are crafty and although often friendly and polite, they use clever tactics to convince customers they are legitimate.

I get called almost daily by someone wanting to ask me “just a few simple questions.” I don’t answer the questions, but I did get out of them they wanted to know about my appliances for their ‘client’ but won’t tell me more than that. I believe that is one route scammers know your appliance.

Another is pot-luck. They phone a number and guess your appliance. I always say which washing machine as I have two (not really!). They usually say Hotpoint first as that is one of the most common brands. I don’t have a Hotpoint, but just answer, ‘No, that one doesn’t need insuring, goodbye’.

As Wingman says, they may be working from old databases. They certainly do with the share-buying scam. Our data is sold by many businesses including local councils.

Another route could be data stolen from D&G – maybe by an employee.

That’s the best approach, Alfa. Had you identified the brand of your washing machine that information could be added to the list of information they know about you.

I have not registered any of our domestic appliances with the manufacturers or with Domestic & General Insurance. We have never received a telephone or e-mail enquiry about our appliances. Just a coincidence, I suppose.

I had a nuisance call from D&G, who were given my number when I registered an appliance in the hope of receiving information about any recall.

I make a point of registering appliances as soon as I receive them.

I recently purchased a GTech Hylite cordless vacuum cleaner which I registered with the manufacturer straight away. The product is exactly what I needed, weighing just 1.5kg. with excellent suction, but after a few days the telescopic handle malfunctioned. As it was registered I decided to contact the manufacturer in Worcester instead of the retailer, who immediately replaced the handle within 2 days with no qualms at all. Excellent piece of kit for the elderly and infirm, but you need to read and refer to the instruction booklet before assembly.

Although the product was made in China, I was thankful the manufacturer was
UK based and easily contactable.

Alfa, valid point regarding the possibility of customer data being stolen from D&G by an employee. I have identified several individuals working for these rogue outfits who have declared they were previous employees of D&G and some ate showing on record as having incorporated their own Limited companies which are now dissolved.

Although its a nationwide issue, there is this concentration of appliance warranty/service plan companies on the south coast. I understand D&G’s offices are also on the south coast, so is this concentration of companies just a coincidence or is it in some way related? Perhaps there is something irregular going on or is it simply ex employees of D&G that see the business model as highly profitable and after gaining experience at D&G decide to leave and set up their own operation. But rather than providing genuine insurance products for which they must be authorised and regulated, and which incurs greater business costs, they use this ‘service plan’ business model to increase their financial gain, but due to greed then fail to provide the service for which a consumer has subscribed.

@wingman I have also noticed the concentration around Brighton and Worthing and identified a couple of private addresses some time ago that were used to set up quite a few ‘businesses’. I thought I had a record of them but can’t find it now.

They could well be employees or ex-employees taking advantage of the knowledge they have acquired from D&G.

Some ‘service plans’ are an absolute scam, but I think others are validated by providing some sort of ‘service’.

If someone needs to use them, they may have a list of operatives or just contact anyone they can find in the area rather than provide the service themselves. Emergency call-out, parts not included in the ‘service plan’, other excuses, etc could mean the customer having to pay extra to cover costs.

Whatever, they certainly won’t have their own service teams all over the country that I have seen some of them boast.

Alfa, I think I am familiar with the residential address you referred too.

Most of these companies outsource any servicing requirements and I have found that initially they will arrange for consumers appliances to be repaired. This is intended to avoid poor reviews on forums for the initial first few months of trading. But once they have collected significant sums of money from consumers, it is at this point they start to ignore requests for repairs. They will arrange a date for an engineer to attend when in fact they have made no arrangements for an engineer to visit and they will do this on multiple occasions. It’s intended to wear the customer down, allowing customers to wait at home on multiple occasions and no engineer arriving. Customers will of course complain and weak excuses are provided with an assurance an engineer will arrive on a further date, but of course this never happens. Eventually, consumers become so frustrated and as they rely on their appliances they make their own arrangements to have the appliance fixed.

Some consumers will of course cancel their Direct Debit and take no further action, others see Court Action to recover their money as a complicated process and those who do issue Court Action often find the company has then dissolved.

I’ve noticed too quite a few of these scammers located around Bournemouth and Poole area.

To be fair, there’s no crime in outsourcing repair engineers. If it is, British Gas should be in chains. The last 3 times I’ve used them on Homecare for my boiler, they’ve sent a private contractor.

Wingman, my link was never posted by Which? however if you’re interested it is on my 8th March post re the Premier Protect Holdings Ltd interim injunction. D&G have gone on to have their offices raided via TS a few weeks back. So let’s see what happens there. I know they’re back up and running again with a different director and they’ve also commandeered another established company very recently. No idea if the authorities / D&G are aware. I think their offshore arm continues uninterrupted.

Thanks ReginaldClunes, I found your 8 March post. The document makes interesting reading. I do hope sufficient hard evidence becomes available and would like to see further consumers step forward with evidence. I am however confused about your comment regarding D&G’s offices being raided. Why would Trading Standards raid D&G’s offices or am I missing the obvious? Are you able to provide the name of this further company you mentioned?

D&G have gone on to have Premier Protects offices raided by TS. UK service plan Ltd is their new one and First Point Financial is the newly acquired one according to my intelligence.

Got it, sorry for the misunderstanding. Both UK Service Plan and First Point Financial are companies that I was aware of, but certainly useful to know you have identified these too. I shall certainly be following the D&G/Premier Protect developments with great interest.

ReginaldClunes, some bedtime reading.

If you are not already aware, The Government are undertaking a ‘Corporate Transparency and Register Reform Consultation’ with Companies House. These reforms are intended to improve the reliability and accuracy of information on the Companies Register and provide Companies House with greater powers to issue enforcement action against rogue companies and their Directors’.

Presently, there is no requirement for individuals incorporating companies and registering as Directors to verify or validate their identity or their address. Additionally, Company Directors will be required to create an account with Companies House, whereby all companies they register or subsequently become a Director would be recorded under one account. This should allow Companies House to more effectively identify and monitor all companies with which any individual is associated.

Numerous reforms have been recommended and although at the early stages, it’s encouraging the Government recognises that better monitoring and policing is necessary for company incorporations, dissolutions and Directors.

https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/corporate-transparency-and-register-reform

That is a good and long-overdue development, Wingman.

I am astonished that such cross-referencing has not been in existence for some time already – it is an elementary [and long-standing] function of IT systems to organise data for multiple interconnected purposes of recording and interpretation. Even the ancient card index systems that I started with at work were capable of being used to make links and to aggregate information and we have moved on somewhat since then.

I agree John Ward and have never understood why individuals are able to incorporate Limited companies (which are a legal entity), without any requirement to verify the identity of the Directors. This combined with the other proposed reforms is a step in the right direction and should allow Companies House to better police the activities of company Directors and issue enforcement action where necessary.

Additionally, I am seeing a more robust response from the various Authorities, with rogue companies and their Directors now being held accountable for their conduct instead of being able to dissolve their companies without consequence. Although long overdue, things are happening and I expect to see numerous enforcement actions, penalties and/or charges imposed on those responsible.

Thanks for the link ReginaldClunes.

Very interesting. D&G are going after PPH for loss of business, but PPH also need to be prosecuted for fraud that I don’t see happening.

The Companies House reforms need to ban the use of virtual offices so companies are registered at the address they will operate from. They also need to be registered to the actual directors of the companies not in the names of the set-up “lawyers?”.

Not sure what to call them, but these “lawyers” are the first directors of thousands of businesses before they are transferred to the actual directors. I think this is a way of banned directors setting up companies.

Alfa – there is an active criminal investigation open at the moment however I know that previous TS investigations on service plan companies have ended in no further action. So let’s see if they get a result.

Thanks Wingman, every little helps!

Alfa, I agree with you regarding the use of virtual offices as the only address the companies provide, but my understanding is in doing so they are breaking the law.

It’s perfectly okay to use a virtual office as the Registered Office address, but in doing so the Registered Office (virtual office) MUST hold all of the statutory records of the business. As we know many of these companies are operating from other locations and the virtual office is used to hide their real location, so I would be surprised if any statutory documents are actually stored at these virtual offices which are used as their Registered Offices.

I believe that Limited Companies are required to make Statutory Records available for the public to view at their Registered Office, but I can’t imagine this information would be available at their virtual offices. I think some of these companies would become quite uncomfortable if they were contacted and asked to see their Statutory Records at an address in London, knowing full well those records are not at that location.

It’s also worth noting that the Directors residential address MUST appear in the Statutory Records, so anyone wishing to establish this information can request to inspect the Statutory Records at the Registered Office address.

Alfa, forgot to mention, if the Statutory Records are not held at the Registered Office, they may be kept at an alternative address, which is usually referred to as ‘Single Alternative Inspection Location’. If an alternative office is used to keep Statutory Records this MUST be declared to Companies House and would appear on Companies House records for the public to see. For the majority of these rogue outfits, their Statutory Records will be held at their trading address and therefore they MUST advise Companies House of this address, which in most cases would reveal their trading address.

ReginaldClunes, within the Companies House reforms there was also mention of placing a limit on the number of companies of which an individual could be registered as a Director, unless that individual could demonstrate why there was a requirement to hold so many Directorships.

I understand placing a limit on Directors is common practice in other EU countries and I can see the benefits of doing so, especially in relation to detecting potential fraud, money laundering etc.

Recently, I identified a single individual, based on the South Coast, who is the sole Director of in excess of 40 companies, the business activity of most being ‘the repair of household appliances’.

Of these 40 companies, that were incorporated between 2015 and 2020, around 80% have an ‘active proposal to strike off’ status.

It begs the question why a single individual would need to operate 40 appliance repair companies and is concerning that such a large number have an active proposal to strike off. I would hope the reforms at Companies House would flag situations like this and allow Companies House to investigate irregular activity of this type.

Thanks for the info on Statutory Records.

When there are sometimes thousands of companies using virtual office addresses, there is a good chance many of them will not actually be registered at those addresses. My feeling is that many dodgy companies are set up in the names and addresses of company formation businesses, then transferred to the real directors and a fictitious address belonging to a virtual office.

Wingman, are you aware of the legal fictional world of Barbara Kahan?
https://conversation.which.co.uk/money/home-appliance-insurance-cold-call-scams/#comment-1614802

Totally agree Alfa, this issue of virtual offices as Registered Offices and no trading address registered might be addressed by the forthcoming reforms, but I agree that further transparency is needed. See your point regarding company formation companies and I understand the new reforms will also address this, requiring formation companies to be either approved, registered or regulated. The link provided makes fascinating reading.

Janet Anderson says:
7 July 2021

Just had a call from Leroy at home care services claiming to need the date OK my bank card so he arrange a discount on the £99 i am paying for tv insurance??? That’s news to me. I don’t have TV insurance. He got very annoyed when I said i had no bank card on me.

Janet Anderson says:
7 July 2021

Sorry for the typos. My eyesight is bad

Janet Anderson, it’s essential the Authorities obtain as much information as possible about these rogue outfits and by collating information from consumers they can investigate and take action. If you believe it was a scam call or your number is registered with the telephone preference service and you had not given consent to be called, you should report this to the ICO online,

https://ico.org.uk/make-a-complaint/nuisance-calls-and-messages/spam-texts-and-nuisance-calls/

Yes. I know of an elderly lady who has paid out roughly £10,000 over 2 years. She has been horribly targeted not just by these appliance scammers, but pressured into taking subscriptions for magazines etc, ‘wellness’ companies, and those claiming to protect from nuisance calls. She had multiple direct debits for policies covering the same things ie., appliances, boiler, plumbing and drainage. She had no need of them. She could have bought new appliances with money paid out.
It’s really despicable.
I’ll email you the details of around 40 companies.

Eles, any information you are willing to share regarding suspected rogue companies would be extremely useful. It’s awful to hear of elderly consumers who have been targeted in this way.

Yes, I already sent a list and payments made over past 2 years to trading standards. I can get all the paperwork too.
I’m glad I found this forum, it’s been very helpful. I haven’t known what to do. It was difficult enough sending the info to trading standards, and not sure they are interested.
I will email scam watch.
The problems first started for this lady with UK Plumbing and Heating, after they got her bank details she was inundated by other scam calls.

Eles, delighted to hear you forwarded the information to Trading Standards and please be assured they are interested and all information provided by consumers is of great importance. Any documentary evidence you provided will be of particular interest and all of the relevant Authorities are working hard to tackle these rogue outfits.

I assume the elderly lady has now cancelled the Direct Debits with her bank and/or changed her account details to prevent these companies from requesting any further payments?

Yes, we’ve been in contact with fraud departments, got new cards, blocked and cancelled DD’s, though some still manage to take her money!

Eles, if funds are still being taken and the elderly lady was issued with new cards, I assume her bank account details (sort code and account number) remained the same? This might suggest her bank account details were shared with other rogue companies and perhaps they were able to set up further Direct Debits or the Direct Debits that were cancelled have somehow been reinstated.

It’s certainly worrying to hear the problem persists for this elderly lady. If further payments are continuing by Direct Debit after cancellation or new Direct Debits have appeared, I would contact the bank as a matter of urgency.

My mum aged 85 was called and informed about a home appliances insurance policy. She has been well advised and refused to give any bank details, however, they were able to tell my mum what her account and sort code were, which she confirmed. Mum then told them to provide the info in the post and they did. My first concern was the price they quoted, £795 for 3 years, then I felt the paperwork was not really professional. It was reading this article that final confirmed my suspicions and we then found they had attempted to set up a direct debit on mums account which she quickly deleted. The company was called National Home Cover and I am happy to share the correspondence if useful. Mum is now alert and also a little anxious about being targeted again.

Hazel, does your Mother have any existing appliance warranties with another provider? It certainly seems irregular they knew her sort code and account number and it would be useful to understand how they obtained this information? If your Mother has existing warranties and that information has been shared, it’s clearly a major breach of data protection. But it’s more concerning an attempt to set up a Direct Debit was attempted.

We are almost at the end stage of trying to sort out payments to various ‘insurance’ companies who have cold called a relative and got her to give debit card details, or set up a direct debit. Much to my surprise two of them returned payments when challenged by us, and the other two were investigated by the bank (Halifax) who have been very helpful. It all added up to just under £1000 which is a lot for someone on a pension, and followed the total loss of over £4000 in a previous episode with about 15 different companies which we discovered last August (2020). This time (2021) the companies were domestic s serv ltd (no idea who this is), cover team direct ( who refunded); cover appliance.co (who refunded); and Household appliances 247 ltd who were traced by the bank.
These companies all seem to have problems in their companies house website listings, and have very similar names, letterheads etc. These people are unscrupulous and repeatedly target people. I am happy to be contacted via ‘ which’ to give evidence for any investigation.

Jane Schofield, sorry to hear your elderly relative has suffered at the hands of rogue outfits, but pleased you were able to recover some of the funds.

Your assessment of the Companies House records is typical for many of these companies, with many having a very short trading history and are either ‘struck off’ by Companies House or dissolved by the Directors after a year or two of trading. Compulsory striking off by Companies House is often an indication the company was not submitting the required documents each year, which is a breach of the Companies Act. My research has also revealed the same individuals are listed as Directors of many of these companies. As you indicated, company names are often similar which I’m sure is an intentional act to create confusion and avoid detection. When consumers complain about unsolicited phone calls, it gives the companies the ability to deny it was them by telling the Authorities the calls must have been from another company with a similar name and as calls are often made using number spoofing technology, it becomes difficult for the Authorities to identify the perpetrator.

It is encouraging to hear you successfully obtained refunds. Many consumers will repeatedly attempt to recover their money without success. It would be useful to know if you obtained the refunds without too much difficulty and within a reasonable time frame or did you experience resistance from the companies? Was the money refunded directly from the companies or was it necessary for the bank to intervene?

It’s essential the Authorities obtain as much information as possible about these rogue outfits and by collating information from consumers they can investigate and take action. If your relative has her number registered with the Telephone Preference Service and had not given consent to be called, you should report this to the ICO online,

https://ico.org.uk/make-a-complaint/nuisance-calls-and-messages/spam-texts-and-nuisance-calls/

If you have not already done so, you may also wish to report rogue companies to Trading Standards. Trading Standards services are provided by your local authority and consumer concerns should be reported to the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 0808 223 1133.

I’ve just had an “out of the blue” phone call, regarding my “renewal” of my washing machine cover. She said the cover ran out last week, and she would renew it for a new price of £9.35 per month and not the £15+ that it is at the moment. I asked if they were D&G, she said no, we are White Goods Insurance. So I said, just let me check my bank and my insurance policy, as this doesn’t ring true to me. Why do you need to check your bank came the reply, I’ll just take your bank details and we’ll set things up. I replied with, mine is automatically renewed and i get notification 4-6 weeks prior, so that i have time to cancel if need be. I then got told that i wont of received a renewal notification, because they have a backlog with covid and was asked again for bank details. I said ring back later when my son is here, thats when she put the phone down……. She couldnt even say my address properly…………… I did check my policy details, and mine doesn’t need renewing until early next year.

Sue, did they know what you are already paying to D&G or did they offer a discount based on what you had told them? These rogue companies use various names to hide their real identity, but as yet I have not encountered any introducing themselves as ‘White Goods Insurance’. The fact your policy is not due for renewal clearly suggests this was a rogue outfit and by attempting to gain your bank details in this way is an act of fraud and I would suggest you report this to Action Fraud. If you noted the caller’s numbers, you should also report this to the ICO

https://ico.org.uk/make-a-complaint/nuisance-calls-and-messages/spam-texts-and-nuisance-calls/

Michael Woollard says:
11 July 2021

I had phone call from tel no 01273977713 last Fri saying appla insurance due and as no claims in last year discount of 33%. Did so now £400 for next 3 years. I gave my account details for the money to be taken believing it was my existing company I am with. What can I now do. [Edited]

[Moderator: we’ve edited this comment to remove a personal email address. Please do not post personal contact details or other personally identifiable information – this is for everyone’s privacy. For more information see the Community guidelines]

Contact your bank immediately and explain the circumstances. Explain you were misled and request to cancel any Direct Debit or Continuous Payment authority. If the full amount was debited from your account, ask your bank to recover this.

Once a rogue company has your Card or account details, it’s not uncommon to see further attempts made to obtain funds, so advise your bank this was a scam. Your bank will have procedures in place to deal with this.

Part of the trickery in these scam attempts is to convince the victim that they already have a contract and it is just a question of renewal.

If a home appliance cover company was trying to set up a new contract over the telephone they would have to allow a cooling-off period during which the individual could cancel the arrangement. By pretending there is an existing contract in place and it is just a question of renewal they can evade that obligation.

Unsolicited selling over the telephone has to be regarded as a hazardous situation and never entertained. I see no way of stopping it other than through public education. As a crime it is almost untraceable – you do not know who you are dealing with, where they are, whether or not they are a legitimate business, and what their ‘offer’ comprises. Nothing should be legal until documents are exchanged but unfortunately people get tricked into saying YES on the telephone by which time it is too late to save them.

Whereas banks might sometimes be able to recover the loss, if they cannot do so I doubt that compensation will be payable if their customer gave away their bank account details knowing that a payment was going to be taken, as appears to be the case in Michael’s example.

I am hoping the moderators will quickly remove Michael’s private e-mail address from his comment [I have reported it] . We have to learn to be extremely careful about what we reveal. Those of us who have been brought up in an open and generally law-abiding world find this hard to come to terms with but it is vital for our privacy and security and the slightest lapse exposes us to risk from which it is hard to escape when it comes to liability for crimes [and eligibility for compensation].

I see the point raised by John Ward relating to consumer awareness as a critical measure in tackling these types of scams. The Governments measures and methods to combat these rogue companies are evolving and we should expect to see a more robust response from the various Governing bodies moving forward.

Meanwhile, it’s essential that consumers treat calls of this nature with suspicion, avoid engaging with cold callers and NEVER provide their bank or payment card information.

I would like to see greater awareness campaigns in the media, with the focus on scams of these types to inform consumers of the dangers. Perhaps Which? could assist in driving this forward.

I note that Michael’s comment has been taken down by the moderators, temporarily I hope, presumably to consider the point I reported.

Wingman – I don’t think there has been any lack of publicity in the media or energy from Which? on this issue, but it is clear the message is not being heeded and people are just not alert enough to modern fraud attempts. More will certainly have to be done because it would seem that existing investigation and detection methods are not capable of producing results.

Which? does, in fact, give a huge amount of space, research and education [through its publications, websites and these Conversations] to warning about scams. A characteristic of the responses is how cleverly the intended victims have defeated the scammers or played along with them for their pleasure like a cat with a mouse.

What the media and Which? are not reaching and learning from are the large numbers who are unfortunately being ensnared by these criminals and keeping their shame or embarrassment to themselves.

John Ward, I too have concerns regarding the number of individuals who have been targeted by these rogues, yet have not come forward. Many consumers will treat it as a bad experience and although learn a very costly lesson and will prevent it happening again, they will write off their loss and not report the matter.

I don’t disagree that Which? and others are doing their bit to advise and educate consumers about these types of scams, my concern is the route or path to advising consumers is too narrow and as a whole the Government should be funding greater awareness campaigns.

We know those of the older generation are often targeted by these rogue companies, yet many of the older generation do not use technology and are less aware of these types of scams.

Given the Government often makes reference to the billions lost in scams of this type and the harm caused to consumers, I am of the opinion that any awareness campaigns should be targeted more appropriately and to capture a greater spectrum of the population. Yes, there has been publicity, but I am not convinced the message is reaching the required demographic. I am inclined to think we need a more direct awareness campaign, informing consumers as they go about their daily lives.

It is certain many will not report when they have been scammed. Particularly if not involving large amounts of money. It is more important that they have learned from their mistake and, hopefully, are more aware in future.

Most of the older generation were brought up with computers and the internet and are quite familiar with using technology, even though they are not technically savvy (no more than other generations). So I am not sure we should label them as less competent just because they are older. Indeed, their experience of life may have made them more aware of pitfalls in general than the young.

However, there are far more vulnerable people among the elderly, as age takes its toll. These are the people who need extra protection and assistance and, maybe, should be targeted by the banks with more appropriate banking facilities.

My comments relating to the older generation were based purely on my own experiences and those of family, friends and colleagues. A large proportion of the older generation known to me have no experience with computers or the internet and have chosen not to embrace technology. On one hand they are not subject to potential online scams, email scams, hackers or viruses, but on the other they have no access to the wealth of information available on the web.

Despite this, I agree the life experience of many will have made them more vigilant, but those more vulnerable deserve greater protection.

While Which? does, indeed, ”give a huge amount of space, research and education [through its publications, websites and these Conversations] to warning about scams.” I am not so sure it has a big enough audience. It has been said several (many) times that we need to use tv (and probably social media) to regularly inform people about scams. Maybe some would heed advice and think harder before acting. Something that Which? could pursue. @jon-stricklin-coutinho, Jon, have Which? any view on using the media regularly to try to get this message across. I do not mean necessarily by Which? but by any relevant organisation(s).

I am inclined to agree with malcolm r that although Which? are contributing significantly to consumer awareness, the audience of Which? alone will not have adequate impact.

When I consider family members or friends who I have brought this to their attention, many of whom are elderly, the majority were unaware of scams of this nature and had not seen any media campaigns.

I firmly believe that greater awareness using a combination of media such as TV, radio, social media, electronic billboards and even traditional information posters would have a significant impact. I accept funding would be necessary, but I see the cost of such campaigns as an investment, minimising the number of potential targets available to these rogue companies.

I entirely agree, Wingman.

There is no technical reason, I presume, why a recorded announcement could not be played on the telephone line before any call is put through from a new number not previously used. This could be something along the lines of “This is [name of telecom service provider]. Be on the alert for fraudulent calls. Do not give an unknown caller any personal or financial information.”

That to me sounds like a very simple yet extremely effective concept John Ward.

In principal, the concept of hearing a pre-recorded message before accepting a call from a new number would provide a gentle reminder to be vigilant. I imagine it would need to be integrated with a call blocker or call safe type telephone, with stored numbers connecting as usual, but unknown numbers preceded with the pre-recorded message.

The very fact the message is played would act as good reminder to be vigilant and the consistency of a pre-recorded message would go a long way to ensuring consumers do not let their guard down.

Malcolm wrote: “However, there are far more vulnerable people among the elderly, as age takes its toll. These are the people who need extra protection and assistance and, maybe, should be targeted by the banks with more appropriate banking facilities.”

I agree and believe that the same applies to young people that are likely to lack experience.

My priority is that the banking industry tackles the problem of banking services being used by scammers. I suspect that this problem is being tackled but it would be useful to have some reassurance. Money should not just disappear irretrievably.

I would like to know which banks and in which countries have held the accounts used by fraudsters, simply to be informed about whether there is any pattern, whether some banks are “affected” more than others, to progress this line of attack.

That would be interesting, as it would be to know if fraudsters are using international banks. If so, the possibility of recovering money should be greater.

Exactly. Unless the overseas banks are beyond our jurisdiction. In which case where such banks are involved maybe our own (the payer’s) bank could warn us accordingly and tell us that, should the transaction lead to fraud, we would not be recompensed. At our risk.

I do hope, however, the situation is not that bad. The point is, a lot of useful information is needed for us to understand the situation and what, perhaps can be done. Far better than putting the blinkers on and generating a rant.

I expect those directly involved will be looking at this problem in the round. Maybe Which? is also part of that circle of knowledge but prefers not to keep us informed?

Wavechange, the problem does not lie solely with the banks.

These rogue companies are not typically using a bank to process payments, but are instead using online payment processors. Many of these payment processors provide similar facilities to a bank, so its not necessary for the companies to even transfer the funds to a bank account. The payment processors provide debit/credit cards, so the companies have access to the funds in the same way they would with a bank.

The payment processors are not always high street names or those you and I have ever heard of but there are thousands of these payment processors to choose from. As with a bank, the payment processors are required to undertake the necessary checks and due diligence before accepting companies, but as I reported recently, one of the payment processors with charged with fraud due to knowingly processing payments for dubious companies.

Interesting, Wingman. Which, it seems to me, makes it even more difficult to justify requiring the payer’s bank to provide recompense; how could they possibly know the destination is fraudulent? Perhaps it is even stronger justification to make the initial destination of the payment responsible for providing recompense?

The problem here Malcolm r is with UK Legislation as there is no legal requirement for a UK Limited company to have a dedicated Bank account. It’s completely outrageous.

The UK Government state it is advisable for a Limited company to have a dedicated bank account, but it is not a legal requirement and therefore a Director may choose for all funds to be processed into their personal account if they wish.

A Limited Company is a legal entity and therefore it makes no sense that a Director could use their personal account for all transactions should they choose. If a claim is made against the company, it would be more difficult to recover funds from an individuals personal account.

UK Legislation needs to change, whereby UK Limited Companies MUST have a dedicated Bank Account as a minimal requirement.

Wingman wrote: “Wavechange, the problem does not lie solely with the banks.” I agree with you and have been following your posts here. It’s clear that those providing payment services to fraudsters need to monitor how accounts are being used to detect illegal activities.

What needs to happen Wavechange is a combined effort from the various bodies. You would expect a UK Limited to have a UK Bank Account as this would need to be registered with HMRC for VAT, PAYE and Corporation Tax etc (but this assumes they are in fact filing accounts and meeting their Statutory Duties). As many of these rogue companies have no accounts filed after dissolving, it begs the question what exactly was declared to HMRC during the time they were trading.

There is a lot of need for coordinated action, Wingman. It greatly concerns me that dangerous electrical goods and other products are being sold by traders hosted by online marketplaces (e.g. Amazon and eBay) and these companies currently have no legal obligation to police the problem and being based in another country makes the situation more difficult to tackle. I can relate better to this sort of problem than the ones you are pushing to have addressed.

Since the Companies House information became freely accessible to us I have made frequent use of it and it’s easy to see many newly created companies, often with the same directors as a number of other new companies.

I completely recognise your concerns wavechange and unfortunately as consumers I believe we will be confronted with issues of this nature for many years to come. The problems surrounding dangerous electrical goods is also an ongoing issue and I believe the UK Authorities will struggle to combat this. As quickly as Trading Standards shut down operations and seize goods, further operations are set up to continue illegal practices. If rogue traders see an opportunity to generate income at the expense of others, they will simply persist.

I firmly believe laws need changing and the various governing bodies require greater enforcement powers. Presently, the consequences for selling dangerous or counterfeit goods are not a sufficient deterrent to rogue traders and the UK needs more severe penalties to combat these issues.

Em says:
12 July 2021

I would definitely agree a limited company – as a separate legal entity – should be required to operate a dedicated bank account and all payments to the company must be made into that account. This would go some way to stopping rogue directors syphoning off money in the dying days before a company ends up in the hands of the company receiver.

However, it will do very little to stop most of the scams going on at the moment, since most scammers just disguise who they are for obvious reasons. I don’t think I would bother to set up a limited company and give out the director’s names and addresses, if my sole purpose is to commit fraud from day one of operations.

I always check the “Contact Us” page before placing an order online. It would surprise some people how few “companies” actually publish their mailing address or even a geographic phone number. At best, you might get an email address, a PO box or forwarding address. Needless to say, I walk away – rapidly.

@wingman, the major problem with unsafe goods is that those who facilitate their sale in the UK can do so with impunity via their Market places – like Amazon. Once, if only that could be, they are made responsible for what they sell through this profitable route then, just as other retailers are, they can be prosecuted and penalised. That will begin to put a stop to it.

What we cannot do is to stop individuals importing goods for their own use, nor can we stop disreputable people manufacturing goods in distant lands, but we can begin to prevent them getting into UK consumers hands.

Excellent point Em regarding the validity of online purchases and taking the time to check what information is displayed on the companies website.

It’s surprising how many companies do not supply basic information such as their address. Any business allowing customers to make online purchases MUST display their address, contact number and/or email address, registration number if a Limited company and their VAT number. Companies failing to display this information are in breach of legislation, so it’s always worth checking before making an online purchase.

Em says:
12 July 2021

Indeed, they must. The legislation is covered by The Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002, although the wording is hard to interpret in practical terms.

In addition to Wingman’s list of checkpoints, it is not sufficient to provide a “contact us” form. An email address must be provided. So must the name of the service provider. If the website or trading name is different, there must be a clear explaination, e.g. “Scams.Com” and “Scams-R-Us” are trading names of Acme Scams Limited.

Extremely useful Em and armed with this information consumers should feel confident to either challenge companies who are not displaying the required information or walk away and make their only online purchase elsewhere.

I think the ability to effectively police counterfeit or dangerous goods sold via online marketplaces will continue to be an issue and it requires a more robust response from the relevant authorities and as you suggested greater accountability, followed by prosecutions and stiff penalties.

It is essential that potentially harmful goods should not reach UK consumers, but to achieve this the UK authorities have a complex and colossal task ahead, which leaves me concerned whether there will ever be adequate resources in place to achieve this.

Malcolm R, most Payment Processors are legitimate and responsible organisations and as with Banks they subscribe to Scheme Rules such as ‘chargeback’ and are also required to comply with Section 75 requirements relating to refunds on Credit Card purchases. In general, the Banks do not encounter difficulties recovering funds from payment processors (regardless of whether they are UK or overseas based) and if UK banks suddenly encountered a rise in refund refusals from a payment processor it would raise a red flag, with the banks refusing to process payments for its customers via certain payment processors.

It is the lack of a mandatory requirement for UK Limited companies to have a dedicated UK business bank account which proves problematic. If a UK Limited company chooses to process the majority of its transactions via an overseas payment processor, it becomes more difficult for the UK authorities to police this activity.

Lesley says:
12 July 2021

Since I have been working from home, I have received many of these calls. They talk very confidently and tell me my warranty has expired (different items on different calls). Two company used so far (not necessarily correct): White Goods Warranty, Home Serve. FYI I never take out these warranties and have never given or confirmed any information to them. I pretend I am someone else to try and get info “to take a message” but they eventually spot this and put the phone down!

Lesley, good to hear you are aware of these rogue companies.

If you noted the caller’s numbers, you may wish to report this to the ICO

https://ico.org.uk/make-a-complaint/nuisance-calls-and-messages/spam-texts-and-nuisance-calls/

John Cockton says:
12 July 2021

Just had a call from 02033 323025, offering insurance at a ‘reduced rate to what you are currently paying’. This was on the basis that we had made no claims over the past year. Seemed less than pleased when I said we were currently paying nothing, but if they were willing to pay me then I might be interested! Just thanked me for my time and hung up.

John, did the caller state their Company name?

You may wish to report this to the ICO online, its relatively quick to do and by reporting the matter it helps the various governing bodies to investigate and take action against rogue callers.

https://ico.org.uk/make-a-complaint/nuisance-calls-and-messages/spam-texts-and-nuisance-calls/

The ICO have placed ‘Appliance Care Direct Limited’, Registration No. 11593550 on their monitoring list with concerns about compliance and the possibility of enforcement action. This demonstrates the importance of consumers reporting unsolicited calls or calls to those registered with the Telephone Preference Service and I would encourage consumers to keep reporting all calls of this nature.

David says:
15 July 2021

My mother who is 92 was cold called by an agressive man from 24×7 Home Appliance Support. They claimed that her washing machine cover was close to finishing so eshe asked to have the information put in the post. According to my solicitor this means yes you agree to the new cover. She didnt give any details but thery had tried before to get money and she blocked the transfer with the bank. Thry used these details as she gave no others. When she rang to cancel the policy she was told it would cost her £50 cancellation fee. This was a cold call and she has to pay for a cancellation for something that she did not want. According to law a cancellaton fee cannot be charged on an insurance policy as it is a voluntarily agreement between 2 or more people. I did ring and threaten them with the Police and they agreed bnot to charge the cancellation fee.

Hi David – I’m sorry to hear that your mother was exploited and it is good to know that you recovered the cancellation fee. I suspect that this company is a service provider rather than an insurer.

I suggest you encourage your mum not to have anything to do with unknown callers or to get her a call-blocking phone.

David, agreements of this type are typically covered by a 14 day cooling off period, during which time you can cancel without any penalty, but of course rogue companies will ignore this and attempt to either retain the full payment or charge a cancellation fee.

I’m pleased you decided to call the company, stood firm and refused to pay a cancellation fee. Consumers should not be bullied or made to feel they have no rights.

If your Mothers is registered with the Telephone Preference Service and/or had not given consent to this call, I would strongly suggest reporting the callers number to the ICO. This can be done online and it’s a relatively straightforward and quick process:

https://ico.org.uk/make-a-complaint/nuisance-calls-and-messages/spam-texts-and-nuisance-calls/

Attempting to convince a consumer they have a policy or cover that requires renewal, when no policy or cover exists, would be misrepresentation and an act of fraud. Furthermore, any attempt to debit funds from your Mothers account under these circumstances would also be an act of fraud.

Given the circumstances, I would strongly suggest you report this to Action Fraud:

https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/

Thanks Wingman.

S Burnand says:
21 July 2021

I had a call a couple of days ago – female voice, claimed to be from Domestic Appliance National Homecover. She said that our “cover” was due to expire and they were going to renew it! We have never signed up for or paid for any extra appliance insurance other than what came as the manufacturer’s own guarantee – usually one year. The appliances she mentioned were the dishwasher (new last year), the fridge (new this year) and the washing machine (at least 10 years old! All of these are Bosch products, and we have in the past registered them with Bosch as part of the guarantee. Interestingly she did not mention the free-standing oven, also new this year, which is John Lewis’s own – significant? It’s our policy never to sign up for domestic appliance insurance, as we believe it to be a waste of money. I said “No!” very firmly and hung up.

S Burnand, you certainly took the right approach by telling this company No and then hanging up. These rogue companies usually have no information whatsoever about the appliances you own, but will phrase their approach in such a way to imply they know which appliances the customers has as an assurance they are the current provider of any cover. In most cases they simply list a selection of appliances that a typical household would own.

If you are registered with the Telephone Preference Service and/or had not given consent to this call, I would strongly suggest reporting the callers number to the ICO. This can be done online and it’s a relatively straightforward and quick process:

https://ico.org.uk/make-a-complaint/nuisance-calls-and-messages/spam-texts-and-nuisance-calls/

Attempting to convince a consumer they have a policy or cover that requires renewal, when no policy or cover exists, would be misrepresentation and an act of fraud and given the circumstances, I would strongly suggest you report this to Action Fraud:

https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/

My deceased mother has had a letter from Appliance Care of 34 New House, 67-68 Hatton Garden London EC1N 8JY stating she is in arrears on her plan , there is even a policy number but I know full well that my mother never had any such policy with this company and it is a scam . When she was alive my mother received numerous cold calls from this company and at her age of 92 , I found this atrocious. It is time these people were stopped . I rang the number on the letter and it was a male voice that answered and it was automated. What was strange was that the voice sounded identical to the telephone scam from HMRC , which I receive quite often .

Carol Parkin, the letter you received stating your Mother is in arrears is certainly a new approach and not one I have encountered to date. Rogue companies prefer not to document anything as information on a letter could reveal their true identity. Companies are minimally required to include their Registered Office address, Company Registration number and telephone number on correspondence of this type.

There does not appear to be an ‘Appliance Care’, at the address you provided registered as a company at Companies House? So the business name on the letter is either a trading name without reference to the registered company name or perhaps a generic name they have used.

Is there a Company Registration number shown on the letter?

It’s worth noting that unless a company is authorised, regulated and registered with the Financial Conduct Authority, they are not allowed and have no legal right to pursue any outstanding payments, so although your Mother never had a policy in the first place, should you receive any further demands for payment, you can ignore these without concerns it might be escalated to a recovery agent or Court Order. But for peace of mind, check if there is an FCA Registration Number on the letter and if so visit the FCA website to see if they are FCA Registered.

If a Company Registration number is shown on the letter, it would certainly be useful to know who exactly the letter was from?

You get a few similar results if you goggle:
Appliance Care 34 New House, 67-68 Hatton Garden

Kaspersky rates the domesticcover PDF as safe.

Thanks Alfa. It would appear the address is a ‘virtual office’ providing a Registered Office facility and mail forwarding services to companies who want the prestige of a London Office address without actually being located there. There are numerous companies using this address, some in the appliance warranty/service plan sector, some dissolved and some active, but none that appear to have a registered company name of ‘Appliance Care’.

It’s not uncommon for these companies to use a trading name or abbreviated name instead of the registered company name, which often makes it difficult to establish exactly who they are, so unless a Company Registration number, FCA registration number, VAT number or some other identifying information appears on the letter Carol Parkin received, validating the company could prove difficult.

Hi everyone. Have just been contacted by Surecover Group re my washing machine warranty being out of date – the thing is I am looking for appliance insurance. I have checked online, their company is in Brighton and they do have a number of reviews on trust pilot since last year. I am just a bit panicky right now – does anyone know if they are ok or a scam please?

Hi Nicola. The company is less than a year old and Brighton based. 2 large red flags there. If I were you I’d steer clear.

Hi Nicola – I looked up the Surecover Group and they have been trading for less than a year. Their website says: “Surecover Group is one of the UK’s leading household appliance repair specialists, whose mission is to take the stress out of an appliance breakdown with a simple phone call….”

If they are already a leading repair specialist I would be rather surprised.

Are you sure you need insurance cover or a service plan? It could well be cheaper paying for a repair or a new machine, since companies that. provide these services have to make a profit and as with gambling, most customers are not winners.

Edit: I see that Reginald has beaten me by three minutes.

Hi Nicola, I agree with Reginald and wavechange. A lot of appliance service companies are/have been based in the Brighton area. I wouldn’t trust them as far as I can throw them. Once one of them has got you the rest will follow trying to con you as they are likely the same people.

Be careful trusting reviews on Trustpilot and take more notice of the negative ones. Positive reviews are more likely to be fake.

You are better off saving the money to put towards a repair or new machine. If you need a repair, find a reputable local repairer or go to the manufacturers website to locate an authorised repairer in your area.

Hi Nicola, I would support the advice of other contributors and certainly avoid using any company with a short trading history. But if extending an appliance warranty is of great importance to you, then consider using a recognised provider and one registered and authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority to provide insurance related services. The company that contacted you do not appear to be registered with the FCA and are likely to offer service plans rather than appliance insurance.

If you were cold called by this company and are registered with the Telephone Preference Service and/or had not given consent to the call, this itself might raise concerns.

I endorse Alfa’s point about trusting reviews. I often wonder why people waste their time writing positive reviews unless there is some ulterior motive which then makes it suspicious.

Unless I know the writer of a positive review I cannot form an opinion on its reliability. Adverse reviews can be helpful but can also be hostile. The whole review system seems to take money out of the economy [paid by suppliers] for no good reason. It started off as a reasonable shopping aid but was quickly corrupted.

I partially agree with your comments John Ward, but in response to why people waste their time writing positive reviews, I do take the time to write a review when I experience exceptionally good customer service and/or have been impressed with a product purchased. Personally, I think levels of customer service have significantly dropped over the last 5 years across all market sectors and it’s both refreshing and pleasing when I experience excellent customer service and this provides the motivation to leave a review. I will of course write a negative review if the service and/or product was poor.

However, as you indicated, due to issues surrounding the authenticity and reliability of reviews, it can be difficult to determine whether they are of any real benefit. I tend to approach reviews on the level of detail provided, especially in terms of product reviews to help me determine whether they are genuine and as Alfa suggested it’s worth paying close attention to the negative reviews too.

A recent TV documentary demonstrated how easy it was to buy fake reviews in order to increase a star rating and when companies engage in this practice, I agree the fundamental purpose of reviews becomes corrupted. So I take cautious approach and do my best to make an informed decision based on the level of detail provided when assessing any reviews.

I would like to thank you all for your comments and advice which i have taken on board 🙂

Amy says:
28 July 2021

My washing machine was bought second hand from a friend and is around 10 years old, my cooker even older and I don’t have a dishwasher. I received a call asking for my bank details to renew my policy on them. I just listened to the rubbish spouted whilst being called “my lovely” for quite some time, very entertaining. They put the phone down in the end.

Amy, did you obtain the company name and number?

You may wish to report this to the ICO online, its relatively quick to do and by reporting the matter it helps the various governing bodies to investigate and take action against rogue callers.

https://ico.org.uk/make-a-complaint/nuisance-calls-and-messages/spam-texts-and-nuisance-calls/

Last year I discovered my elderly Father had a number of policies from different companies covering boiler protection, small electrical items, washing machine etc none of which he asked for and none of which he needed. He had been cold called (We have TPS) and persuaded to give details on what he was told was an existing policy. We have contacted his bank and blocked the numbers. Today I had a call from Smart cover solutions saying he had taken out a policy with them on 15th July 2021 for 5 years and for the last 3 years it was going to be reduced. I checked his bank details and no money had gone out of his account around that time. I then looked the company up and find they didn’t start till 9th July 2020!! we have had so much hassle this year and Dad now won’t answer the phone

that should have said – a policy with them on 15th July 2019

Hi Anne, sorry to hear of the difficulties you have encountered.

It’s essential that consumers report calls of this nature as it helps the Authorities to tackle rogue companies.

Because your Father’s number is registered with the TPS and if you have not already done so, you should report this to the ICO online and its relatively quick to do.

https://ico.org.uk/make-a-complaint/nuisance-calls-and-messages/spam-texts-and-nuisance-calls/

If the caller was also suggesting they were calling to renew or reduce the cost of an appliance plan your Father already has, when in fact he does not, this would be misrepresentation and an act of fraud.

I would further advise you report this to both Action Fraud and Trading Standards.

My brother has reported other calls to Trading standards. I have tried to follow your link to the ICO but after filling in the first page can go no further on clicking next it says forbidden. Will keep trying. Thank you for your help Edit.. now finished the report to the ICO

Hi Anne. Pleased to hear your Brother has reported previous calls to Trading Standards and that you were eventually able to submit a report to the ICO.

When the ICO receive just a few reports concerning the same number/company, that number then appears on their radar and they are quick to take action.

Companies calling numbers registered with the TPS are in breach of Legislation for which there can be serious consequences, so reporting these companies is a significant step to tackling the problem.

I hope your Father remains free of these rogue caller’s in future.

To emphasize the importance of consumers reporting cold calls and especially to numbers registered with the Telephone Preference Service, a further company on the South Coast have just been issued with a fine of £170,000 by the ICO.

The fine relates to unsolicited calls made to roughly 200,000 consumers who were registered with the TPS, but the ICO began investigating after receiving just 13 complaints from members of the public, who also complained to the TPS.

This demonstrates the importance of consumers reporting rogue callers to both the ICO and TPS, but also highlights that enforcement action and penalties will be imposed on those companies breaking the law, even when only a small number of complaints are received.

Excellent work ICO.

The Daily Telegraph has been investigating the Information Commissioner’s Office and has found that it has been a grossly ineffectual organisation with an absentee CEO and a deplorable record of regulatory penalties against non-compliant businesses in terms of cold-calling, data mismanagement, and other misconduct. Despite massive increases in income and salaries over recent years [funded by the registration process under the GDPR] its actual impact on corporate wrong-doing has been negligible and has not grown in proportion either to the scale of malpractice nor the resources available to tackle it.

Large amounts have been issued as fines but it would be interesting to learn how much has actually been paid since some of the brass-plate companies probably just implode when enforcement occurs.

I acknowledge the ICO have perhaps not been as effective as they should have been, but things are changing and it would seem enforcement action and penalties are now being issued promptly against non compliant companies.

The recovery rate for penalties issued is relatively high and where Directors seek to avoid payment via insolvency, the ICO will pursue those Directors personally, seizing assets if necessary to ensure penalties are realized.

Directors that choose to persist in unlawful conduct can expect disqualification, further civil action or criminal prosecutions.

You seem to have a lot more confidence than I do, Wingman. There will be change at the top as the Commissioner’s term ends and a replacement takes the helm but there is a lot of catching up to do. I prefer to remain sceptical for the time being.

Only one prosecution [for the misuse of data] is listed on the ICO website and that was in January 2021. I can find no information on the recovery rate for penalties so I should be interested to know how you can say it is “relatively high”. Are there any figures available to substantiate that?

Despite the enormous number of telecom scams reported to Which? [which is probably only the thin end of the iceberg], very few people have actually reported such scams to the ICO which demonstrates that they are not exactly outreaching towards what is a most disturbing and widespread offence.

It’s all very well championing the ICO and promoting future intentions, but the public at large feel that telephone scams are an absolute scourge that have proliferated uninhibited at an alarming rate due to a feeble regulator that lacks the will to tackle the issues that matter most to ordinary citizens.

Meanwhile, the ICO has expended considerable resources and undertaken high-profile raids on the homes of suspects in the Matt Hancock CCTV exposure, possibly at the behest of those whose futures had been damaged by the leak. While that might well be appropriate it is not helping the people who are being tormented, day in, day out, by telephone scammers.

Hi John, If you select the ‘Action we’ve taken’ tab along the top of the ICO web page and then under the heading ‘What’s happening now’, a little further down the page click on the link, ‘The ICO’s work to recover fines’. There is a document about three quarters down the page detailing statistics for recovery of fines.

It is of course disheartening when the relevant governing bodies don’t appear to be tackling these issues in the way we would like, but there are some significant elements in the content of this latest enforcement action that strongly suggest the ICO are making progress. It is on that basis I have regained some confidence and believe there are signs of a more robust approach to non compliant companies.

I completely agree the public are fed up of these disturbing and widespread offences and remain a firm believer the problem needs addressing at source. You are completely correct that very few consumers report such scams. It’s great that consumers can vent their frustration and share their experience through online forums, but as you suggested, someone needs to reach out to consumers and emphasize the importance of reporting these matters.

Thanks Wingman. Looking back at the archived cases in the spreadsheet over the first 10 years they did very well in the early days fining local authorities and charities for data breaches; those kinds of organisation could hardly demur, and it has had the desired corrective effect even if it is the council taxpayers and charity beneficiaries who feel the pain. They have also had a go at a number of profitable commercial organisations who have paid up readily but not out of the directors’ pockets I suspect.

The ten year record against Public Enemy No.1 — cold callers — is not so wonderful and some of the penalties they do impose are far from punitive, for example “Muscle Foods Limited fined £50,000 for sending approximately 135,651,627 marketing emails and 6,354,426 marketing SMS messages to individuals without their consent, over a period of seven months” That’s a ratio of four hits for every adult in the UK on average but for some it was possibly double or triple that. I am not impressed.

Hi Wingman, I’ve just had a chance to look at the ICO website.

Although I acknowledge the ICO are doing some good, their efforts are mainly against nuisance callers and not fraudulent businesses. They are not going to stop fraudulent calls to a possibly confused older person who is not registered with TPS and get them to sign up and pay for multiple washing machine service plans.

I presume the ICO can only go after businesses who use real company names or phone numbers.

Have you looked at that companies website? Based in the UK but sell in Euros and phone the USA for billing problems.
For Billing Questions Please Call Allied Wallet At +1-888-255-1137

Their ‘high quality Nuisance Call Prevention’ call blocker they sell for €179.99 can be bought on Amazon for £29.99 or Alibaba from US$7 (£5.03).

The ICO’s action is not going to stop this fraudulent company from operating. As long as they use phone numbers not registered with TPS they can carry on scamming people.

Hi Alfa, I echo those concerns too. You are absolutely correct, taking enforcement action against nuisance callers is only one element of the problem and it’s often the case that nuisance callers are those who are also engaged in fraud.

To combat this, I understand the ICO are collaborating with other government agencies such as Trading Standards, The Insolvency Service and the Police. Based on the information reported to the ICO by a consumer, if there is any indication the calling company was acting inappropriately (in addition to calling a TPS number), the ICO will share this information with the other agencies. This might go some way to then tackling those companies acting fraudulently.

Alfa, I believe the ICO use the callers number as a starting point, so the company name is not necessarily of any importance. I understand they can order telephone serve providers to disclose the owners details of specific and associated telephone numbers.

I am not sure how they tackle number spoofing, but then the call has to originate from a primary number, so perhaps they have the technology to identify primary numbers when number spoofing is used.

If you recall Alfa, Allied Wallet was the payment processor who were fined something like 30 million for fraud, by continuing to process payments for companies they knew were involved in fraud – its shocking.

If this company continues to make unsolicited to calls to consumers, regardless of those calls are to numbers registered with the TPS, the ICO would issue further enforcement action. Unless they have a consumers consent to be called, they remain in breach of legislation.

Looking at their recent accounts online I think we can safely say they won’t be paying that fine. Taken the ICO 2 years to fine them. Plenty of time for them to have disposed of any assets and position the MD as judgement proof I expect. They’ll blame any downturn in profits on the pandemic and walk away unscathed.

Not so sure I agree ReginaldClunes. The Director only has two options, pay up or file for insolvency. If the company seeks to avoid payment via insolvency, the ICO will pursue the Director personally, seizing assets if necessary to ensure penalties are realized.

Although not immediately apparent from initial searches, the individual concerned holds further Directorships at other active companies. Should there be insufficient personal assets to cover the debt, the ICO would seek a Court Order, possibly for a payment plan to recover the fine. It would become increasingly difficult for the Director to claim no ability to pay given Directorships are held at other companies where income can be established.

My understanding is the ICO can only go after directors personally for claims management companies. I expect the director will have positioned the company as per his filings to have been affected by Covid and they will struggle to prove any wrongdoing when taking this into consideration. Other companies the director owns wouldn’t typically be held accountable for the debt. The debt is limited to the company that has been fined.

The ICO does take a considerable number of enforcement actions against rogue traders but probably not proportionate to the real level of data protection breaches and data misuse offences.

As for telecom scams generally, its record is dismal. The offences evidenced in this particular Conversation [appliance cover cold calling] are committed by companies which theoretically have a presence. The serious frauds committed by unknown criminals seem to be outside the ICO’s grasp.

ReginaldClunes, my understanding is that any Director, regardless of the company business sector can be pursued if it is deemed they did not act in accordance with the Statutory requirements of a Director in accordance with the Companies Act and especially in circumstances where they acted negligently.

I was not suggesting any other companies could be held accountable. As rightly indicated the debt applies to the company that has been fined. However, if the Director is pursued personally and is a Director of other companies, it would be difficult for that individual to claim they did not have the ability to pay (whether in full or in installments), given their personal income can be easily established from the accounting information from the other companies.

I agree John Ward, but I suppose the true scale of the problem reaches well beyond the resources of the ICO and other governing bodies. Unless the Government decides to take a radical approach, the situation is unlikely to improve, with the various governing bodies making small gains, but having little impact on the overall situation.

Possibly so, and that would require the Commissioner to put recommendations to the government if she considered her powers and resources were inadequate. Perhaps she has and been denied additional capacity. The government has passed extensive legislation for all the regulated activities so I am reluctant to accept that the ICO is constrained — it just has to choose where to make an impact and go for it. The time has come for some tougher targets.

Completely agree John Ward. I am sensing an upturn in the focus of numerous governing bodies to act quickly and bring enforcement action against non-compliant companies, and anticipate some positive developments moving forward.

Many of these scammer directors drive rental cars, have no properties in their name and money is hidden in untouchable accounts. I can’t remember what the case was now, but a director more or less gave the finger from outside of a £multi-million mansion with flash cars, none of which were in his name.

To be really effective, authorities have to be able to go after these other assets.

I would agree with that Alfa and of course it’s frustrating when these individuals are having a lavish lifestyle and appear untouchable. However, I am firm believer this does not last forever and at some point they will upset an associate or tread on too many toes, which will result in someone spilling the beans and disclosing their dodgy dealings.

Totally agree Alfa. This is the point I was making yesterday. Directors chosen for these cold calling ventures normally reside in a council house and are paid a few grand a month to have it in their name. Judgement proof from the get go. The reality is that the ICO is merely a disruptor and a very slow one at that.