Tobacco crime – not to be sniffed at

Over 7 million illegal cigarettes and 478 kg of hand rolling tobacco have been seized by local Trading Standards within the Central England Trading Standards Authorities (CEnTSA), Warwickshire County Council’s Trading Standards Service can report.

The cigarettes and tobacco were seized in the last financial year (2017/2018) with a loss to the tax payer of nearly £2million. The total retail value of the illegal goods is estimated to be worth in excess of £3million. The amount of illegal product seized has increased year on year in recent years, with the amount of illegal cigarettes seized last year being almost 30% higher than a record seizure figure the previous year.

The seizures were often well hidden, in sophisticated concealments using electronic magnets controlled by a switch, hydraulic compartments in floors, false back to a fridge, as well as cavity wall compartments. Such hiding places are difficult to detect without the aid of specialist tobacco sniffer dogs.

All offending businesses are subject to criminal investigation, with some traders already being successfully prosecuted. Some have received financial penalties, others, suspended prison sentences and community orders.

In addition, some shops have had their alcohol licences suspended or revoked for dealing with illegal tobacco products.

Warwickshire County Councillor Andy Crump, Portfolio Holder for Community Safety said: “Far from being a victimless crime, the illegal tobacco trade creates a cheap source for children and young people. Whilst all tobacco is harmful, the illegal tobacco market, and in particular the availability of cheap cigarettes, undermines government health policies aimed at reducing the cost to the NHS of treating diseases caused by smoking. The loss to the tax payer means less money being spent on local communities, schools and the NHS.’’

Bob Charnley, Chairman of CEnTSA said: ‘‘More and more people over the past few years have decided enough is enough and are providing information to Trading Standards, to stop local criminals selling and distributing illegal tobacco. Combating illegal tobacco has become an increasing priority for Trading Standards. The illegal tobacco trade has strong links with crime and criminal gangs, including drug dealing, money laundering, people trafficking and even terrorism. Selling illegal tobacco is a crime.”

Mr Charnley added ‘‘retailers are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their approach, adapting their methods in order to avoid detection. Some businesses had gone to great lengths to conceal the illegal tobacco in secret compartments, including hydraulic lifts in floors, false walls and fridges. You may hide it, but we will find it.’’

Illegal tobacco products can usually be easily recognised. They will be very cheap, often less than half the price of legitimate packets and often have foreign writing on them.

Anyone being offered cheap tobacco or any other types of illicit goods should report it to Trading Standards by calling the CEnTSA’s confidential fakes hotline on 0300 303 2636.

Household appliances recalled due to fire risk – GOV.UK

List of household appliances recalled due to fire risk since 2010.

Documents

Details

Manufacturers notify the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy of a product that has been recalled because of a safety risk.

Each document provides information on the:

  • type of product
  • manufacturer
  • reason for its recall
  • what you need to do if you own this product

You can also find out about guidance on how to check latest recalls, register your appliance and who to contact for more information on product safety on the government’s Acting on product safety website.

Source: Household appliances recalled due to fire risk – GOV.UK

45 Second Video Could save You a Bundle! New Video Extols Benefits of Online Checks for Used Car Buyers – Warwickshire News

Want to avoid spending hours and hours and sometimes thousands of pounds sorting out used car purchase problems? 45 seconds may be all it takes!

A new 45 second video supported by Warwickshire County Council Trading Standards is promoting the benefits of using free and low cost online tools to check out used cars before you buy.

Warwickshire Standards receives more complaints about used car purchases than almost anything else and these often involve consumers buying vehicles that look great on the forecourt or in a picture, but hide a host of problems under the bonnet!

Janet Faulkner, Head of Warwickshire Trading Standards said:

“If you’re not a car expert, buying a used car can sometimes seem like a bit of a lottery. Our new video explains the checks you can make before you buy a used car, including many free and low cost online checks you can make from the comfort of your own home. All you usually need is the vehicle’s registration number and sometimes the make and model. So, before you buy, take 45 seconds to watch our video, it could prove to be the best car buying decision you make.”

The video can be viewed on YouTube here. It describes the simple checks consumers can make before they buy a used vehicle.

These include:

The Government’s MOT history website provides detailed information of a car’s MOT history and tells you if your vehicle is subject to a recall: https://www.check-mot.service.gov.uk

This Government website has information on the tax/SORN status of the vehicle, year of manufacture, date first registered, engine size and colour: https://www.vehicleenquiry.service.gov.uk/

There are also commercial websites that will tell you, without charge, if the vehicle has been stolen or imported. For a few pounds you can get further information including whether there is any outstanding finance on the car or if the vehicle has ever been written off or scrapped.

Warwickshire residents wishing to make a complaint about a vehicle they have purchased can do so by contacting Warwickshire Trading Standards via the Citizens Consumer Advice Helpline on 03454 04 05 06.

Source: 45 Second Video Could save You a Bundle! New Video Extols Benefits of Online Checks for Used Car Buyers – Warwickshire News

No excuses: how to tighten up your online security in 10 minutes | Cyber Aware | The Guardian

It’s one of those “it’ll never happen to me” things. Sure, we’ve all got a friend whose cousin had their identity stolen online, but cybercrime is so uncommon, isn’t it?

Not according to an Office for National Statistics survey. There were 3.7 million victims of fraud and computer misuse in the year ending September 2017, meaning you are 35 times more likely to encounter it than robbery. The good news is there are very simple things you can do to tighten up your online security right now, according to the government’s Cyber Aware campaign, which has been set up to help the public and small businesses better protect themselves from cybercrime.

Don’t say ‘remind me later’ to updates
It’s tempting to flick away a software or app update reminder, telling yourself you’ll do it tomorrow, but updates are crucial to help protect devices from viruses and hackers. They’re designed to fix weaknesses in software and apps that hackers could potentially take advantage of. Set up your devices so updates are done automatically or, even better, at night when you’re sleeping.

Pa55word! is not gonna cut it any more
Cyber Aware says passwords are prime territory for hackers – so it’s high time you gave up using your dog’s name. Make sure you use strong, separate passwords for your most important accounts like your email, so that if hackers do manage to steal your password for, say, your fitness app, they can’t use it to access your banking app. Try using three random words which you can supplement with numbers and symbols, for example, 4wartschickenbath32£.

You should also use two-factor authentication, when available, to protect your email account, a handy tool to give it an extra layer of security. New research from Experian and Cyber Aware reveals that over half of all those surveyed aged 18-25 reuse their email password for other accounts – putting their cybersecurity and identity at risk. As a result, they’re urging Brits to help protect their email accounts from hackers with a strong and separate email password through the just-launched #OneReset campaign.

Set up screen locks
Did we say dead simple? Yes, this is about as easy as it gets in making your online security watertight. All devices should go to lock mode when you’re not using them. Pins, patterns or passwords to unlock them shouldn’t be easy to guess, like 1, 2, 3, 4 or an L shape (we’ve been through this, you’re better than that).

Back up, back up, back up
The one golden rule of smart online behaviour is to back up your data regularly. If your device is infected by a virus, malware or is hacked, you may not be able to access your data as it could be damaged, deleted or held to ransom. Use an external hard drive or the cloud to save copies of your photos and documents, but make sure the external hard drive is not permanently connected to the device – either physically or over a wifi connection – as it could become infected too.

Not all wifi is created equal
We all love a bit of free wifi, but be careful about using public hotspots to transfer sensitive information like credit card details. Hackers can set up networks, enabling them to intercept information you’re sending online. So it’s best to do your online banking and shopping on a trusted network.

‘Jailbreaking’ is a no-no
Here’s one for the more tech-savvy. “Jailbreaking” or “rooting” your smartphone means disabling software restrictions set up by the manufacturer so you can download apps and tools which aren’t available through official app stores. Doing so leaves your phone vulnerable to malware and invalidates the warranty of the device. You will also stop receiving software updates, which, if you’ve been paying attention, is bad news.

Spot the imposters
Cybercriminals can set up fake websites that look very similar to the real thing, in an effort to get you to share sensitive information such as your bank details. There might even be a padlock or “https” in the address bar but check thoroughly for misspelled names, and logos and design features that don’t quite look right. Wherever possible, type the address of the website directly into the browser yourself, or find the website using a search engine. If you notice something is up, get out quickly.

Resist the urge to open suspicious links or attachments
Haven’t heard from your cousin John in eons and he’s now sent an email with a link to win a free iPhone? Back away. Even if something arrives in your inbox supposedly from someone you know or a company you trust, it could be fake. Never respond to suspicious or unexpected emails, as this will let the sender know your email address is active. Flag it as spam and send it to trash where it belongs.

For advice on simple ways to be more secure online, visit the Cyber Aware website

Source: No excuses: how to tighten up your online security in 10 minutes | Cyber Aware | The Guardian

Phone Scammers Asking For iTunes Gift Cards as Payment

Phone scammers are a devious bunch and they use a variety of tactics to trick vulnerable people into giving them money and personal information.

Often, phone scammers will attempt to panic a victim into paying by claiming that the victim owes money for taxes, fines, utility bills, or other unexpected fees. The scammers may be very threatening and may even claim that the victim will be arrested and jailed if payment is not made.

In other cases, the scammers may claim that the victim has won a lottery or is eligible for a tax refund or a large cash grant from a government agency or other organisation. But, the scammers will claim that the victim must pay various fees upfront before the funds can be sent to them.

In many cases, the scammers demand that the victim provide credit card details to make the supposed payments. Alternatively, they may instruct the victim to go out and purchase a pre-paid debit card and then call back with the card details.

And, increasingly, scammers are insisting that victims provide iTunes Gift Card codes as a means of payment.

Here’s how the iTunes Gift Card scams generally play out:

1: The victim gets a call from a scammer who invents a cover story like those mentioned above and warns that the victim must make an immediate payment or face dire consequences.

2: The scammer insists that the victim pays with iTunes Gift Cards and instructs him or her to hang up, go out and buy some of the cards at the nearest retail outlet, and then call back.

3: When the victim calls back, the scammer will ask for the 16-digit code on the back of the iTunes cards.

4: The scammer can then use the card code to purchase goods and services on the iTunes Store, App Store, iBooks Store, or for an Apple Music membership.

Scammers are using this method because iTunes Gift Card purchases cannot be easily traced back to offenders. If victims pay using the cards, it will usually be impossible for them to get their money back.

Keep in mind that iTunes Gift Cards can ONLY be used to purchase goods and services on the iTunes Store, App Store, iBooks Store, or for an Apple Music membership.

Any call that wants you to pay a supposed debt or fine using an iTunes card is certain to be a scam.  No legitimate entity will ever ask that you make a payment using iTunes Gift Cards.  If you receive such a call, just hang up.

Apple has published information about these scams on its website.

Note that scammers may sometimes demand that people pay with other types of store gift cards as well as iTunes cards.

Aside:

People familiar with computers and the Internet may find it difficult to understand how anyone could fall for a scam that demanded payment via iTunes Gift Cards.

But, keep in mind that there are still many people who do not have a computer at home and have only a rudimentary knowledge of the Internet and online payment systems.

They will no doubt have seen displays of iTunes Gift Cards in various stores without having any real understanding of what the cards are actually for. So, a clever phone scammer may be able to easily convince them that the iTunes cards are a new and safe way to make payments over the phone.

If you have less tech-savvy relatives, friends, or neighbours who you think may be vulnerable to such scams you may want to take a few minutes to bring them up to speed.

Ghost broker scam: Police warn thousands of motorists may have fake car insurance

Men in their 20s are most likely to be targeted by ‘ghost brokers’ who often contact victims on Facebook or Instagram.

Thousands of motorists may be victims of 'ghost brokers'

Thousands of motorists could be unwittingly driving without insurance because of fraudsters known as “ghost brokers” selling fake policies, police have warned.

Detectives received more than 850 reports of the scam in the last three years, with victims losing an estimated total of £631,000, according to City of London officers. But the force said the actual number of victims could be much higher as drivers are often unaware their policy is invalid.

Tactics used by “ghost brokers” include taking out a genuine insurance policy before quickly cancelling it and claiming the refund plus the victim’s money. They also forge insurance documents or falsify a driver’s details to bring the price down, police said.

Men aged in their 20s are most likely to be targeted, with “ghost brokers” often contacting victims on social media including Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and WhatsApp.

WhatsApp and Facebook messenger icons are seen on an iPhone

They also advertise on student websites or money-saving forums, university notice boards and marketplace websites and may sell insurance policies in pubs, clubs or bars, newsagents and car repair shops.

A national campaign has now been launched to warn drivers to be wary of heavily discounted policies on the internet or cheap insurance prices they are offered directly. Some victims only realise they do not have genuine cover when they are stopped by police or try to make an insurance claim after an accident, detectives said.

Police have taken action in 417 cases linked to “ghost broking” in the last three years, including one man who set up 133 fake policies and another man who earned £59,000 from the scam.

Drivers without valid car insurance are breaking the law and face punishments including fines, points on their driving licence and having their vehicles seized.

Source: Ghost broker scam: Police warn thousands of motorists may have fake car insurance

Time-limited travel deals: No need to hurry – Which? News

The ‘bargain’ package holidays that drop in price after the sale ends By Jo Rhodes 30 Dec 2017 Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share by email A Which? Travel investigation has revealed that misleading ‘hurry deals’ could be duping travelers into paying hundreds of pounds over the odds for holidays. The time-limited promotions – advertised in national newspapers and circulated by email – promise consumers bargain prices if they book their package holiday or cruise before the cut-off date. However, when we tracked the deals over three weeks in July and August 2017, we found that in 16 out of 30 cases the price was the same – or even cheaper – after the sale had ended.
What’s the hurry? Many of the ads urge travelers to ‘hurry, book now’ and use online tactics, such as ticking countdown clocks, to create a sense of panic in the buyer. Popular holiday companies could be in breach of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations (CPRs) if a retailer’s actions can be shown to be misleading, and likely to cause the average person to rush into a buying decision they wouldn’t otherwise have taken.
Luxury resort chain Sandals was offering a seven-night all-inclusive break to Jamaica for £1,465 per person in its Summer Mega Sale. ‘Save up to 60%… Hurry! Only one day left,’ the strap-line read. However the day after the ‘sale’ ended, the price dropped by £50 per person – and continued to run for another week – so no need to hurry after all. The travel company seemingly runs 60%-off promotions back-to-back under various guises, adding another seven days to the countdown clock.
A spokesperson for Unique Caribbean Holidays Ltd, the UK tour operator for Sandals, told us the company does not intentionally pressure sell or create false book-by dates, and that all its packages are fairly promoted to the customer. It added: ‘We clearly state our sale terms and conditions on our website, which do not breech any advertising guidelines, and in turn do not mislead our customers.’
Similarly a Virgin ‘Holiday Sale’ promoted seven nights at Florida’s Coco Key Hotel from £792 per person if booked by 17 August. ‘Won’t last forever,’ the banner read. On 18 August – a day after the sale had ended – the same package on the same dates had dropped to £677 per person – a £230 saving for two people sharing. A week later the package crept up to £682 per person, but was still considerably cheaper than the ‘sale’ price. A Virgin Holidays’ spokesperson told us that it would never intentionally advertise anything misleading. It added: ‘We are always looking to secure the best possible value for our customers – and should we be able to obtain better offers from our suppliers, these savings will be passed on to benefit the customer.’
Other questionable deals included a lastminute.com stay at a Paris hotel with flights. The day after the promotion ended, the price dropped from £139 to £126 – and this lower rate was still available a week later. Other deals saw prices yo-yo. Two-nights at another Paris hotel was £404 in Expedia’s ‘flash sale’. After the promotion ended, the break went up to £628 – only to drop again a fortnight later when a new 40% off promotion ran. This time the same stay was available for £382 – £22 cheaper than the original ‘sale’ price.
Sale extended Extended sales were also common. We found Inghams Italy offering discounted trips to Capri, Milan and Puglia until 4 August. But the expiry date was pushed back twice, meaning the same prices were still being advertised a month later.

A Kuoni ‘special offer’ also continued to run after the deadline, meaning an all-inclusive holiday to Jamaica dropped by £200 per person the day after its initial sale ended. Kuoni and Inghams said they have reviewed how they promote offers as a result of our findings, which we have shared with Trading Standards and the Advertising Standards Authority.

Read more: https://www.which.co.uk/news/2017/12/time-limited-travel-deals-no-need-to-hurry/ – Which?

ource: Time-limited travel deals: No need to hurry – Which? News

Is your tumble dryer dangerous?

Tumble dryer manufacturers have launched a massive fire safety repair campaign following reports of faulty tumble dryers catching fire. Is your tumble dryer at risk of causing a fire, and what should you do about it? Whirlpool – the manufacturer of popular UK home appliances – embarked on a nationwide repair campaign in spring 2016 following reports of problems with tumble dryers causing house fires. Now MPs on Parliament’s Business Committee have said that manufacturers’ responses to product defects has highlighted flaws in the UK’s product safety regime.

Whirlpool says that around 5.4 million potentially faulty tumble dryers were sold in the UK between 2004 and 2015, and there have been reports of families left homeless following fires caused by faulty tumble dryers. You can take action to check if you are one of the millions potentially affected by a faulty tumble dryer, and prevent the risk of a house fire.

Why is Whirlpool fixing tumble dryers?

Whirlpool has launched a national repair scheme to fix the faulty tumble dryers. Whirlpool says it has contacted 4 million customers directly to ask them to check for a faulty tumble dryer.  If the tumble dryer is faulty, Whirlpool will send an engineer to visit to repair the faulty tumble dryer for free.

What is causing the tumble dryer fires?

In some cases, fluff can come into contact with the heating element in the tumble dryer and potentially cause a fire according to Whirlpool. It says such cases are rare, but affected models will require repair.

What brands are affected?

Whirlpool owns a number tumble dryer brands and there are several that pose potential fire hazards. Affected brands are Hotpoint, Indesit, Proline, Swan and Creda. If you own a tumble dryer sold in the UK from one of those brands between April 2004 and September 2015, you need to check if your tumble dryer needs repairing.

How can I check my tumble dryer?

Whirlpool has launched two online tumble-dryer model checkers – one for Hotpoint and one for Indesit. These also cover the Creda brand. You should visit the website and follow the instructions, entering the model number and serial number of your tumble dryer. You can usually find the model number and serial number on the frame inside the door. Alternatively, Whirlpool has set up a tumble dryer helpline that you can phone on 0800 151 0905 to get advice and check if you have a faulty tumble dryer.

What should I do if my tumble dryer is affected?

If you have a faulty tumble dryer, you’ll be able to arrange for an engineer to visit and repair the tumble dryer. Customers are being dealt with on a first-come, first-serve basis, and can currently expect a resolution within one week of contacting Whirlpool. While waiting for a repair, Whirlpool advises that you can continue to use the tumble dryer but that it should not be left unattended when in use. You should also clean the fluff and lint filter between each use to prevent the build up of potentially fire-causing debris.

If you are concerned, contact the Whirlpool advice line on 0800 151 0905.

Lock Snapping & How to Prevent It

Lock Snapping is a method used by home invaders which involves snapping a particular type of lock cylinder, allowing the burglar to quickly and easily gain access to your home. If the right amount of force is applied to the cylinder, it can break and give access to the locking mechanism.

Lock Snapping has become more common over recent years as it requires no special tools or expert knowledge, just the force of a hammer, mole grips or anything else that can physically grab and take hold of a cylinder is enough to gain entry. Many readily available videos’ online show the shocking force, speed and ease of the technique that burglars are using to break into homes up and down the country. One online video that we’ve seen shows how burglars will gain access to a cylinder even if it isn’t protruding from the handle. In this case the handle is shown literally being ripped off the door, the cylinder exposed, and the locking mechanism compromised using household tools such as a hammer and screwdriver.

A recent short tv documentary showed how a former burglar, without previous experience of snapping locks, could use this method to gain access to a property within 40 seconds, even he admitted how shocked he was at the ease and speed of gaining access, he said that an experienced lock snapper could probably gain access in as little as 13 seconds [Lock Snapping Video]. Another former burglar admitted that even if he had the best lock picks in England, he would rather snap the cylinder because “it’s simpler and easier”.

Police have said it’s estimated that around 22 million doors throughout the UK could be at risk from lock snapping where the lock cylinder can be broken in seconds.

 

What Locks Are at Risk

Key locks that are at risk of lock snapping are those of Euro Cylinder profiles, and locks that extend beyond 3mm of the handle. The further the lock cylinder protrudes from the door the more prone to tampering it becomes as it is easier to grip and take hold of, but even if a lock cylinder doesn’t protrude from the handle it still isn’t immune to tampering.

ASB Anti-Snap Locks

Locks that are of a TS007 3 Star standard (also known as ‘anti-snap’ cylinders) are locks that meet the requirements to withstand lock snapping attempts.

Anti-Snap cylinders have a ‘snap-off’ section integrated which will come away if a burglar was to try and snap the lock, making the cylinder shorter, thus making it more difficult to grasp. With the help of built in grip defenders it makes getting hold of the cylinder even harder. Not only that but anti-snap locks have a hardened bar which won’t snap, it will only flex making snapping almost impossible.

Check that your current locks do not over extend. If they appear vulnerable you may want to consider having them replaced or replacing them yourself. Fitting them yourself is relatively easy, takes little time and requires no specialist tools.

Replacement costs

Upgrading to an ASB lock by a reputable locksmith will cost you £100 to £150 for a single door. Replacing more than one at the same time reduces the cost per door.

If you are prepared to buy the replacement cylinders off line and DIY it will cost you £35 to £45 per door.

Google game teaches kids about online safety – Help Net Security

Talking to kids about online safety is a difficult undertaking for many adults, and making the lessons stick is even harder. To that end, Google has launched a new program called Be Internet Awesome, which includes:

  • An online video game called Interland
  • A classroom curriculum
  • A YouTube video series

The game and learning materials are aimed at children that are between 8 and 11. Interland can be played on any of the major browsers. It leads the player through several floating islands where the challenges and puzzles they should complete will teach them about several aspects of online safety: how to choose which information to share with whom, how to choose good passwords, how to deal with online bullies, how to spot scams.

Source: Google game teaches kids about online safety – Help Net Security