Check out the latest Scam Alert!

Check out the latest Scam Alert!

by Danielle Thompson (May 2020)

Hello everyone, I am still home-working, as are many of our Sefton Citizens Advice advisors who are providing advice by telephone.

On Saturday, after Friday’s VE 75 Years celebrations, I was enjoying the sun whilst reading a tale from one of my favourite authors (Alexander McCall Smith)’ in which the ‘traditionally built’ ladies of The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency of Botswana (Precious and Grace) uncover a pyramid selling scam. A timely reminder that Pyramid selling is still alive not only in Botswana, but also here in Southport. Next week, I plan to update you on Pyramid selling issues.

But turning to our scam stories, information came to my attention via Action Fraud about an energy top-up scam that has been rife and affecting those of our residents who have to use pre-payment metering. Basically Electricity users are being warned about a doorstep scam where victims are offered discounted credit for their top-up electricity meters. It’s estimated that 85,000 households have been affected by this scam since the beginning of the summer. Victims have paid for discounted electricity top-ups, but later found the money did not reach their energy suppliers and had to pay for the electricity again. So please take care if approached on the doorstep with offers to give discounted credit for meter purposes.

Our advice is to read the following message: Energy companies have launched a national campaign urging people to ‘Top up Safe’ by only buying electricity prepayment through official channels and not to buy credit for their meters on the doorstep. Consumer Focus says that the scam is affecting customers of all the leading energy companies, including British Gas, EDF Energy, E.ON, npower, Scottish Power and SSE. You can read more about topping up safely on the Top up Safe website.

Next, I have an e-mail Charity Scam Warning. Nationally reports have been received by Action Fraud and Trading Standards of fraudsters seeking to exploit the pandemic by claiming to be raising funds for charity. Make sure the charity is genuine before giving any financial information – it’s ok to decide not to give on the spot. Be wary of unsolicited emails from charities you have never heard of and be careful when responding to emails or clicking on links within them. Check the charity’s name and registration number at gov.uk/checkcharity. Most charities with an annual income of £5,000 or more must be registered.

There are many other scam stories circulating at this strange time. If you have been approached by someone you don’t know, be VERY, very careful about giving personal information, including bank account details.

The Citizens Advice Sefton telephone service is now available.

The Help To Claim advice line number for help claiming Universal credit is 0800 144 8444 from 8am to 6pm from Monday to Friday.

The number for general advice is 0344 493 0012, from 9.3am to 4.30pm from Monday to Friday.

The debt number is 0151 318 6407 from 9.30am to 4.30pm from Monday to Friday.

Citizens Advice Lancashire telephone is available between 9am and 1pm on Adviceline 0344 245 1 294 and Help to Claim line 0800144 8 444. Their website is https://www.citizensadvicelancashire.org.uk and now also includes a new email referral service, Refernet, which allows them to direct you to the best support agency for your enquiry.

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