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

Mobile Phone Chargers Spark Safety Warning After 42% Failure Rate!

42% of generic chargers for devices including mobile phones, renewable batteries, e-cigarettes and other electrical products failed safety tests! Warwickshire County Council’s Trading Standards Service purchased a range of generic (i.e. non-branded) chargers from Internet sellers and had them safety tested as part of their cyber-crime and cyber-safety enforcement work.

Of the 12 products purchased, five failed electrical safety tests. Failures included chargers supplied with suspected counterfeit fuses and insecure internal wiring that could cause shorting, live ‘arcing’ and overheating.

Warwickshire County Councillor John Horner, Portfolio Holder for Community Safety said: “Over 1.8 million mobile phone chargers are bought online annually and in the last five years the UK has seen a six-fold increase in the number of fake and potentially unsafe electric goods being seized by enforcement authorities. Genuine chargers manufactured for specific electrical devices are designed to allow the correct charge for the item and will very often have inbuilt protection systems to prevent overcharging and overheating of the device. Generic or counterfeit chargers do not always have these protections. Many imported ‘generic’ chargers do not satisfy UK safety regulations and these sub-standard, faulty or counterfeit electrical chargers can be deadly, causing electric shocks, fires and damage to property and equipment.  In December, national retailer Poundworld were fined £ £166,000 after they sold more than 72,000 faulty charger kits with loose wires could pose a risk of fire or electric shock. The case was brought by Carmarthenshire Trading Standards.”

Warwickshire County Councillor Philip Johnson, Chair of the council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee added: “The number house fires caused by electrical faults has increased by 29% over the past few years and some of this increase has been due to the use of faulty electrical chargers. I would strongly urge residents not to buy chargers from unknown suppliers online especially, if they are really cheap, as we all know, if it looks too good to be true, then it usually is. So please don’t take the risk, the consequences are just too high!”

In a bid to reduce the number of fires in the home caused by faulty electrical chargers, Warwickshire Trading Standards in partnership with Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service are asking residents to follow the advice below:

  • Only use the charger that has been specifically made for your electrical product model. Use official/original chargers and electrical cables
  • Only buy from reputable traders selling genuine products and check they have a British or European safety mark when buying it
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the device
  • If at all possible, don’t leave items on charge unattended for long periods and especially overnight.
  • Don’t charge a battery that looks like it could have been damaged or dropped
  • Don’t cover items when you are charging them as they emit heat
  • Test your smoke alarm regularly

Warwickshire Trading Standards is now working with sellers of faulty electrical chargers to have them removed from sale and advise their customers. Some of the sellers may face further enforcement action in the courts.

Keep up to date on the latest electrical product recalls here: www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/product-recalls

If you believe that you have purchased an electrical product that has developed an electrical fault, caused a fire or could be potentially faulty, stop using the product and report it to Warwickshire Trading Standards on 03454

TV News anchor says ‘Alexa, buy me a dollhouse’ with predictable results…

Amazon’s voice-activated assistant Alexa – which powers the likes of the Amazon Echo and Echo Dot – has a problem.

Graham Cluley blog advises you to “change your Alexa settings if you don’t want to make unexpected purchases.”

Source: TV News anchor says ‘Alexa, buy me a dollhouse’ with predictable results…

Protect yourself against pension scams: The Pensions Regulator

Thousands of people have lost their life savings after falling for a pension scam. Don’t be next.

Read our ten steps to protect your pension.

You can also watch our video and download a booklet to help give yourself the best possible protection against the pension scammers.

Understand the risks of early pension release via pension loans or transfer schemes. Who to contact if you’ve received offers to cash in your pension.

Source: Pension scams | pension loans & transfers | The Pensions Regulator

Dangerous diet pills not the answer to New Year’s resolutions

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) are warning people to be aware of the dangers of buying diet pills online.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) are warning anyone looking to lose weight in the New Year to be aware of the dangers of buying diet pills online.

During 2015 MHRA enforcement officers seized more than 240,000 doses of pills claiming to be for weight loss/slimming. A number of the products seized were marketed as ‘all herbal’ or natural when, in fact, they were found to contain the synthetic medicine sibutramine. Sibutramine was withdrawn across Europe and the US in 2010 due to an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes associated with its use. Since 2005, MHRA officials have found hundreds of examples of medicines claiming to contain herbal ingredients but after analysis were found to be adulterated with pharmaceutical ingredients.

When considering whether to buy a product that describes itself as herbal or natural, consumers are advised to look for products that display the Traditional Herbal Registration (THR) logo and a THR/PL number. These products have been assessed by the MHRA and consumers can be confident that the quality is assured and that the information for consumers about the product and how to use it safely is correct.

MHRA senior policy advisor, Lynda Scammell said: The Internet has access to a vast number of websites offering a wide range of products marketed as “slimming” or “diet” pills. Many make attractive claims and offer “quick-fix” solutions but be aware that “natural” does not mean “safe.

There is no miracle cure. The reality is that many of these pills are not authorised medicines and therefore their contents are unknown. Chances are they simply will not work and may contain dangerous unknown ingredients. The consequences can be devastating. Our advice is not to purchase slimming pills online without having consulted a doctor or pharmacist first. If you have concerns about your weight, consult your GP or another healthcare professional. Be safe and put your health first. It’s just not worth the risk.

Background:
Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency is responsible for regulating all medicines and medical devices in the UK by ensuring they work and are acceptably safe. All our work is underpinned by robust and fact-based judgements to ensure that the benefits justify any risks. MHRA is a centre of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency which also includes the National Institute for Biological Standards and Control (NIBSC) and the Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD). MHRA is an executive agency of the Department of Health.