5 counterfeit cons you need to know about
Every year over three million people fall victim to scams, losing hundreds and sometimes thousands of pounds, according to Citizens Advice.
But how do you spot fake goods or services?
Here are five counterfeit cons to look out for, as featured in the BBC One series Fake Britain.
1. Fake solicitor
Nick Christophi from Hertfordshire put in an offer of £735,000 for a dream family home.
After it had been accepted, his solicitor worked closely with a firm representing the home owner. This firm was created by fraudsters who had conned the seller, Nick and his solicitor.
More on property
Nick and his family moved into the home but he later found out that his money was sent through to a bank account owned by the fraudsters when completing the purchase.
He has since reclaimed two-thirds of the £735,000 stolen by the fakers, but he has lost the house.
Lawyer David Robinson is an expert in property fraud and he has some general advice if you are thinking of buying a home:
- Check the name of the seller's solicitor. Ask in person and don't get fobbed off.
- Lawyer checker can be used to do further checks.
- Choose a solicitor recommended by a friend, family or work colleague.
- Don't search the internet for the cheapest legal fees. Buying a home is a big transaction, so it's worth spending a little extra to get peace of mind.
2. Fake holiday tickets
Maureen Kay from Hull wanted to take eleven members of her family on holiday to Turkey.
She booked through a High Street travel agent based in the city and paid £6,800 for the flights, hotel and transfers.
Avoid holiday booking fraud:
- Don't just rely on one online review of the company, do a thorough search.
- Check the web address is legitimate and has not been altered by slight changes to a domain name - such as going from co.uk to org.
- Never pay directly into an owner's bank account. Where possible, pay by credit card, (or a debit card that offers protection).
- Use your instincts: if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
The family printed the vouchers for their hotel, transfers, and e-tickets.
When they arrived at the airport they were told that the flight booking number on the e-tickets didn't exist. It was fake.
- Study receipts, invoices and terms and conditions. Beware of any companies that don't provide any.
- Check full details of the flights, the itinerary should be shown along with a six digit number (the PNR - Passenger Name Record) - which is the unique I.D. for your flight reservations.
- Never pay directly into an owner's bank account. Where possible, pay by credit card (or a debit card that offers protection).
- If you've been a victim of fraud, contact Action Fraud.
3. Fake debt help
Fake Britain featured a con which involved a number of bogus companies who promised to clear people's debts for an upfront fee.
More on debt
The 'company' claimed the law had been changed for credit cards which had been taken out before a certain date and they could take out refunds on them.
In the hope of clearing debts, some paid an upfront fee of up to £3,000 to the fraudsters. In reality, there'd been no change in the law and the offer to clear the debt was fake.
- The National Debtline or the charity StepChange has advice if you are in debt or struggling to manage your money.
- How do you avoid cold callers?
4. Fake alcohol
Colin Gooch from Birmingham unknowingly bought two bottles of fake vodka from an off-licence.
How to spot fake alcohol:
- Does the bottle have a UK duty stamp? If it's not there, it's illegal.
- Does it have a properly sealed cap?
- Does it have fake bar codes? Use a mobile phone app that can scan bar codes - it can help you check if it's listed as the correct product.
- Vodka, the most commonly counterfeited spirit, shouldn't have any white particles or sediment in the bottle. If you see this, vodka could have been diluted with tap water.
After drinking them he found out that they were fake and dangerous, when he read a warning about them in his local newspaper.
He immediately visited his doctor and had tests on his eyes, liver and other organs.
So far, Colin has not shown any signs of poisoning.
- If you think you have been sold counterfeit goods, or if you suspect somebody is selling fake goods, contact Revenue and Customs (HMRC) or your local Trading Standards office.
- Citizens Advice has further information about counterfeit goods.
5. Fake job advert
Fake Britain featured an investigation that was linked to 422 fake job adverts. These were supposedly from big-name employers and had been posted on websites that advertised recruitment opportunities.
Job seekers would click on the job application and register their interest in the post. They would get a response to their e-mail that contained a bogus link to download an application form.
By clicking on the link they were infecting their computer with a virus. It gave criminals access to the victim's computers and details.
- BBC Webwise has advice to protect your computer from harm.
- GetSafeOnline offers free online security advice.
Fake Britain is on BBC One weekdays at 09:15