Another win for Mis-sold Claims Assist

The team here at Mis-sold Claims Assist work extremely hard to gain successful outcomes for clients who have been mis-sold financial products. Often people come to us after experiencing financial hardship due to mis-sold products and we work tirelessly to help them gain a successful outcome and their money back.

Many of our clients come to us after suffering financially due to fraudulent companies who charge exorbitant amounts of money for services they have no intention of performing. This is exactly what happened to our clients today, who were persuaded to attend a high pressure sales presentation for a lifestyle and concierge service.

In 2016, they were invited to attend a short presentation and in return they would be able to enjoy a short break away in the countryside free of charge. They attended the meeting as promised but did not expect to be held there for nearly an entire day whilst the sales representative explained the benefits of signing up to a lifestyle and concierge service. They were told during this meeting that this package would allow them to access multiple exclusive offers annually, whereby they could book discounted holidays, flights and accommodation at exclusive hotels and locations. In addition to this they would also have access to a private online account where they could book these holidays and also have exclusive access to other highly discounted items.

When our clients asked how much this would cost they were shocked when they were told it would cost them £10,000. They explained they could not possibly afford this and the sales representative went away and came back with a lower offer of just under £9,000 but explained that this offer was a one time deal and was only available on the day and if they signed up there and then. Our clients felt under an immense amount of pressure during this meeting to make a decision on the spot. They were not given time to go away and think about it nor were they given time to discuss it alone between themselves.

Eventually they agreed to pay and signed up to the service by paying a large deposit and transferred the rest of the money when they returned home. It wasn’t until some time later when they went to access their ‘exclusive account’ that they learnt the company had gone into liquidation meaning none of the services they were promised could be performed and they had lost nearly £9,000. In fact the company were being investigated for fraud and the owners had decided to close the company leaving behind unhappy customers, many of which were thousands of pounds out of pocket. Our clients were left in this situation, unsure of what to do next and how to get their money back.

Luckily, they were directed to contact the team here at Mis-sold Claims Assist and we have been able to claim all of their money back plus interest. This scenario is incredibly common as many fraudulent companies operate schemes just like this whereby they promise services they have little to no intention or providing or that simply are not worth the money and do not meet customers expectations. There are many ways in which financial products such as these are mis-sold and it depends on the way in which it was sold. If you have experienced a similar situation and feel you were wrongly sold a product that caused you financial hardship or stress then get in touch with the team here at Mis-sold Claims Assist. We are experts in dealing with these types of claims and can help you get your money back plus interest.

Timeshare scam victims will be compensated

Unfortunately, timeshare owners not only suffer because they are largely mis-sold in the first place but often desperate owners wanting to offload them are targeted again by fraudsters looking to take advantage of their situation. Timeshare scams are extremely common and cause a lot of distress to victims who can lose thousands at the hands of unscrupulous companies. It then leaves owners out of pocket and wondering where to turn to next and who to trust.

Over in the Unites States timeshare scams are extremely common and officials do not seem to be able to stop the stream of scammers who spring up just as quickly as another is shut down. Florida is the homeland of timeshare and many of the scam companies operate in the State scamming victims all over the country. The reason there is so many scam companies in the States is mainly since there are so many owners, in fact over 9 million people own timeshares in The United States. Unlike the UK and Europe there is also a fairly buoyant resale market as well, this has created another opportunity for scam companies to target people who want to sell their timeshares.

In Florida, The Attorney General’s office has acted fiercely against the growing stream of scammers and are naming and shaming those that are caught taking money from innocent people. According to an investigation by the Orlando Police Department a company named as Paramount Property Professionals targeted timeshares owners over a two-year period, claiming to be able to sell their unwanted timeshares. The company contacted owners out of the blue claiming they had buyers ready to purchase their timeshares, when in fact the reality was, they did not have people lined up they simply took large marketing fees from victims and left them high and dry. The investigation also revealed the company claimed to issue refunds if timeshare sales were unable to complete, but none of the elderly victims received refunds and were simply fobbed off by staff.

The Attorney General’s Office stepped in and took the company and its owner to court. The owner pled guilty to defrauding more than 50 people and was ordered to pay nearly $90,000 in restitution for victims that were targeted. He was also sentenced to 11 months in prison for his fraudulent scheme and the company was shut down. Detectives working on the case said: “This company knowingly defrauded victims in Orlando and state-wide, most of whom were elderly, using a scheme to sell or rent their timeshares. We are happy that we were able to give some of the victims the satisfaction of getting their money back and knowing this individual will be spending some time in jail.”

Only use a reputable authorised company: We speak to clients daily, who have been through the turmoil of a timeshare scam. It is heart-breaking for many people and can leave them out of pocket, financially strained and sometimes in debt. With so much at stake it pays to do a bit of research. Is the company you are thinking of working with regulated by anyone? Sometimes they say they are but check this out too as this is very common. You can check the Financial Conduct Authority register for registered companies and also your local trading standards.

Finally, if you do find yourself the victim of a scam or you have been cold called by a company claiming they can help you, report them. If the authorities are made aware of rogue companies and people complain they can investigate and possibly take action to stop future potential victims from being scammed out of their hard-earned cash.

Millions could be owed compensation over mis-sold cars!

If purchased a vehicle that ended up causing more pollution than you were told, you could be owed £12,000 in compensation as the deal may have been mis-sold to you. Lawyers are warning that if claims that are being processed now are successful, the scandal could end up costing manufacturers millions and possibly match the PPI scandal which cost banks so far more than £38 billion.

The Times has reported that 9.6 million cars might be affected, meaning the average pay-out would be £12,000. The news has meant claims firms have received an influx of claims from members of the public who believe they may have been mis-sold their vehicles. It all stems from the ‘Diesel Gate Scandal’ in 2015 when car giant Volkswagen was caught out by The Environmental Protection Agency, who discovered the company had installed ‘defeat devices’ in their cars to cheat emissions testing. It was thought that the device was fitted to around 10.5 million diesel cars worldwide.  Since the scandal other car manufacturers were found to be cheating the emissions tests also by installing similar devices and now lawyers have lodged claims against nearly all the big car firms including BMW, Mercedes, Fiat, Ford, and the list goes on. Last year Mercedes agreed to pay £1.2 billion to the United States government over emissions violations.

Legal firms looking into customer claims say these cheat devices are banned in the UK and European Union under law and if customers did not know their vehicles were more polluting than the law allows, they were mis-sold and could make a claim against the manufacturer.

In May 2020, the German Federal Court rules that Volkswagen car owners are entitled to be paid damages and owners should return their cars and be paid the price they paid minus fee for the time they used the car. The ruling is likely to set president and be followed by other cases across the country. In April 2020 Volkswagen settled 200,000 claims in a class action again in Germany which amounted to 620 million euros.

The scandal put made discussions about transport policies, air pollution and diesel driving bans into the spotlight and more cases against manufacturers are being brought in countries all over the world. Incredibly in was discovered that Diesel vehicles being sold across the world were emitting nitrogen oxide pollution, up to 40 times above the legal limit. It is estimated that there are still 9.6 million diesel vehicles in the UK that emit unlawful amounts of pollution and owners are not always aware of this and could be eligible to make a claim if they purchased a diesel vehicle manufactured between 2009 and 2015.

Another successful claim

The team at Mis-sold Claims Assist deal with many types of consumer mis-selling claims. Whether it be a holiday product, a bank dispute or a financial service that was mis-sold, our team are experts in arguing cases to get a successful outcome for our clients. That is exactly what we did for our latest clients who were the victim of a fraudulent lifestyle and concierge scheme that dates back to 2016.

Our clients were invited to attend a presentation selling a lifestyle and concierge package. This package was described to them as being of some value and with it they could book discounted holidays at a substantially reduced price and exclusive deals that were not available to anyone else except members. They were also told they would have access to discounted flights, travel, and many other things. During this meeting, they were subjected to high pressure sales tactics and the presentation went on for nearly an entire day. They were told this package would cost £10,000 and explained how it was worth every penny and over time they would save this on holidays and discounts. Our clients explained they could not afford this huge price tag and the seller agreed to lower it to just under £7,000. After hours and hours of high-pressure presentations our clients agreed to pay the price reluctantly but also felt they had no alternative but to do so simply so they could leave the premises.

It was sometime later that our clients learnt that in fact this company had been placed in liquidation and ceased trading. The company itself did not inform them this had happened. When they tried to gain access to their online membership it became apparent the company had simply shut down and not even attempted to inform their customers of this. Thankfully, they were put in touch with the team at Mis-sold Claims Assist and we have been able to claim their money back for them. If this scenario sounds familiar to you or anyone you know, get in touch with us today for some free expert advice. Our team are experts in dealing with these types of claims and we may be able to help you reclaim all your money plus interest.

The mis-selling of holiday products is, unfortunately, common practice within the holiday industry and these types of crimes often goes unreported by the most vulnerable in our society and criminal convictions are few and far between.

If you have purchased a Lifestyle / Concierge Service, a timeshare or a ‘holiday points’-based product from a resort or company and feel unhappy with the service, or feel you have been mis-sold this product, please get in touch with us to discuss how we may be able to help you with a possible Money Back Claim.

Do not get caught out by Christmas cons!

As coronavirus restrictions are starting to lift in the UK and around the world, most of us will look for an opportunity to get back to enjoying some of the activities we were able to enjoy before the world was plunged into a pandemic. Concerts, and large gatherings were banned last year and as the country reopens officials are warning that ticket scams are on the rise again and scammers are out targeting people desperate to book up their favourite activities again.

According to reports from Action Fraud, 216 people fell victim to ticket fraud in February alone. There has been a sharp increase in people wanting to book up events and concerts and so far over £270,000 has been lost to fraudsters. The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau are warning consumers to be extra vigilant when booking online. They say fraudsters create fake ticket sites and sell non-existent seats at real events. Incredibly these fake tickets, on some sites have been advertised at much higher prices than their original prices.

In February, this year 216 reports from consumers were made to Action Fraud, this figure represents an increase of 62% and accounts for over £270,000 with the average victim losing £1,260. Officials are warning that as further lockdowns restrictions ease, these figures are likely to increase substantially if people to not take the correct steps to protect themselves.

What is a ticket scam and how does it work?

Scammers set up fake online sites offering tickets to popular events. These tickets are normally at events that have sold out already and because of these victims are easier to scam as they are easily conned into booking and less likely to check the site for authenticity. The victim eagerly pays for the tickets online, but they never turn up. In some instances, scammers do send tickets and people turn up to events only to find out their tickets are fake.

Protect yourself from ticket fraud by only purchasing tickets from authorised and official venders and well-known reputable sites. Some fraudsters will even go as far to replicate genuine sites, so always check the IP address before handing over any card details.

You can also check with the event organiser for official ticket distribution lists. Avoid paying for tickets via a bank transfer, if it is a fraudster, you will never be able to get this money back so always pay via PayPal or using a credit card, this way you may be able to make a claim to get your money back.

Be extra wary of unsolicited emails, text and social media posts offering too good to be true deals, they often are and will lead to someone trying to steal your money.

Have you started planning your next holiday post lockdown?

Following the government’s announcement that Lockdown restrictions will be eased, Action Fraud is warning that scams will be more prevalent than ever and to remain vigilant when looking to book your next break away.

Action Fraud and ABTA, The Travel Association, are warning members of the public to be vigilant when thinking about booking our post COVID-19 vacations this year. For those of us that may be lucky enough to be able to book a holiday this year, officials are warning not to be too eager and remain vigilant as the holiday scams are still out there and as ever, holidaymakers are a prime target for scammers.

In the past criminals have targeted people looking to book airline tickets or religious pilgrimages. They have also created fake websites with cheap deals to lure victims into booking with them.

Holiday fraud can be particularly distressing as it targets people who have often saved money and are looking forward to a much needed annual break away in the sun. This year more than ever before people will be desperate for the chance to take a break as the majority of us have been confined to our homes. But authorities want us to remain vigilant so we don’t get caught by the scammers. Criminals will approach victims via the phone, text message, email or social media and offer tantalising deals that are often too good to refuse and lure people in.

Action Fraud recommend the following to avoid fraud:

Online safety:  Often overlooked as we rush to secure a great deal but act in haste, repent in leisure and it pays to check the web address is legitimate. A fake site will mimic a real one and will not be noticeable to an untrained eye, however by remembering to perform a simple web address check you can avoid fake sites.

Pay on a credit card:  Always use a credit card as this protects you under section 75 consumer protection laws and never pay directly into someone’s bank account, this money will be virtually impossible to get back through your bank.

Research the company: Don’t just rely on what a sales agent is saying to you, check multiple outlets for reviews. It’s harder for a scammer to create thousands of fake reviews so check a reputable review site for more information before making a booking.

Use your instincts: If a deal sounds far better than what you have seen anywhere else and is frankly to good to be true, then chances are it probably is. If you have a doubt, don’t hand over your money.

Director of Communications at ABTA, Graeme Buck told Action Fraud: “As travel restrictions begin to lift millions of us will be looking to book holidays both at home and overseas, which may place pressure on both availability and prices. Fraudsters will take advantage of the fact that customers will be looking for good deals and they use increasingly sophisticated methods to target destinations and times of year when demand is high and availability limited. Victims often find out just before they travel or even while on holiday that they have been defrauded, it can then be very difficult and expensive to obtain a legitimate replacement booking. City of London Police, Get Safe Online and ABTA have put together a list of tips to help customers recognise the warning signs of potential fraud which will help customers avoid both potentially significant financial loss and severe disappointment, at a time when getting away on holiday is more important than ever.”

Do not get caught out by Christmas cons!

Officials are warning that serious organised crime fraudsters are targeting people looking for work to launder money. Using social media, criminals are targeting younger people in social media scams and new figures show there were more than 17,000 suspected money mule cases in 2020.

UK Finance is warning that young people who may have lost their jobs due to the pandemic are being targeted and used as money mules. They say that criminals are advertising fake jobs and offer quick cash to victims, in return for using their bank accounts to launder money. They use social media, jobs websites and emails to recruit young people, offering cash to people who provide their bank details, the money is then transferred through the victim’s bank account to the criminal’s account. Most of the time victims are not aware their accounts are being used in this way and are lured in by the promise of easy money. The problem is, for victims of this scam, it makes them an accessory to money laundering and could lead to a criminal conviction.

Criminals often post on legitimate sites or create social media profiles and are highly sophisticated and use encrypted messaging which is hard to detect. UK finance is calling on government to make social media and online sites more accountable by including fraud and economic crime in the upcoming Online Safety Bill, which makes the online platform responsible for taking down fraudulent adverts, profiles, and posts.

How does a money mule scam work?
Someone may approach you online and offer you a job or say you have won something. Whatever it is, they soon offer to send you money and then ask you to send it to someone else by transfer or sometimes a gift card. The problem is that money was stolen from somewhere and is often used to fund serious organised crime. If you help or facilitate this transaction you make yourself liable to legal action and possible criminal conviction.

Here is how to stay safe online:
• Do not respond to an advert offering money which seems too good to be true, it probably is and more likely to be a scam.
• Check the language. Often these scams contain poor use of language or grammatical errors.
• Research anyone that is offering you anything online, and research any potential job offers or employer.
• Finally, never hand over your bank details to anyone. If you do contact your bank immediately and report it.

Financial Conduct Authority demands fair treatment of vulnerable people.

The FCA has recently published guidance aimed at financial firms and banks to ensure firms make improvements in the way they treat vulnerable and at-risk customers. They say this should help people from being victims of mis-selling and suffering financial hardship because of it.

The FCA recent study estimated there are around 27.7 million people in the UK with some form of characteristics of vulnerability and while every individual is responsible for their own choices and decisions, there are some factors that may limit vulnerable people’s ability to make sound financial decisions. These people are more likely to be victims of mis-selling and the FCA wants greater protection to stop this from happening.

The FCA’s finalised guidance says: “We want to see the fair treatment of vulnerable customers embedded as part of a healthy culture throughout firms, not just on the front line but also in areas such as product development. “Firms’ senior leaders should create and maintain a culture that enables and supports staff to take responsibility for reducing the potential for harm to vulnerable customers. They should ensure that firms embed the fair treatment of vulnerable customers in their policies and processes throughout the whole customer journey. We have seen some good examples where commitment comes from the top and where there is a culture of feedback and learning from the front line.”

The pandemic has highlighted how important it is to protect vulnerable people and one of the best ways to do this is for financial institutions and firms to follow strict guidance set out by the FCA. The FCA have now released new guidance on how firms and their staff should ensure vulnerable consumers are treated fairly and they want every company across all sectors to take steps to ensure they understand and respond to the needs of their most vulnerable customers.

Under this new guidance the FCA plans to hold firms accountable when dealing with vulnerable people and can be asked to explain and demonstrate how they deal with vulnerable people, what systems they have in place, what training is given to staff and what actions they take to ensure customers are treated fairly.

Firms are also reminded that in treating customers fairly, they should also be aware of their obligations under the Equality Act 2010. It is likely that a breach of the Equality Act, for example failure to provide reasonable adjustments for disabled people, will also be a breach of the FCA’s rules.

Joanna Elson, chief executive of charity the Money Advice Trust, said: “The FCA’s finalised vulnerability guidance published today is a powerful call to action for financial services firms to further improve their work on vulnerability – and comes at a time when millions of people are facing difficulty as a result of the pandemic. Financial services have and will continue to play an important role in supporting people through this crisis. This new guidance, however, provides a crucial steer for firms on what steps they need to take now to ensure their support reflects the complexities of people’s real lives. While we have seen much progress already from firms in recent years through our training work, it is crucial that firms further build on this. We look forward to working with firms to bring the FCA’s expectations into reality for their customers.”

Homeowners left worse off by ‘Green Deals’.

Ministers have been urged to help homeowners who signed up to Green Deals with dissolved company Home Energy and Lifestyle Management Limited also known as (HELMS) as they are still waiting for claims to be processed, years later.

The company was dissolved in 2016 after more than 3,000 Scottish households were left with long-term debts after signing up to new boiler, home insulation or solar panels. HELMS were approved installers for the governments green deal scheme to help homeowners improve energy efficiency, a scheme which was later withdrawn in 2013.

During the time the scheme was running thousands of people signed up, and many of those have been left in debt. Many people signed up to 25 year long deals which were funded using finance, which many people claim they were unaware of. In fact, many elderly people were signed up to the scheme, including Mary Hunter, 88 from Glasgow who was left with long term debts after she signed up to get a new boiler, solar panels, and insulation. She told the Scottish Herald: “I saw some neighbours getting cladding done and I thought it might be a good idea and would bring down the energy bills but when I asked about it, I was told about solar panels and a boiler and other things as well. I did not need those things, but I was told the government was paying for them as part of a scheme. I signed up and then I started getting these bills through. It said I had taken a loan out for 25 years. I was 82 when I signed up, I would need to be 107 to pay it off.”

There were many others in a similar position that were persuaded to signing up to this, or similar deals. Appeals for compensation are being dealt with different organisations including the Department for Business Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). The BEIS has been urged to speed up these complaints’ years later, but they say due to the complexity, these claims are taking time to process.

Scottish ministers have got involved now, as these claims have been outstanding for an unacceptable amount of time and victims have been left with debts up to £11,000 and some even have been unable to sell their homes as the work carried out was done so without the correct warranties and certificates.

A BEIS spokesperson said: “There is a robust process, backed by legislation, for handling complaints about mis-selling of Green Deal plans by Helms. If they remain dissatisfied after approaching their Green Deal provider and the Ombudsman, consumers may appeal to the Secretary of State, who can cancel or reduce loans if the evidence supports this. These cases are being treated as a priority by BEIS.”

What was the Green Deal?

The ‘Green Deal’ was launched in 2013 and allowed homeowners to make energy saving improvements which would not cost the homeowner anything upfront, but it would be paid for through savings on energy bills. So, if your energy bills were £1,000 a year when you applied for the loan, your energy bill plus Green Deal repayments should not have been more than that. But this did not always work in practice, as some low users could have ended up paying more as they used less energy than average. Not only that, but as the loan was attached to the home, rather than the person applying, there were fears it could make a property difficult to sell. In July 2015, the UK government pulled the plug on the scheme, due to low uptake – only about 15,000 Green Deal loans were issued over the two-and-a-half years the scheme was open.

 

Scammers posing as Police Officers

Police are warning the public after a spate of distressing scams targeting vulnerable and elderly people. Scammers are pretending to be officials from banks and police services and coercing people into handing over cash and valuable items.

The scam starts with a victim being cold called by someone pretending to be from either their bank or the police. They then instruct victims to withdraw money after which they will be visited at their home address and this money will be collected from them. In a similar scam, victims are told to transfer money into a secure bank account and give fraudsters their bank cards or valuable items such as watches and jewellery. Fraudsters have even been so bold as to pose as police officers and visit victims home addresses and collect bank cards from them, telling victims that their accounts have been compromised and if they do not do what they are asked they could risk losing all the money held in their accounts. For those who fall victim to such scams the repercussions can be devastating as the money is hard to recover and they have come face to face with a criminal. To make matters worse criminals mainly single out and target elderly and vulnerable people who are trusting of the police and their banks as they are more likely to have had the same bank account for many years.

Police are warning that during the pandemic people are more likely to fall for these types of scams as they are more isolated at home during lockdown, and more willing to engage in conversation with people they do not know.

To protect themselves people are being asked to think before they engage with anyone initiating contact with you or claiming to be from your bank or the police. Neither a bank nor the police will call you and ask you to disclose your personal details or pin number over the phone. They will also never arrange to pick up your bank card via a courier and if you receive calls from people claiming to do this, you should hang up the phone immediately. Often a scammer will keep your phone line open so if you do try to call the bank back it could be the scammer still on the other end. So, to further protect yourself, make sure you have fully hung up the line by waiting five minutes before you make a call, or alternatively use a different number to make a call.

Action Fraud recommend the following to protect yourselves and loved ones from falling victim:

  • Your bank or the police will never call you to ask you to verify your personal details or PIN by phone or offer to pick up your bank card by courier. Hang up immediately if you receive a call like this.
  • If you need to contact your bank back to check the call was legitimate, wait five minutes; fraudsters may stay on the line after you hang up. Alternatively, use a different line altogether to contact your bank.
  • Your debit or credit card is yours: do not let a stranger take it from you. You should only ever have to hand it over at your bank. If it is cancelled or expired, you should destroy it yourself.

Spot the tell-tale signs:

  • Someone claiming to be from your bank or local police force calls you to tell you about fraudulent activity, but is asking you for personal information, or even your PIN, to verify who you are.
  • They are offering to call you back so you can be sure they are genuine, but when you try to return the call, there is no dial tone.
  • They say they are trying to offer you peace of mind by having somebody pick up the card for you, to save you the trouble of having to go to your bank or local police station.