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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 was rung this morning by a woman with an eastern accent. She said my insurance was due for my appliances. I asked which ones and she said fridge, cooker, washing machine. I said I insured through Domestic and General and that she was a scammer and should be ashamed of herself. This pm I got a call from a different woman from ‘domestic and general’ . As the Americans say
‘ go figure’ … Number was 02039061324.

Received yet another call from “Domestic Insurance” wanting to me renew insurance.
The number this time was 01382 752021.

Mr Craig Young says:
23 February 2022

0333 212 8004
Discussed with my wife about renewing warranty insurance for our indesit washine machine. (We don’t have one)
Told to do one …

Just had a call from Uk Service Plan. Told time to renew domestic appliances cover. Very persuasive and foolishly I gave my bank details. I spoke firstly to a salesperson then a manager who has just called me back to explain that he was sorry for me not understanding completely what he had said! Both of them told me I was a customer with them and it was time for renewal of my policy. I asked them if they were actually the company I was insuring with now. I now realise that although they didn’t actually give me a direct yes I was led to believe it was DG I was talking to. The manager also told me cold calls were illegal so I must be talking to the correct people.
I am now in the process of informing my bank so no payment will be taken out. The manager of UK service Plan has assured me it won’t be but as he’s already lied to me I don’t trust him or the company to not do so.

Hi Carol, contacting your Bank to decline any possible transaction was the right thing to do.

I would also encourage you to report this immediately to the ICO which you can do online relatively quickly.

Rita O'Carroll says:
28 February 2022

Second phone call from Appliance Care Services, last call was two years ago and I blocked their number but they managed to get through this evening making me aware of a payment of £239 was due to insure my kitchen appliances, told him I have never had cover he got funny with me and said he was calling to give me a discount I put the phone down.

Hi Rita, thanks for sharing your experience.

The Authorities will take against these rogue callers, but can only do so when they receive reports from consumers. It’s important that calls of this nature are reported to the Authorities and in doing so it may prevent others from being scammed.

If you have not already done so, I would encourage you to report the calling number to the ICO. If your number is registered with the Telephone Preference Service you should also report this to the TPS. Reports from consumers allow the Authorities to gather vital intelligence, investigate and take action against these rogue callers. Reports can be submitted online and it’s relatively quick to do so.

Philip Stevens says:
1 March 2022

We were telephoned at 0728 am this morning. We did not pick up the phone and later I checked the number and a recorded message gave the name Line Appliance.
The number was 01986 807479. Beware.
Phil

Dorothy says:
2 March 2022

I am being called repeatedly by someone about “Domestic Appliances”. Each time I tell them I am not interested and then block them. Then they call a few days later from another another number. In the last two weeks they have used 01382 752021, 029 2095 8706 & 029 2095 8709.

Hi Dorothy. Thanks for sharing your experience.

There have been numerous reports regarding the first number you highlighted, but rogue companies will often use use number spoofing to disguise their true identity. Although blocking the initial calling numbers will help, it will not prevent further calls from spoofed numbers.

The best way to tackle rogue callers is to report the calling numbers to the ICO. If your number is registered with the Telephone Preference Service you should also report this to the TPS.

Its relatively quick to submit reports online, just google ICO, select ‘Make a complaint’ from the navigation bar along the top of the website, then select nuisance calls and messages, followed by spam texts and nuisance calls, followed by Start Now. Select the ‘Sales call from a real person (live call)’ option and continue to enter the required information.

Reports from consumers allow the Authorities to gather vital intelligence, investigate and take action against these rogue callers.

Peter Smallridge says:
2 March 2022

a lady with an Asian accent called me today from 0204 57117 27 claiming to be from HomeServe, asking for £126 to renew my policy on 3 domestic appliances, which i don’t have. Got very angry when i told her i believed it was a scam (“why does everybody say that”) and there was no way i was going to give her my credit card number over the phone, just like that.

Patricia Arthur says:
4 March 2022

My brother received a call today from UK Service Plan asking for £311 for insurance for appliances . Call appears to be a scam and phone number was 01273977421.

Phil says:
5 March 2022

Brighton number and already flagged as scammers.

Hi Patricia, if you have not already done so, I would encourage you to report the calling number to the ICO. If your Brothers number is registered with the Telephone Preference Service you should also report this to the TPS.

It’s relatively quick to submit reports online and in doing so helps the Authorities to gather vital intelligence, investigate and take action against these rogue callers.

Nick says:
7 March 2022

My elderly mother has recently spent several hundred pounds on warranties with UK Service Plan Ltd before I found out about it. She did get a pile of documentation from them. Is it possible to get this money back if she paid by annual Direct Debits but it was more than a month ago?

Hi Nick, yes it is possible to have the money refunded, but it will depend on the circumstances.

There are a number of factors that will determine whether you can claim a refund. You will need to determine on what basis you believe the money should be refunded. Did the company fail to act in accordance with the Direct Debit Scheme or do you believe your Mother was scammed? Did the company call your Mother misrepresenting who they were, claiming to be the current provider in order to obtain bank details?

If you could explain exactly how it came about your Mother has paid the company, I can perhaps offer some guidance on whether you might be able to claim a refund.

Gary says:
8 March 2022

Just had a call from an Indian sounding caller on 02920958714 talking about offering discounts on appliance cover as I’ve not made a claim. They knew my name and address which was strange because I don’t ordinarily live at the property they rang. Being sceptical, as I always am, I wanted to check relevant bank accounts to see if there was an existing cover and ring them back. He passed me through to somebody in the verification department who sounded more like a natural English speaker Of course, they hung up when I said I’d call them back.
Had I realised it was a scam straightaway, I would have endeavoured to keep them on the phone as long as possible, without giving anything away, to waste as much of their time as possible. I encourage others to waste their time as well so they don’t get to contact as many people as they could.

Hi Gary, thanks for sharing your experience. There is certainly no harm in wasting the callers time, but some of these rogue callers will become abusive and threatening when they are exposed.

The most effective way to stop these rogue callers is by reporting the calling number to the Authorities. If you have not already done so, I would encourage you to report the calling number to the ICO (Information Commissioners Office). If your number is registered with the Telephone Preference Service you should also report this to the TPS.

Reports can be made online and its relatively quick to do so. Guidance on submitting reports can be found on previous posts. It remains essential that consumers report these calls as it allows the Authorities to gather vital intelligence, investigate and take action against these rogue callers.

Roy Russon says:
9 March 2022

I get these calls nearly every week, last time I asked what make of washing machine I have for security reasons they told me I have a Beko machine I then told them I have never owned one they quickly hung up

Hi Roy, the most effective way to stop these rogue callers is by reporting the calling number to the Authorities. If you have not already done so, I would encourage you to report the calling number to the ICO (Information Commissioners Office). If your number is registered with the Telephone Preference Service you should also report this to the TPS.

Reports can be made online and its relatively quick to do so. Guidance on submitting reports can be found on previous posts. It remains essential that consumers report these calls as it allows the Authorities to gather vital intelligence, investigate and take action against these rogue callers.

Zohra Toorawa says:
9 March 2022

Just been called by ‘Domestic Appliances ‘ telling me my policy is due for renewal. That they will beat my current policy with D&G and given cover for 200 for 3 years. I tell her I’m not willing to do this over the phone as this may be fraud. She says I don’t need tk make payment and she Will send paperwork to my email and home and I can set my payment up after I receive the papers. She then passes me to a colleague who asks for my sort code and account number. I refuse and he tells me that its no big deal and these details can be found anywhere. Continues to push for bank details so I hang up.

Hi Zohra, do you have a record of the calling number?

Wingman — Do you think any of the telephone numbers that people have supplied in these different Conversation have actually been disabled, or are they all spoofed so that disabling them would deny the service to a proper subscriber? it seems that these domestic appliance scams have been going on for a long time without any impact on the perpetrators or any sign yet of a reduction in their number.

In the comment above, Zohra mentioned a particularly nasty piece of threatening behaviour to state that people’s bank details were readily available as if to suggest that they would just hack into their personal data if they did not cooperate and provide the information over the phone.

It is good that Zohra [above] was on the ball, did not reveal anything, and terminated the call.

Also Gary [further above] used a good stalling tactic by saying he “wanted to check relevant bank accounts to see if there was an existing cover and ring them back”. That was also termination point for the scammers.

Hi John, I can confirm that Trading Standards have significantly disrupted the activities of these rogue companies, numerous websites have been taken offline and the ICO have issued substantial fines. I understand that Trading Standards are handling several cases which hopefully will lead to prosecutions.

The work by Trading Standards is making it increasingly difficult for these rogue companies to continue.

A substantial fine was also issued to a company who although were not offering appliance service plans, it’s boss was connected to several companies involved in appliance service plans and the fine would of had a significant impact on their operations.

The key to tackling this issue remains with consumers reporting the calling numbers to the ICO.

These rogue companies have changed their approach and rather than asking for Card details to take an immediate payment, perhaps the annual service plan cost in full, they are now asking for Bank details (Account No, and Sort Code), so payment is made by Direct Debit instead.

I think they are attempting to minimse the risk of a charge back when a Credit or Debit Card is used and the consumer realises it was a scam.

But when Direct Debit is used for payment, the assumption is made the consumer authorised the Direct Debit and therefore obtaining a refund would be more difficult. Most of these rogue companies are not authorised to set up Direct Debits directly with their Bank and therefore use a third party payment processor. How on earth they become approved for this is beyond me.

However, for the Direct Debit to be valid, the company MUST comply with the rules of the scheme, but I don’t believe for a minute they do. I think by using Direct Debit for payment, with smaller sums leaving the consumers account each month, they see this as being less obvious to the consumer with less risk of cancellation and a refund request.

Reginald says:
9 March 2022

Interesting Wingman – I always assumed one of the allegations levelled at these rogues was pressure selling. Is it still easy for TS to make the case for pressure selling if between obtaining the details from the victim and taking the payment takes a few days?

I will remain a cynic on this until I am able to read online about some successful prosecutions. So far I can’t find any.

Also the ICO fines are hurting the companies I’m sure – but let’s all remember they’re paying the fines with their ill gotten gains. So really the victims are paying.

Em says:
9 March 2022

It doesn’t matter what the method of payment is. The company is committing a fraud as they have no intention of providing the service paid for.

Thank you, Wingman. If direct debits are used and people have to physically sign them and return them that gives a pause for review; those who proceed must be presumed to have authorised the debits. However, if it is done by phone or electronically, risks remain. Consumers should never set up direct debits other than by signing on paper and returning it direct to the organisation, so they should never need to give their bank details over the phone.

Everyone who has ever set up a direct debit must have provided their bank account details to the organisation concerned and that must have been a rich source of personal data for any criminals employed is such work areas. Luckily only reputable organisations are allowed to use the direct debit scheme and presumably approval would be revoked if it were found that there had been a breach of security.

I must have given hundreds of DD authorisations over the years for everything from garden waste bins to magazine subscriptions and memberships of scores of organisations; it’s a worrying thought, but in the pre-internet days the risk of financial fraud was very low because most processes were slow and bulk data was inaccessible. One could lead a peaceful life when distance selling involved little more than a postal order and you went to the town hall to pay the rates with folding money.

Reginald says:
9 March 2022

The problem is Em that the companies will have a working phone line and website and will likely be providing some sort of service. So that assumption of not providing the service doesn’t always work.

I don’t see the need for the ICO. If this is a criminal issue then TS can recover the money via proceeds of crime avenues.

Hi Reginald, the conduct of these rogue companies is fraud rather than allegations of pressure selling. They typically call a consumer claiming to be the consumers current provider or suggest they are a ‘known’ company or acting on behalf of a known company.

This is mis-represenation and an act of fraud.

The Authorities are certainly disrupting their activities and I imagine their are several key individuals operating numerous rogue companies of this type who are starting to feel rather uncomfortable and spending much time looking over their shoulder.

I take your point regarding the fines, but lets hope criminal prosecutions follow. I will certainly update when any definitive news comes to my attention.

Reginald — It’s a good idea to suggest that enforcement should lie with trading standards, but the local trading standards services are run separately by the major local authorities [counties and the metropolitan or London borough councils]. It is a dispersed operation and cannot easily apply concentrated and coordinated enforcement activity to this particular form of criminal conduct. Their general concerns are with legitimate commercial businesses that are in breach of trading laws rather than determinedly criminal outfits. Additionally, for some years now, local trading standards services have been run down through central government restrictions on local authority budgets to the point that they can now only perform their mandatory statutory functions to a basic default level.

An alternative might be for the National Trading Standards organisation to tackle these scams, but they are currently preoccupied with counterfeiting, contraband and mass marketing irregularities and have shown no inclination to take on this more recent crime. Although it might seem anomalous for the ICO to deal with these cases it is likely that they are better resourced and have access to more useful intelligence than the local trading standards departments. To the extent that these crimes depend on use of telecommunications networks, Ofcom is also involved and is starting to take preventive action.

These home appliance service plan/warranty scams are being tackled by the ICO as part of a joint initiative involving various Agencies, with Which? being one of the contributors alongside the FCA, Fraud Advisory Panel, Insolvency Service, National Trading Standards Intelligence, National Trading Standards Scams Team and OFCOM.

They continue to focus their attention on high volumes of nuisance calls that are fraudulent in nature and targeting the elderly and vulnerable. Calls relating to White goods insurance and warranty products are prominent, with some callers also impersonating legitimate businesses.

It therefore remains essential that consumers continue to report calls of this nature to the ICO.

In circumstances where a consumer has paid a rogue company and then realised it was a scam and been unable to contact the company to recover their money, I would encourage reporting this to Action Fraud and Trading Standards in addition to the ICO. For those consumers who realised it was a scam call and did not hand over their Bank or Card details, reporting the calling number to the ICO remains the most effective action to tackle the problem.

Reports from consumers provide vital evidence and are essential in achieving prosecutions. It becomes extremely difficult for a rogue company to deny or defend its actions when the ICO have evidence of thousands of complaints.

John Ward, the ease of which these rogue companies can set up a Direct Debit is certainly worrying. Most of these rogue companies would never meet the required financial, administrative and business integrity checks required by the Banks and instead become approved via a third party payment processor. Approval via a third party payment processor is much simpler with many suggesting a company could be approved within 24 hours.

Considering many of these rogue companies are newly formed with no trading history, it begs the question whether the approval process is totally unsatisfactory. There is evidence that some of these payment processors have been negligent, knowingly approving companies who are involved in fraud. However, I have the suspicion that payments processed by several rogue companies are in fact processed through a single longer established company under the control of the same group of individuals. This being one of the reasons these companies use generic names when introducing themselves, such as Domestic Appliances or Appliance Care, when in fact these are not the Registered company name.

I would be keen to discover what company name actually appears on the customers Bank statement.

Thank you, Wingman. That’s interesting information.

I was unaware of payment processors until you mentioned them recently and from what you are saying there is a major loophole in consumer protection. I don’t know which regulator is responsible for oversight of this activity but it seems to me that the misuse of payment processing services has slipped under the regulatory radar and is in urgent need of investigation. I would hope this might now brought within the scope of the joint operations by the ICO, National Trading Standards and Ofcom, etc. I would imagine there is a good opportunity for a ‘proceeds of crime’ recovery as well as criminal prosecution of individuals here.

John Ward, without doubt there are major concerns regarding the ability of individuals, newly formed companies and what I believe are organsied crime groups having access to services such as third party payment processors which allow them to process consumer Card payments and Direct Debits.

There are many overseas payment processors which these rogue companies can use, some you and I have probably never heard of, but large recognised industry players are also supporting these rogue companies. Generating revenue and competing within a competitive market place appears to take priority over consumer safety.

Wingman – If a direct debit is set up, is the bank’s customer informed in advance before the first payment is taken?

I share your concern that well known companies may be assisting crime, even if they are not aware of this.

Hi Wavechange, in accordance with Direct Debit Scheme rules, the company setting up the Direct Debit MUST notify the customer in writing before any funds are debited from the customers account. To my knowledge, the rogue company are required to do this and not the payment processor. The rogue company would need to provide evidence to the payment processor they had done this if requested, but this is easy to falsify.

I believe the Direct Debit instructions are not being sent to consumers or are being sent after funds are debited. If the consumer does not receive the Direct Debit instruction or it arrives late, then they are entitled to a refund. But I think by not sending the Direct Debit instruction, the aim of these rogues is to ensure the consumer overlooks the whole arrangement and by debiting small amounts each month the consumer is less likely to challenge it or change their mind.

Which? has an article on this titled ‘Direct debit traps exposed: ‘home appliance cover calls tricked my gran out of £10,000’

You are quite correct @Wingman. Companies must notify customers with Direct Debit mandates of the amount(s) and frequency of payment(s) to be debited from their account, before the first payment is collected.

They must also notify the customer in advance of any, change, variable or irregular payments being taken. If you pay a fixed monthly amount towards your energy bill, the company must notify you of any proposed change, and justify the amount with reference to previous statements if required to do so. If you pay your mobile phone contract or credit card by variable direct debit, you will be notified in the bill when your next payment is due and the amount.

No one should be taking money on a direct debit unexpectedly.

If this has not happened, then contact your bank and explain the situation. The Direct Debit Guarantee is there for a reason and customers must be made aware of this scheme, again in advance of any money being taken.

It would be useful if Which? researched the possible problems with third party payment processors and maybe asked the Payment Systems Regulator to comment. I haven’t a clue how these processors work, where they are based, how accountable they are…….

Thanks, I will put this down as a bit of feedback. It would be really useful stuff to know.

Absolutely correct Em and yes consumers do have a high degree of protection through The Direct Debit Guarantee.

There has been this shift with rogue companies to use Direct Debit instead of taking Card payments. I sense they feel that using Direct Debit provides greater validity to defending their position if challenged, on the basis that Direct Debits are a common and trusted payment method and therefore the consumer ‘must have authorised’ this payment method.

What they wont tell the Banks is they misled the customer into handing over their bank details in the first place, telling them their existing cover is expiring, even though they don’t have a policy or claiming to be the current provider, or claiming to be another well-known company.

As financial institutions all payment processors have to be approved and regulated by the FCA.

Wingman – Thanks for your reply concerning direct debits. I am familiar with the Direct Debit Guarantee and have never had to use it. The only problem I have experienced was when I cancelled a DD when leaving an energy company to ensure that there would be no further payments, but that meant that I could not receive a refund for my credit balance.

What concerns me is the possibility of misuse of the DD system, either fraudulently or as a result of people being pressurised into taking out home appliance cover or for other goods and services. Online banking has made it very easy to check which DDs are active and when the last payment was, but it’s not so easy for those without online accounts.

In case anyone else is interested here is the article you mentioned about the 92 year old who was pushed into spending £10k on home appliance cover, here is a link: https://www.which.co.uk/news/2021/11/direct-debit-traps-exposed-home-appliance-cover-calls-tricked-my-grandma-out-of-10000/

Chirag, I am aware of a payment processor who was advised that a retailer they are processing payments for is a rogue trader and although they agreed to investigate, the retailer continues to accept payments from consumers and is failing to ship the goods.

This was reported to the payment processor over 12 months ago and to Trading Standards, yet the retailers website remains active and consumers continue to post complaints that they have paid for goods they never received.

Furthermore, the retailers website does not comply with legislation.

Additionally, the retailer in question has never filed any accounts with Companies House since incorporation, has been issued with three striking off notices by Companies House and the retailers current status remains an active proposal to strike off. The payment processor has also been advised of this and yet the payment processors logo remains prominent on the retailers website.

This is a complete shambles and as I see it the payment processor is endorsing and supporting the conduct of a rogue company which is causing harm to consumers.

Thats a good point wavechange regarding those who do not use online Banking. It’s certainly easier for these rogue outfits to use Direct Debit on the basis that small amounts each month will not be noticed.

From Wingman’s recital of the shambles in the payment processing business it is easy to see why many people have little confidence in the various statutory authorities and regulators to clean up these perpetrators and offenders as well as those who aid and abet them

This does not bode well for enforcement of the forthcoming Online Safety legislation.

I support that John Ward. If a payment processor is happy to continue processing payments for a retailer with no trading history, no accounts filed and an active striking off notice, what are our chances of ever really tackling scams or rogue businesses???

This suggests that none of the financial, administrative and business integrity checks were undertaken, which is a significant failing.

Reginald says:
10 March 2022

Wingman – The payment processor would almost certainly stop taking payments if the website was taken down. Why on earth haven’t TS moved to get the site offline?

On a separate note I raised it here at the time it was on the edge of dissolving – despite the amount of complaints and attention on this thread for National Appliance Cover Ltd it was able to dissolve without ever filing accounts and without any ICO action.

Reginald, the simple answer is lack of resources. I spoke directly with the Trading Standards Office who handle complaints for that area and the Trading Standards Officer advised me they focus on issues with the highest number of complaints. They acknowledged and are aware of many rogue companies, but simply do not have adequate resources to tackle them all and therefore those with the most complaints are handled and others have no action and can continue with their fraudulent conduct.

When I challenged this and stated it was outrageous, the Trading Standards Officer became quite defensive, through frustration I think. They realise its not acceptable and are equally annoyed they do not have the resources to handle everything. Having pressed the issue further, they did agree to discuss my concerns about the retailer at their next meeting, but that was several months ago and the retailers web site remains active.

This seems like a licence for anyone to start a fake website, sell high value electricals for 6 months, take payments but don’t supply the goods and then cease trading. This is far too easy and I am shocked the UK Government is allowing this to happen.

I have asked a number of times, along with others, for Which? to push for Trading Standards to be properly resourced. They are our nominated guardians of a number of issues, including rogue companies and fake products.

It seems to me that campaigning to stop consumer detriment through dangerous products, online scams, retailers disregarding Consumer Rights, down to unit pricing and similar is rather pointless when there is no organisation properly resourced to police the market and hold the law-breakers to account.

Maybe we would make much more progress if this issue was addressed. So, perhaps Which? should put together a Super Complaint to give us an effective Trading Standards organisation?

Reginald, I am seeing major failings by numerous Government Agencies and ultimately it comes down to inadequate resources. This ability to incorporate Limited companies, trade for a year of two, scam people and then dissolve without filing accounts etc is just outrageous.

I submitted a Freedom of Information request to Companies House recently regarding the conduct of 30 home appliance warranty/service plan companies, all of which had dissolved and many of which had the same Directors.

Keeping in mind it is a criminal offence not to file accounts and Directors of companies may be convicted and fined in the criminal courts, I asked how many of these companies who had failed to file accounts had been prosecuted. The answer was 1.

In circumstances where the same individuals then incorporated further companies, failed to file accounts and were struck off by companies house, what measures, penalties or enforcement action was taken against those Directors who persisted in failing to meet their legal obligations. Their response was as follows” Companies House do not routinely collate and analyse information on Directors that incorporate new companies following the dissolution of another company of which they were a Director”. So essentially no action was taken against Directors who then incorporate and dissolve new companies and persist in failing to meet their legal obligations.

Numerous other questions were put to Companies House of which the replies were quite shocking. Essentially, this is an abuse of the incorporation of Limited companies which is being used to assist fraud and Companies House are doing absolutely nothing about it.

Reginald says:
10 March 2022

Malcolm R – I totally agree. I was horrified that National Appliance Cover Ltd was able to slip through the net despite the mass attention it generated on this very thread. The dissolve period was a slow one too, 6 months. Madness.

I fully support that malcom r. Something must be done and quickly.

Surprise Surprise! I am back!

The number of complaints received here about the elderly becoming more vulnerable to fraudulent calls and mail is evidence of insufficient, or inadequate protection for the vulnerable against these rogue organisations and traders

The sad fact remains, self protection has now become a requirement for most, and even more so for the elderly, many still without computer access or unable to relate to their intricate operatives or functions.

TPS has already been acknowledged here as unreliable, so what are the alternatives?

In the Which? Report, Mary’s phone was blocked – evidently it was not sufficiently so, otherwise how did the rogue callers get through to her? Relatives or friends of people like Mary need to equip them with a blocking phone and set it up for them, so that only essential numbers, and close friends and relatives are programmed into their phone’s system.

I recently carried out a check on my own landline phone by unblocking it, and was surprised at the speed these rogue calls soon came in. It was easy to reset the system back to ‘blocked’ by pressing a couple of buttons.

Stuff appearing through letter boxes is more difficult, as blocking is not an option for most. I have placed a shallow box underneath the letterbox so that all mail delivered drops into it. After each delivery, I then sort out the wheat from the chaff and leave the chaff in the box to lie until the box is full. This increases one’s awareness to both the amount of junk deposited in a very short space of time, and also of the intrusion into once’s own privacy and space. It is also contained in one place to prevent it from sprawling all over the hall floor.

When full, I quickly check and remove my name and address and the rest goes into the recycle bin. Some is shreddable, but not all.

We need to take more care of our elderly, to ensure they are not exposed to scammers and fraudsters who, devoid of all conscience or consideration, are out to make a quick quid from the most vulnerable in an ever increasingly detached and disinterested society.

Whereas in theory, scams or complex or deceptive promotional material that comes in the post [think: equity release, funeral plans, pipes & drains cover] allow time to review and consider before making a purchase or setting up a regular payment, in practice, for people who are confused or suffering from declining mental capacity or have difficulty with resisting this constant deluge, the risks are as high as for nuisance calling.

Some of us have pushed Which? over the ineffectiveness and underfunding of Trading Standards for years, but only the government that can take effective action. It’s not just the present government and the rot set in when the sale of goods and services moved online. The focus of Which? seems to have focused on what we can do to help protect ourselves from scams but that is not enough to help the elderly and vulnerable.

What else can we do to push for government action?

If Which? cannot build and present a case for tighter control and enforcement of these rogues and parasites, does it have a ‘tame’ MP or member of the House of Lords who might be interested in promoting some legislation? I foresee a potential problem: if the government said there were no resources for enforcement it would kill the bill at a stroke.

It seems that the police have extensive and expensive resources for catching car thieves and drugged or drunken drivers and running them off the road. Are these sorts of crimes any less serious? Theft by phone call has victims too.

Perhaps Which? could run a Convo with Trading Standards explaining how it works at local and national level, what its powers are, what consumer detriment it could address if properly resourced, and seek our comments. They could then run a campaign aimed at establishing a better resourced capability to address the consumer problems we complain about, endlessly, here. Then a Super Complaint to try to get some action.

So much money is lost to fraud I would have thought the case to properly resource would be clear. Maybe part of the money would come from penalties imposed, maybe part by a levy on organisations.

We will no doubt need someone to deal with online fraud, now about to go in the bill. Otherwise the bill will just be hot air.

@gmartin, George, might Which? pursue this? An effective Trading Standards would deal with a lot of the problems reported in these Convos.

I endorse that. Local trading standards services were deliberately run down and hidden behind Citizens Advice when the Consumer Rights Act 2015 came into effect in the mistaken belief that consumers then had more rights to seek redress themselves against firms that practised unfair trading. There are consumer concerns and issues that require more specialised and concentrated action than consumers can take on their own or with help from a CAB but TS has shrunk into its shell of little more than basic weights & measures work and a limited number of compliance inspections with no outreach work and no consumer-facing activity apart from issuing lists of scams and rogue trader alerts but little evidence of enforcement.

I completely agree with your comments regarding the Police and the severity of such crimes, but for reasons unknown they handle criminality of this type completely differently.

Yet many of these crimes are being committed by the same group of individuals operating several companies of which we know exactly where they are and we know exactly where the calls were made from. I appreciate it is difficult to determine the exact individual that made the call as these rogue companies use false names when introducing themselves and when challenged by the Police the company owner will respond by saying we have no one by that name employed here and therefore the call could not possibly have been made by us. But telephone records would confirm who the call was made to and at what time to verify the complainants statement.

Given these rogue companies are operated by the same group of individuals who have already come to the attention of Trading Standards and some have received fines for their conduct, surely the Police should at the very least log the complaint, attend the premises, advise the company they have received complaints and bring the owner in for questioning. There maybe insufficient evidence at that point to take action, but in collaboration with other Agencies and further investigation, I am sure the company or the company bosses could eventually be prosecuted.

I would like to see greater involvement from the Police, at the very least as a possible deterrent. When confronted these rogues are cowards and would certainly not want Police visiting their offices and asking questions, which I feel would apply some pressure on the company bosses. With the company bosses aware they have come to the attention of the Police, it might cause them to reconsider whether continuing on this course of action and once further evidence is obtained, could lead to an arrest and criminal charges.

I am not sure our police forces are properly trained and equipped for this sort of enforcement and believe that a beefed-up intelligence-led civilian service such as Trading Standards with appropriate technology would perform better.

I was trying to point out that we have choices on how we allocate money and resources to different forms of wrongdoing and feel that a reappraisal might be due to meet the challenges of modern crimes. It doesn’t need fast cars, rough handling, and lots of noise to enforce against telephone scammers. Disrupting the trade and recovering the proceeds could be just as effective.

That’s a fair statement and as you suggested Trading Standards are probably best equipped to handle this given greater resources.

We shall let the Police make the arrests, while Trading Standards investigate and bring the charges.

John Ward, I have approached three MP’s regarding this and either receive generic responses or was passed to other Departments with no success. I even approached the Police Commissioners Office for the area in question and was told to report again to 101. Additionally, I have forwarded 19 emails with an extensive dossier to various Government agencies and again received generic responses.

Other than Trading Standards no other Government Agency has replied.

As far as I am concerned, these Government Agencies are acting negligently and it’s totally unacceptable.

That’s an impressive effort, Wingman. I see it as more evidence of a need to hold government to account.

Wavechange, the next plan of attack is perhaps to gain further media coverage to expose these rogues.

Several of these rogue companies have already appeared on Rip Off Britain, but a single episode is not enough.

I have spoken with a high profile journalist and TV presenter who is keen to help, but their existing commitments have made it difficult to devote time to this, so I am seeking others with the enthusiasm and commitment to help.

If you are a Which? subscriber, it might help to try to get something in the magazine, inviting supporters to make contact. TV is certainly the way to get noticed and I wish you the best of luck.

Wavechange, thanks for the suggestion, I will explore further avenues.

It should be noted that Trading Standards are doing their very best and although resources are limited, they have made progress. But the activities of these rogue companies is widespread and far reaching and it needs intervention from other Government agencies to tackle the problem fully.

I am enraged and exasperated at the failure of other Government agencies to listen and act given the extensive and solid intelligence provided. But I refuse to allow these rogue companies to continue causing emotional distress and financial hardship to innocent consumers.

I remain resolute in my efforts and am determined to see criminal prosecutions brought against all those involved.

Wingman, you probably know about this nest of scammers that I uncovered:
https://conversation.which.co.uk/money/home-appliance-insurance-cold-call-scams/#comment-1614802
That is just one can of worms, there are many others.

I want to know why telecoms companies are not being held to account over nuisance calls and scammers as it is their systems that are being used to scam people. If telecoms companies were severely penalised over their failure to stop these calls, they would soon find a way of stopping them. But as long as they can make money out of victims misery by selling them call blockers, they will never do anything.

The use of virtual addresses is another weakness that allows these scammers to operate under the radar.

This is a list of conversations on nuisance calls I collated in 2015 going back to 2010.
https://conversation.which.co.uk/technology/end-nuisance-calls-crackdown-task-force-progress/#comment-1426016
There have been many more since then.

But good luck, I hope your efforts bring results.

Wingman – I don’t know the answer. I had problems with an unhelpful and obstructive person in a government agency, but going to the top was useful and thanks to a more helpful member of staff we now have quarterly meetings to discuss problems and I have a contact I can call when needed. Trying to understand issues from other people’s perspective is so important.

Hi Alfa, Thanks for the links, both read with interest and noted.

I was aware of the companies in your link and as you indicated a can of worms and a complete shambles.

I am not inclined to hold the Telecom companies entirely responsible and I think it would be difficult for them to cancel a service as they would need to undertake an investigation and have hard evidence before cancelling a service. Otherwise the rogue company could make a claim against them for cancelling their service.

I think it still requires the ICO to handle nuisance calls in the first instance and if it is then established the company was breaching legislation and fined, the Telecom company could be instructed to cancel the service and decline the issue of any further services.

Wavechange, likewise, I struggle to understand whether the responses from Government agencies are due to complacency or incompetence. Regardless of whether they are under-resourced, I would expect at the very least they take the time to listen and unless they are prepared to listen they cannot ascertain whether it’s something they could assist with.

I have often been treated with contempt and sense the individual at the other end sees the nature of my call as inconsequential. All in all its totally unacceptable.

Hi Wingman,

A few things I do think telecom companies could do:
– Stop spoofed numbers from traversing the airways.

– Ping all calls to their source to make sure they originate from the right place and that they are paid for numbers.

– Make unpaid for numbers unusable.

– Make caller display free.

– I don’t know if this one is possible, but as you can hold one number and talk to another, who knows . . . . . When someone receives a nuisance call, dial a number to activate a trace.

I would agree entirely with all those suggestions Alfa.

Number spoofing is a major problem, although I am not entirely sure whether it can only be achieved through online services or through conventional landline services too? My assumption was that number spoofing was achieved when calls are made using broadband services and therefore technology is used to spoof the number, whereas it was not possible using conventional landlines. Can anyone confirm this?

If it is achieved using software over broadband services, it may be difficult for Telecom companies to address.

Otherwise I would see all other suggestions as entirely achievable.

I know online services can provide number spoofing although I haven’t done too much investigation into it but there is plenty of info if you google how do you spoof a phone number.

Perhaps number spoofing sites should be made illegal.

My Samsung phone can warn me of suspected spam calls:
https://www.samsung.com/uk/apps/smart-call/

I just think the technology is there, but the telecoms companies need financial penalty persuasion to use it. As I have said for years, as long as they can charge people for call blockers, they are not going to stop nuisance calls.

Reginald says:
11 March 2022

Alfa & Wingman – the link you refer to at Premier Protect Holdings Ltd is the key to all this. The director (or former director) of that company is responsible for most of these calls in the UK. He resides offshore in Morocco and has offshore call centres. He sets up small UK based teams to take the payments. When one is raided by TS or the website is taken down he simply gets another director and starts again. He probably has them ready to go in advance. The engine of his operation is beyond reach of the authorities and he is in contempt of court as he has high court injunctions against him. Yet still no one can stop him.

Reginald says:
11 March 2022

What angers me the most about him is that he doesn’t even hide it. All my research is garnered from social media and public court judgements on the Internet . The evidence of his lavish lifestyle is enough to make your blood boil.

Thanks Reginald, I have no doubt the individual you mentioned is responsible for many of these rogue companies.

But there is more than one organised crime group operating these rogue companies along the south coast with the key figure being a different individual who is based in the UK. This individual and his associates are known to enforcement agencies.

They have failed to cover their tracks lately, leaving themselves open to further investigation. I sense the net is closing in on them and it’s becoming much more difficult for them to operate with the Authorities looking over their shoulder.

Stephen Mackelden says:
15 March 2022

Hi, everyone needs to be aware that the scammers use IP data based telephony. They can call from, say India and make it look they are calling from the UK. They buy UK telephone numbers that are IP (Internet Protocol) then redirect their Indian originated call via these UK numbers, which can be different every time. TPS cannot block these off shore calls rerouted via a data network so until the Internet has blocking enablers for off shore calling that has been redirected via UK numbers, scammers will continue to utilise this loophole. Just be suspicious of all cold calling and generally a foreign accent, if that’s not being too un PC!!

Hi Stephen, thanks for verifying the method for number spoofing.

Do you know whether this number spoofing can also be achieved using non IP based telephony services? I assume it cannot, but it would be useful to know.

Hi, generally, landline based telephony, originated on the UK PSTN network, is subject to TPS blocking if you activate it. Or you can individually block a call as you receive it.
Steve

This I was aware of, but do you know if number spoofing can be achieved from calls originating from landline based telephony (PSTN network) or is it only achievable for calls made from IP telephony services?

Hi, changing calling line identity, I’m guessing is what you are referring to. On standard UK PSTN networks you can either pass through or withold CLI. As far as I know, a standard PSTN phone to phone is difficult to spoof via BT exchange network. However, telephone numbers from scammers are probably spoofed/CLI changed at source. Scammers have PBX, data VOiP systems that can random generate numbers, with a UK CLI that won’t be the same the next time they call as they use large call blocks to generate a different number each time. What I am surprised about, is why no one traces back the number to a SIP (session initiated protocol) service providers. These service providers have accounts that users, such as scammers PBXs operate via a data call onto which they have to create a SIP session (they same way a call needs a connection to the end user). On UK networks tracing is possible, off shore I’m doubtful.

Thanks for the response Steve. Yes, this did relate to UK PSTN calls. I did a little research following your previous post and as you indicated I was able to confirm that number spoofing using the PSTN is not generally possible as the Network CLIs are generated by the switches.

I did read an article where the Ofcom director, Huw Saunders says when VOIP is fully in place, with a target date of the end 2025, the industry will be able to stop number spoofing. But it’s only when the vast majority of people are on the new technology (VOIP) that they can implement a new patch to address this problem of number spoofing.

Assuming this is achievable, it will be very welcome and may reduce the number of scam calls.

Anne says:
15 March 2022

We have been called several times before a company calling themselves ‘Domestic Appliances insurance ‘ or some such, the latest today. My husband has even been extremely rude to them but still they call back. Can nothing be done to stop them? We are registered with the TPS but it makes no difference!

Hi Anne, Yes, you can do something. Report the calling number to the ICO. Search ICO (Information Commissioners Office) online and report the calling number to the ICO. You can also report this to the TPS online. It is relatively quick and straightforward to report online.

On the ICO website, select ‘Make a Complaint’ from the navigation bar along the top of the page and select spam texts and nuisance calls. Be sure to select ‘Sales call from a real person (live call)’ and then complete the report entering the calling number and other fields as required.

It is essential that consumers report calls of this nature as it allows the Authorities to investigate and take action. It only requires a small number of reports for the ICO to act and in doing so you may help prevent others from being scammed.

Reginald says:
15 March 2022

Hi Anne

Sadly these ‘Domestic appliances’ calls are coming from Morocco and the man behind them is out of reach of the authorities here in the UK. Trading standard and the ICO know exactly who is making the calls but cannot stop him unfortunately.

Hi Reginald, we know that many of these rogue companies will use generic names rather than their registered company name to avoid detection. I have encountered numerous companies introducing themselves as Domestic Appliances, Domestic Appliance Services, Domestic Services, Domestic Homecare, Domestic Appliance Insurance etc, etc.

Based on the limited information Anne has provided and her uncertainty on the exact company name, how can you be sure that this call originated from Morroco?

Reginald says:
15 March 2022

Hi Wingman – from checking the CLI’s posted on this thread plus other intelligence I’ve been gathering on the director of Premier Protect Holdings since early 2021. Callers on threads on who called me always report foreign Asian sounding accents. Anne didn’t mention if they had a foreign accent but normally its the case. There are several hundred people operating from Morocco and potentially Egypt. Anne do you have a record of the number that called?

I take your point, but regardless of where you believe the call may have originated, it remains essential that consumers continue to report these calls.

Intelligence gathering by the ICO and Trading Standards, which is shared with other Agencies remains essential to tackling these rogue companies and I firmly believe that consumers should be encouraged to report all calls.

Reginald says:
15 March 2022

Wingman – do you have any information on how National Appliance Cover Ltd managed to dissolve with impunity despite the mass attention it received on this thread? I think it would help everyone with their motivation to keep reporting these issues if we can get a bit of feedback on this. I have mentioned it many times and no one has commented. How on earth did they slip through the net? It was also at a time when companies house was taking an age to strike companies off. Despite this they had no issues evidently.

You and I both know they’re still likely operating under a different company name now and a different director I expect.

My focus is and remains on two groups of individuals operating numerous UK Companies whose Directors are also UK based.

Unfortunately, I have no knowledge of any outcome of the company you mentioned.

I accept it can be disheartening when it seems there is no action being taken, but keep in mind that at least two substantial fines were issued recently which are hurting these rogues.

Although one of the fines was issued to a company not directly involved in home appliance service plans, its Director is connected to and associated with others engaging in these activities and I suspect directly involved.

Investigations began after less than 10 reports were made against both companies and this resulted in substantial fines. Available information would also be available to Trading Standards and it’s possible that further enforcement action will follow.

The Authorities will act on reports from consumers and therefore it remains essential that anyone receiving these calls is encouraged to report the matter.

Reginald says:
16 March 2022

I see a round of fines have been handed out for service plan companies. Sadly the fines are nowhere near the top end of what the ICO can issue.

Hi Reginald, from memory the fines were in the region of £150,000 upwards. Like you, I would have preferred to see greater amounts, but never the less these are still substantial fines.

As highlighted in a previous post, a further company with an entirely different business activity (although that activity was also a scam) was also issued with a fine and its Director is believed to be connected with or associated with other companies involved in these service plan appliance scams. Either way, this will have bruised those involved, act as a deterrent and cause them to reconsider future conduct of this type.

Reginald says:
16 March 2022

The fines ranged from £80 to £110k today I believe. Whilst combing through, I note that the ICO obtained clear and overwhelming evidence that Home Sure Solutions Ltd targeted the elderly by requesting data lists for over 60s. I hope to see a TS prosecution follow swiftly with this strong evidence secured.

Here is a new article by Which? https://www.which.co.uk/news/2022/03/five-firms-selling-appliance-cover-fined-for-making-predatory-marketing-calls/ It is encouraging that they are working with ICO and Trading Standards.

Reginald says:
16 March 2022

I do apologise, Platinum Home care was the company caught doing this. Not Home Sure Solutions Ltd.

In addition to the most recent fines, there were further fines issued towards the end of last year, which from memory were in excess of £170,000.

Reading between the lines, it’s clear the ICO and most likely working alongside Trading Standards, clearly recognise the modus operandi of these companies, as you indicated the data lists targeting those over a certain age etc.

I think this demonstrates the effectiveness of callers reporting calls to the ICO. We both know the conduct of the companies is greater than just a nuisance cold calling activity and naturally we all want to sure greater enforcement, hopefully criminal convictions, but this is a promising outcome and hopefully further enforcement will follow.

Reginald — You might like to note that if you make a mistake in a comment it is possible to correct it within thirty minutes of posting. Click on the Edit key beneath your comment and then you can make any amendments you like, click on the Save button, and it will then replace your original post.

John – As far as I know, only signed-in users can edit their comments in this way. For me it’s a good incentive to sign in but some of our contributors prefer not to do this. I think Em explained her reason.

Good point, Wavechange. I had overlooked that. I couldn’t manage without the edit function!

That’s a good article by Which? on the success of the ICO in fining and enforcing against the domestic appliance service cover scammers. It’s taken some time but at last the regulator has put his teeth in.

The number of cold calls these various outfits have made over a short period is staggering. Perhaps concentrating on calls to landline numbers was ultimately their downfall. I hope the scammers are not immune from a criminal prosecution given the harm they have done through fraud and theft.

Targeting people over sixty with a landline was clearly not just for the purposes of finding people who were likely to be at home in the daytime but to exploit their possible age-related susceptibilities. Despicable. It’s a pity they cannot be arraigned in a public court and serve a term in HMP.

John Ward said “Despicable. It’s a pity they cannot be arranged in a public court and serve a term in HMP”.

Working on that, the enforcement action will certainly not stop at the fines.

It should also be noted that the ICO received only 1 complaint for one of the companies that were fined. Although the fine was relatively low when compared to the others, action was still taken after receiving a single complaint.

This highlights the importance of consumers continuing to report calls of this nature.

This is all good stuff and I hope the authorities will be diligent in pursuing payment of the fines imposed.

I wonder how the amounts of the fines compare with the levels of monetary loss experienced by people who were scammed let alone reflect the degree of psychological pain and distress they have suffered.

The ICO have remained diligent in ensuring fines are paid. Previously, some of these rogue companies filed to dissolve at Companies House, but the ICO suspended these dissolutions.

The Directors of these companies are also aware the ICO have the power to hold them personally liable if the fines are unpaid. Latest reports indicate some of the fines issued late last year were paid in full, with others agreeing payment plans which I understand are up to date.

Thanks, Wingman. That is encouraging. Perhaps the ICO is demonstrating to Trading Standards that strong enforcement is indeed worth while and has wider effects not just against the individual concerned.

It would be good if the same enforcement techniques could be used against all the other perpetrators of telephone call and texting scams for parcel deliveries, Covid-19 tests, Amazon Prime accounts, and other rogue activities.

These actions by the ICO are part of a multi-agency approach and in these specific circumstances where it was found the companies were targeting and exploiting certain groups of individuals, this intelligence will already have been passed to Trading Standards.

It’s also worth noting that these cases are not treated as isolated incidents and intelligence surrounding the individuals operating these companies is recorded and available to other Agencies. The individuals operating these scams are now known to the Authorities, which places them at much higher risk of greater enforcement or more severe action should they participate in conduct of this type in future.

christine says:
16 March 2022

i have just been called for homecare they said they mistakenly took 190 pounds out of my account.i said just send me a cheque.they said ok whats the number on bottom of your chequbook ? i replied i havent got a chequebook.ok what is your number on bank statement.reply i dont get paper statements.then i was getting angry i replied you are not getting my bank details your are not getting anything you have my name and address just post the cheque but we need your account and why are you shouting. becos you are doing my head in phoned from 02045204988

Hi Christine. I am pleased you recognised this was a scam and refused to provide your Bank details.

It’s certainly interesting to hear of this different approach, whereby they are suggesting they have taken a payment in error, wish to refund and are asking for Bank details in order to process the refund.

If you have not already done so, I would encourage you to report the calling number to the ICO. If you are registered with the Telephone Preference Service you should also report this to the TPS. You may have noticed from previous comments that several of these rogue companies have suffered enforcement action by the ICO, receiving significant fines for their conduct. The ICO’s work to tackle these companies was as a result of consumers reporting the calling number and therefore remains essential that calls of this nature are reported.

Reports can be made online and it’s relatively quick to do so. By submitting a report it could also prevent others from being scammed.

Search for the ICO (Information Commissioners Office) website. On the ICO website, select ‘Make a Complaint’ from the navigation bar along the top of the page and select spam texts and nuisance calls. Be sure to select ‘Sales call from a real person (live call)’ and then complete the report entering the calling number and other information as required.

Dorothy says:
17 March 2022

We have been getting calls from a warranty company trying to give us back £119 for an over payment for a Bosch washing machine warranty. The caller calls from various UK numbers (London and Newcastle codes). The caller gets quite angry when we play stupid or keep asking them to speak more clearly as they speak with a bad accent and are Indian or maybe African. It’s been going on for the last 2 – 3 weeks now. The last caller was quite aggressive and asked why were we so stupid as to not want our money back.

Dear Dorothy, thank you for sharing your experience and sorry to hear you are receiving regular calls.

As indicated in previous posts, if you have not already done so, I would encourage you to report the calling numbers to the ICO. If your number is registered with the Telephone Preference Service, you should also report this to the TPS.

Reporting these calls is the most effective method to tackling the problem and in doing so you it may also prevent others from being scammed.