July 2024

 

COLD CALLERS VOICE MESSAGE

John Scoote has kindly shared with us how he has prevented scam callers:

As many scams originate from cold calls, he has put a message on his voicemail that means he now receive zero cold calls.

It goes like this:

      "Hi, this is {your name}. If this is a cold call, go away. If not, and I'm here, identify yourself and I'll pick the phone up. If not, leave a message or call me on my mobile.” 

He never gives out his mobile number as all his important contacts already have it. 

He has set it up to come on after the fourth ring. Regular callers will soon get used to it and wait for the message to end. He said it caused some mirth at first, but so far, it has proved faultless.

Thank you John for sharing this.

 

CRIME PREVENTION

With temperatures on the rise, we need to keep our homes and vehicles secure. 

 

As things heat up, people tend to leave windows and doors open to keep cool, but don’t always remember to close them. Likewise, windows and sun rooves are often left open in vehicles during the summer, which can attract thieves. 

If you are heading off on holidays or for days out, please make sure your home is secure if they are being left unoccupied. 

 

Top tips for keeping your home and vehicle secure: 

 

  • Remember to check windows and doors are locked when you are finished outside, or before leaving the house or going to bed, even when the weather gets warmer. 
  • Use timers on lights so that they turn on as it gets dark in the evenings. You could also use a timer switch for a radio (always follow manufacturer's instructions).
  • Investing in doorbell and external Wi-Fi cameras is also a relatively cheap way to keep your home and valuables safe.
  • Move enticing items, such as laptops and mobile devices, away from windows so that they are out of sight.
  • Ask your neighbour to put your rubbish or recycling bins back if they’re being collected whilst you’re away – if they’re left out after collection day it could indicate to a passing thief that your house is unoccupied. Be a good neighbour and do the same for them.
  • Always leave your vehicle secure and keep any bags and valuables out of site.
  • If you aren’t leaving your car at home, ask a neighbour/friend to park their car on your drive.

You can find further crime prevention advice at: www.herts.police.uk/crimeprevention 

 

TICKET FRAUD

If you are looking for tickets for the Euros, Olympics, Wimbledon or a concert this summer, beware of scam tickets sites? 

 

More than 330 fake sites have been identified offering Paris 2024 Olympic tickets, appearing prominently in Google searches. These websites mimic genuine ticket sites and feature authentic looking logos. Scammers use them to ‘sell’ fake tickets and also to collect personal data.   

 

More than 100 people in Hertfordshire have already been caught out by ticket scammers this year, recording losses of over £64k. 

Make sure you only buy from reputable sources and be wary of social media sites offering you a bargain - the tickets on offer may not be real or the seller may not send them to you. Please share this message with your family and friends. 

 

For advice visit: https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/news/ticketfraud

 

Scammers steal home deposits in callous conveyancing scams

Banks are warning of a 29% rise in conveyancing fraud

Scammers are impersonating solicitors and making away with victims’ house deposits just before their completion dates.

This scam is known as conveyancing fraud, and it's typically executed by a fraudster hacking into a solicitor’s or buyer’s email account and providing alternative bank details for deposits to be paid to.

Lloyds Bank has warned that it received 29% more reports of conveyancing fraud in the second half of last year compared with the first half.

It also found that victims lost an average of £47,000

How fraudsters commit conveyancing fraud

While either the solicitor's or the buyer's email account can be hacked for the scam to happen, when we spoke to the Solicitors Regulation Authority about this type of fraud last year, it told us that it’s nearly always the buyer's email that gets hacked due to the lack of firewalls that businesses have.

After hacking either email account, a fraudster will monitor email discussions about the property purchase.

When the time comes to transfer the deposit, the fraudster will either provide fake bank details from the property solicitor’s email address or pose as the solicitor from an email address that looks very similar.

If they create a fake email address impersonating the solicitor, it may only have one character that’s different from the genuine address and the email will copy the tone, email signature and even logos used in previous messages.

Sometimes the fraudster will call the buyer, impersonating an employee at the solicitor’s office and provide bank details this way.

Either way, victims of conveyancing scams are convinced to transfer money from their bank accounts to that of the scammer. This is known as an authorised push payment (APP) scam.

Avoiding and reporting conveyancing scams

Buying a new home is stressful, and fraudsters rely on you being in a hurry.

Follow these tips to avoid a conveyancing scam:

  • Transfer a small amount firstbefore transferring your house deposit to your solicitor, send a nominal amount such as £1. Then, call your solicitor on its registered branch phone number to ensure it’s received the money.
  • Double-check contact detailsBe aware of any unexpected emails or phone calls, double-check email addresses for any new or missing characters and be wary if you’re contacted by a ‘new’ member of staff.
  • Set secure passwordsRead our guide on how to create strong passwords to protect your accounts.
  • Avoid posting details onlineFraudsters can also look to social media to discover potential victims ready to make big purchases. So avoid shouting about your new home until it’s secured.
  • Verify payment instructionsat the start of the process, confirm payment instructions with your solicitor in person or via a trusted phone number.
  • Pay attention to any bank warnings If you’re about to make a payment and you see that the account doesn’t match the details of the receiving account, double-check this with your solicitor by calling them on a verified phone number.

If you become the victim of a scam, call your bank immediately using the number on the back of your bank card and report it to Action Fraud.

NEIGHBOURHOOD WATCH FORUMS

You may recall I mentioned previously about priority setting forums where members of the public were asked for views, below are some of the issues raised and actions taken: 

Reduce street related anti-social behaviour (ASB) in St Albans Road (from Station Road to Balmoral Road).

 

  • Over the last month, we have enhanced high-visibility patrols within the St Albans Road locality by signing shops up to Herts Connected and walking surrounding side streets ensuring all business access yards are secure and not subject to ASB behaviour. Two Community Protection Warnings have been written up to address vagrancy outside the Tesco Express on St Albans Road. 
     
  • We have also conducted street walks testing the security of parked vehicles in the locality, which for Callowland, resulted in 356 vehicles being checked. We found nine vehicles were insecure and informed their owners.
     
  • In response to an increase in vagrancy along St Albans Road, PCSOs have increased their presence in the area and carried out a bike marking event. 

 

Tackle street drinking in and around St Mary’s Church Yard, Church car park and St Mary’s Road.

 

  • In the last month, local officers have carried out routine patrols around the St Mary’s Church area, identifying ASB suspects and robustly dealing with them. We have disrupted anti-social behaviour activity through patrols which visit the area daily.

 

  • We’ve used orders such as Community Protection Warnings and Notices to deter anti-social behaviour. Two were issued for begging in the Church car park area. Op Sceptre patrols were also carried out in the area which resulted in a small knife being recovered from a bush.

 

  • Within a month, we’ve received written positive feedback from local residents on the work being carried out in the area. 

 

Address drug dealing and youth-related anti-social behaviour in Rickmansworth Road (from Cassiobury Park to the Town Hall roundabout).

 

  • Officers have conducted high-visibility patrols around the Rickmansworth Road area daily to deter anti-social behaviour and held a bike marking event. 

 

We will continue to work on these priorities over the next few months and will share regular updates with you.

5 most convincing scams of 2024 so far

Which have revealed the most sophisticated fraud tactics they’ve come across this year so you don't get caught out

You may like to think, ‘It would never happen to me’ when you hear of victims who lose their lifetime savings to a scam. But the truth is, we’re all vulnerable.

Even unskilled fraudsters can create sophisticated ads seen and shared by tens of thousands on social media platforms, or mimic the websites, phone numbers and email addresses of genuine businesses. 

It's essential to raise public awareness of both common and emerging threats, here are some of the most convincing scams so far this year. with top ten expert tips on how to protect yourself from scammers. 

  1. Hijacked holiday bookings

Weak hotel email and booking systems are being targeted by hackers to send troublingly plausible messages to holidaymakers. 

Once they’ve gained access to the systems of hotels and B&BS, they’re armed with guests’ contact and booking details, and can send fake messages, texts or emails. The most dangerous appear in the ‘secure’ internal messaging platforms of genuine sites.

Particularly concerning is Booking.com scams. with 20 reports about these last year and 40 in the first three months of 2024. 

Typically, messages claim there’s a problem with your payment, before asking you to ‘verify’ or ‘update’ your card details on phishing sites designed to look like Booking.com.

A spokesperson for Booking.com said that some of its accommodation partners have been targeted by phishing emails, which has led to malware on their machines, and in some cases, given unauthorised access to their Booking.com account. This enables fraudsters to pose as the accommodation and communicate with guests via email or messages.

Find out how to avoid holiday scams

  1. Fake phone and broadband providers

Threatening calls and poorly written messages claiming to be from your phone or broadband provider are easily dismissed, but perfectly timed impersonation scams are more likely to slip through.

You may be told you’re owed a refund, offered new equipment to fix non-existent connection issues, or enticed with offers to upgrade your package, reduce bills or claim loyalty deals. A nasty trick is to ask you to share your screen, by downloading ‘remote access’ software.

Bad luck can play a part, as you may be having genuine issues when scammers contact you. They might even have got information through hacking your emails.

One victim had a ‘Sky’ employee called to say they had booked an engineer due to a problem with their Wi-Fi, which had been playing up. 

He said: ‘He checked the speeds via my PC, said it was slow and that we were owed a refund as we’d been paying for a Wi-Fi boost for over a year. He said the refund would be processed via an external app. We had received a genuine call from Sky the day before so it seemed above board. They took £250 as gift cards from my credit card.'

See our expert tips on how to avoid phone scams

  1. Fake ads and rip-off subscriptions

You might be bombarded by sneaky subscriptions hidden in misleading ads.

We’ve heard from hundreds of people in the past year who discovered unwanted and often extortionate recurring payments.

Some victims were paying as much as £50 a month to companies they had never heard of. Many have faced a battle to get a refund from their card provider, because payments appeared to be ‘authorised’.

One tactic is to place stickers of fake QR codes over genuine ones found in car parks, restaurants and posters. Malicious QR code scanner apps have also been blamed for directing users to scam advertising. 

Another ploy is to pay advertising platforms to target victims at scale, notably by impersonating parking apps such as Just Park, PayByPhone and Ringo. Which? has found repeat offenders on Google – despite it telling us that it had taken action.

A Google spokesperson said: ‘Protecting users is our top priority, and we have strict ads policies that govern the types of ads and advertisers we allow on our platforms. We enforce our policies vigorously, and if we find ads that are in violation, we remove them. We continue to invest significant resources to stop bad actors and we are constantly evaluating and updating our policies and improving our technology to keep our users safe.’

  1. Your bank account drained in minutes

Which? was the first to sound the alarm in March about e-money firm Revolut and account takeover fraud (when criminals hack into financial accounts to make unauthorised transfers).

All the victims who came to us are experienced business owners, including one who lost £165,000 in an hour and another who lost £40,000 in 10 minutes. None has been reimbursed. 

The scammers created a fake email address and copycat webpage to impersonate Revolut. They were even able to pass ‘selfie’ security checks (a photo of the account holder). 

Then they contacted victims, claiming to be from the Revolut fraud department to obtain security codes. Once unleashed, the speed at which they drained the accounts is truly shocking. 

A spokesperson for Revolut said: ‘We are aware of a recent increase in advanced account takeover scam attempts across the industry.’ 

They added: ‘We are continuously strengthening our fraud controls to stay one step ahead of this trend, introducing further direct interventions and sharing educational materials with our customers so they are able to spot the social engineering tactics of criminals.’

Find out more: how safe is online and mobile banking?

  1. Investment fraud

Squeezed households are being drawn to bogus investments and ‘get-rich-quick’ schemes run by criminal gangs netting horrifyingly large amounts of money.

Investment scammers stole an average of nearly £13m per week from almost 100,000 victims in 2020-23, according to data from Action Fraud. More victims came forward in 2023 than any other year. 

Misleading profiles on LinkedIn and Companies House can also add an air of legitimacy.

Sickeningly, victims are often retargeted by recovery scammers – sometimes claiming to be from legal firms, auditors and regulators – falsely promising to help recover their losses, for an upfront fee.  

Discover how recovery scammers stalk victims on social media

10 ways you can protect yourself from scams

  1. Never share your password, Pin or security codes, even if a caller or message claims to be from your bank or another trusted company.
  2. Have the most up-to-date security software on your phone and PC. See our expert pick of the best antivirus software.
  3. Only download apps from official Apple, Google Play or Amazon App stores. 
  4. Ads on search engines have been used by scammers in the past, so pay close attention to the web address if you click on one. 
  5. QR codes can also be used by scammers – pay close attention to the web address if you use one, and never use a QR code scanner app as it increases the risk of downloading malware. Instead, use your phone camera. Find out more about QR codes.
  6. Be suspicious of companies contacting you, even if they seem to know about you – this could be taken from your social media profiles or leaked data. Get in touch with the company using a trusted method to check it’s genuine. 
  7. Never pay for a holiday outside a trusted booking system; ideally, pay with a card to ensure you benefit from chargeback (debit and credit cards) or Section 75 protection (credit card only). Use our free tool to make asection 75 or chargeback claim.
  8. Ignore unexpected investment offers, whether that’s via cold calls, ads, and emails or through the post. These are likely to be scams.
  9. Avoid entering your details on social media sites and unknown sites, particularly those advertising on search engines. You risk being targeted with endless scams.

General election

The general election which took place on 4 July – presented a particular risk of cybercrime for UK voters, politicians and electoral officials. Although this has taken place, I thought you might be interested in this information.

A June investigation by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBI) found more than 8,000 ads on Facebook featuring AI-manipulated videos and false information about politicians. From deepfakes of the prime minister to dodgy websites, here's what to watch out for this election season.

 

June 2024

 

Neighbourhood watch

The Our Watch website is getting a refreshed look this month, with a few changes to how the website looks, and where you can find information. Visit the website from 6th June to enjoy the new look! All of their crime prevention information and resources will stay in the same place, but lots of the resources for volunteers will be moving to the Knowledge Hub. The new look includes a more streamlined menu, designed to provide a smoother journey for visitors. Information on crime prevention, community wellbeing, and safety should be easier to find, thanks to their intuitive search bar, and cleaner homepage layout. They have run several accessibility tests during the design process to ensure that people can enjoy a smooth experience when visiting “Our Watch. There are highlighted impact stories from communities across England and Wales, demonstrating the brilliant work of the volunteers, and have given greater focus on opportunities for new partners and organisations to work with there charity. They rely on voluntary donations to support the work of the volunteers in their communities, and so they have made it easier for people to donate. As with every website re-launch, there may be a few teething problems. If you think something is missing, or you notice a broken link, please let them know. You can send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. – your feedback will be invaluable! Neighbourhood Watch Network is a charity registered in England & Wales, charity no: 1173349

Courier scams

 

 

Courier fraud is when a scammer impersonates an authority, such as the police or a bank, and encourages their victim to hand over money, valuables or bank cards, which will be collected from them by couriers.

Last year fraudsters stole over £28.7m this way, and according to Action Fraud victims lost an average of £20,032, with 43% of victims aged in their 80s.

It’s important to remember that your bank or the police will never ask you to purchase valuable goods or hand over money to them.

 Avoiding and reporting courier fraud

Firstly, your bank or the police will never ask you to purchase valuable goods or hand over money to them.

Courier fraud usually begins with a phone call, some ways to prevent cold calls include:

  • Registering with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS), which will stop legitimate companies from making unsolicited sales and marketing calls to your phone number. If you receive a sales call after registering, you'll know it’s dodgy.
  • Install a call blockerfor nuisance calls - call blockers can filter out cold calls, but they may not stop them.
  • If you do get a cold call, use a different phone to call the company back on a trusted number. Wait for at least 15 minutes after hanging up, this is because scammers may be able to keep your phone line open even after you’ve hung up.
  • Call 159using a different phone if you receive a call claiming to be from your bank. This will put you through to your bank's genuine customer service line.

To report a scam call received on your iPhone, text the word ‘call’ followed by the phone number to 7726.

On an Android phone, text the word ‘call’ to 7726, and you’ll then receive a message asking you for the scam number.

WhatsApp scam calls can be reported by opening the WhatsApp chat with the dodgy phone number and tapping 'block'. You can report the contact by tapping 'report contact' and 'block'.

Suspicious calls to your landline can be reported to Action Fraud.

If you have been scammed, call your bank immediately using the number on the back of your bank card and report it to Action Fraud

 

Holiday scams you need to be aware of this summer

From bogus booking websites to rigged cash machines, we explore the cruel tricks that risk ruining your trip.

 

Action Fraud figures show there were 6,640 reports of holiday fraud in 2023, with £12.3m lost to scammers.

Victims experienced a substantial average loss of £1,851, plus the misery of being cruelly tricked and in many cases having their plans ruined.

  1. Booking scams

In March, a group of holidaymakers from Birmingham travelled to Belgium for a short break and arrived to find the holiday house they had rented on Airbnb was occupied by tenants.

This scam also works in reverse – in 2022, an unsuspecting London resident was inundated by tourists arriving at her home after it was fraudulently listed as a holiday let on Booking.com.

While fraudulent listings are sometimes published on respectable booking sites (after evading security measures), we've also seen examples of criminals cloning well-known sites or publishing their fake 'deals' on social media.

Entering your details on a bogus site can be a particularly costly mistake, as your personal and financial details fall into the clutches of fraudsters.

TOP TIPS

  • When booking on well-known sites, communicate and pay via that platform. Requests to move conversations to a different medium or direct payments elsewhere are a red flag.
  • Check website addresses carefully – cloned sites may look very similar to genuine ones, but the address won't be identical.
  • Don't click on links in emails or texts purporting to be from holiday booking sites. Instead, go directly to the verified websites and find the deals yourself.
  • Pay with a debit or credit card to ensure you benefit from chargebackor Section 75 protection if something goes wrong. Also, avoid paying by bank transfer or other less protected methods.
  1. Bracelet scams

This is an old scam, but continues to be a problem for tourists visiting popular European cities.

Viral videos on TikTok warn of a scam dogging markets and beaches in tourism hotspots. 

Scammers approach unwary tourists and tie friendship bracelets on their wrists in such a way that they can only be removed by cutting them off.

The victim is then pressured to pay for the unwanted item or, in some cases, is pickpocketed during the encounter.

The scam has been reported across Europe, but is said to be particularly prevalent outside major landmarks in Paris. 

 

 

  1. ATM skimming

Fraudsters can install 'skimming' devices on cash machines to steal banking information from victims. 

A skimmer is a small device that stores the details from a bank card’s magnetic strip, including the card number, expiration date and the name of the account holder. These devices allow scammers to quickly access large amounts of data.

This happens both in the UK and overseas. However, holidaymakers are particularly vulnerable because they won't necessarily know what overseas cash machines should look like.

Fraudsters can also make use of other devices such as hidden cameras, false keyboards and even old-fashioned 'shoulder surfing' to steal banking information.

TOP TIPS

  • Look for any scratches, glue residue, tape or parts of the machine that look slightly different in colour or newer than the rest. Check if the LED light above the card slot is missing.
  • Wiggle the machine to see if it's attached properly.
  • Check the card slot as it may be slightly wider than usual if it's hiding a skimmer.
  • Check the keypad as fake ones may feel slightly loose or thick and spongy.
  • Check if there are any holes in the machine as these could be a sign of a hidden camera.
  • Be aware of people around you and cover the keypad with your free hand when entering your details.
  • Consider using a machine in a busy area or inside a bank branch where it’s harder for fraudsters to tamper with it.
  1. Overcharging taxis

This con sees the driver pull up at your destination, only to claim that the meter is broken and demand an exorbitant sum from you.  

Another variation sees the meter being rigged to go up unnaturally fast.

Ask your hotel, tour guide or a trusted local for a rough idea of how much journeys should cost before setting off. 

Your hotel may also be able to book a reputable taxi service on your behalf.

 

 

 

 

How to spot a WhatsApp scam

 

From the 'Hi Mum and Dad' scam to fake job offers, the popular and free messaging app WhatsApp is used by opportunistic scammers who impersonate brands, friends and family members in convincing scam messages in an attempt to con you out of your money.

From the 'Hi Mum and Dad' scam to fake job offers, WhatsApp is used by opportunistic scammers.

WhatsApp allows users to message friends and family all over the world for free. It also enables people to call contacts and use video, audio and images in messages.

These features are sometimes exploited by fraudsters who impersonate brands, friends and family members in convincing scam messages in an attempt to con you out of your money.

  1. Hi, mum and dad'

A scammer impersonating someone's adult child on WhatsApp

The ‘hi mum and dad’ or ‘friend in need’ scam is sent via text message or WhatsApp by scammers hoping to cash in on your worry.

The scam message impersonates adult children, friends or other family members. The message tells you that they’ve lost their phone and, due to an incident or an emergency, need you to transfer money into a friend's account.

This tactic is used by fraudsters to get you to act quickly out of panic. 

It's incredibly hard to say no to a loved one in need. If in doubt, pick up the phone and call them to confirm the authenticity of the message.

Messages offering vouchers and free products regularly circulate WhatsApp. They typically take you to a malicious website and ask you to complete a survey before attempting to gain your personal and financial information to ‘post your prize’.

The messages often also ask you to reshare the message to a number of your WhatsApp contacts, to keep the scam spreading.

  1. WhatsApp Gold offers

A message attempts to get you to download a fake WhatsApp upgrade first started circulating in 2016.

The non-existent upgrade called ‘WhatsApp Gold’ boasts ‘amazing features’ and ‘enhanced security’. Some messages will say that WhatsApp Gold is a version of the app used by celebrities.

Other versions of the scam lead to a dodgy website to ‘sign up’ for the service which actually downloads malware to your device that can allow scammers to steal your personal data.

Some messages also include a hoax chain message which tells you not to open a video called ‘Martinelli’. However, there has never been any evidence of this video being circulated.

  1. Exclusive groups

Fraudsters have exploited WhatsApp's ability to allow you to create groups featuring up to 1024 members to groom potential victims into scams.

We’ve seen dodgy investment scam adverts lead to WhatsApp groups where you’re given free ‘stock trading advice’ for weeks before being asked to pay for this guidance.

Action Fraud has also warned of the use of WhatsApp groups by fraudsters. This is through scammers infiltrating existing groups by calling a member of the group pretending to be a genuine member themselves using a fake profile picture.

During the call, the scammer will say that they’re sending over a one-time passcode to allow them to join an upcoming video call for group members.

After this, the fraudster will ask them to share this passcode so they can be ‘registered’ for the video call.

However, if the scammers are given this code, they’ll be able to take over the victim’s account to impersonate them and scam other members of the group.

  1. Verification code scam

After a fraudster has already obtained your phone number, they enter this into the WhatsApp login page which will trigger a genuine text message from WhatsApp containing a verification code.

The victim receives this message as well as a WhatsApp message from the scammer impersonating one of their contacts. The ‘contact’ will have a story to try to persuade the victim to give them the verification code they’ve just received.

If the scammer gets the verification code, they’ll be able to take over the victim’s account.

  1. Job scams

A scammer impersonating a recruiter on WhatsApp

Out of the blue WhatsApp messages are sent by fraudsters offering you non-existent jobs. Sometimes, the scammer will impersonate real people at recruitment agencies or organisations.

The ‘jobs’ will often consist of easy work that requires minimal qualifications and experience in exchange for a high salary.

The ‘job’ could require you to invest money into work equipment or systems that you’ll never get back or the scammer could ask you for your personal info, such as your passport, as part of the employment process to steal your identity.

Find out morejob scams and employment fraud

How to spot WhatsApp scams

Any WhatsApp message you receive unexpectedly should be treated with suspicion. 

Here are some other red flags that indicate it could be a scam:

  • Too good to be true offers.
  • Messages from random numbers or unknown contacts.
  • Being invited into groups you’ve never heard of.
  • Offers of app updates, as WhatsApp updates are automatic.
  • Requests for money or personal details.
  • Links included in messages.

Find out more: how to spot scams

Report WhatsApp scams

You can report a WhatsApp message by selecting it in your conversation and tapping ‘report’. 

To report the sender on WhatsApp, open up the chat, tap on the sender's contact details and select 'block and report'.

You should also set up two-step verification (2SV) to add extra security to your account. You can do this by:

  1. Opening WhatsApp settings. Tapping ‘account’ > ‘two-step verification’ > turning on or setting up ‘PIN.’
  2. Then choose and enter a six-digit PIN and confirm it. You can provide an email address to reset two-step verification or choose to skip this.
  3. Tap ‘next’ > confirm the email address > tap ‘save’ or ‘done.

 

 

4. Scammers target most victims online

 

A new UK Finance report reveals 76% of bank transfer scams originated from online sources such as social media or auction sites, and that losses from romance and purchase scam cases are the highest ever recorded.

Online platforms are not currently under any formal obligation to reimburse fraud victims, but the new Online Safety Act means they must remove harmful content, including scams.

Fraud losses hit £1.17bn and both purchase and romance scams reached record highs in 2023, according to the latest UK Finance annual fraud report.

It details losses from unauthorised (where scammers carry out transactions without your consent) and authorised fraud (when you're tricked into agreeing a payment to an account controlled by a criminal) reported by more than 300 firms in financial services.

UK Finance – the trade body for the UK banking sector – says many of the cases are facilitated by online platforms such as social media and is calling for the new fraud reimbursement cap coming into force in October to be reduced from £415,000 to £85,000. 

It's largely a positive picture in terms of unauthorised fraud. 

In 2023, the industry prevented the equivalent of 64p in every £1 of attempted unauthorised fraud, up from 61.5p in every £1 in 2022. 

UK Finance members reported declines in card fraud and remote banking, thanks to the rollout of strong customer authentication (SCA) in the past two years. 

However, drilling into the details reveals that losses from lost/stolen cards (up 4% to £104m) and card ID theft (up 53% to £79.1m) are at their highest levels since 1991. 

Card ID theft occurs when criminals use stolen or forged documents to apply for a card in your name or take over an existing card account. 

Mobile banking fraud cases – when a scammer gains access to your account through a banking app downloaded to a mobile device – have also overtaken online (website) banking cases for the first time ever. 



Internet banking fraud

Mobile banking fraud

Telephone banking fraud

Losses

£88.7m (-22%)

£45.5m (+33%)

£17.6m (+19%)

Cases

13,669 (-57%)

20,032 (+62%)

3,711 (+21%)

Spike in purchase and romance scams 

When it comes to authorised push payment (APP) fraud, losses fell 5% to £459.7m, but the number of cases is up 12% to 232,429. 

Progress has been made to reduce impersonation fraud, but romance and purchase scam cases and losses are the highest ever recorded. 

Earlier this year, Which? analysis of Action Fraud data found that most romance fraud reports are from men in their twenties, although women tend to report higher losses.

The Banking Protocol rapid response scheme progress prevented £54.7m of fraudulent branch transfers in 2023. This initiative trains bank staff to identify warning signs that a customer may be falling victim to an APP fraud in-branch and alerts local police to intervene and investigate. However, progress appears to have stalled in terms of extending this to telephone and online transfers, something that was first promised back in 2020.

 

 

MAY 2024

 

TICKET FRAUD

New data released today by Action Fraud reveals £6.7 million was lost to ticket fraud last year. https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/ticketfraud

Action Fraud, the national fraud and cybercrime reporting service, has launched a ticket fraud awareness campaign, warning people to be alert to fraudsters trying to catch out people planning for popular and sold-out events. Last year more than 8,700 people reported they had been a victim ticket fraud, with a total of £6.7 million lost. This works out to an average loss of £772 per victim. 

 

 How to protect yourself from ticket fraud:

  Only buy tickets from the venue’s box office, the promoter, an official agent or a well-known and reputable ticket exchange site.

  Avoid paying for tickets by bank transfer, especially if buying from someone unknown. Credit card or payment services such as PayPal give you a better chance of recovering the money if you become a victim of fraud.

  The password you use for your email account, as well as any other accounts you use to purchase tickets, should be different from all your other passwords. Use three random words to create a strong and memorable password, and enable 2-step verification (2SV).

  Be wary of unsolicited emails, texts or adverts offering unbelievably good deals on tickets.

  Is the vendor a member of Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers (STAR)? If they are, the company has signed up to their strict governing standards. STAR also offers an approved Alternative Dispute Resolution service to help customers with outstanding complaints. For more information visit star.org.uk/buy_safe.

 

Report ticket fraud

If you feel at all suspicious, report the email to the Suspicious Email Reporting Service (SERS) at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. For more advice on how to stay secure online, please visit cyberaware.gov.uk.

 

Find out how to protect yourself from fraud: https://stopthinkfraud.campaign.gov.uk

 

Check photo licence expiry or risk a £1,000 fine

Photocard driving licences came into force in 1998, and the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) has confirmed that more than 3.6 million are currently out-of-date – so check yours now.

If it's out of date and you need to renew, get full info in our How do I renew my driving licence? guide.

Driving licence photos must be replaced every 10 years (no matter how young you think you look).

You can be fined up to £1,000 if you drive while your photocard's expired. Yet it's just £14 to renew online, £17 by post or £21.50 at a post office – an annoying cost, but far more MoneySaving than the alternative.

 

Find the cheapest petrol station in seconds

Before you fill up, use free online tool PetrolPrices.com to find the cheapest unleaded, diesel, super unleaded or premium diesel near you. After registering, enter a postcode, town or city and tell it how far you're willing to travel, and it'll list the cheapest forecourts in the area.

The Cheap petrol & diesel guide's brimming with more ways to save.

 

PRODUCT SECURITY AND TELECOMMUNICATIONS INFASTRUCTURE ACT (OR PSTI ACT)

 

A new law has been introduced to ensure smart devices, such as mobile phones, TVs, fitness trackers etc sold in the UK are more secure. 

From 29 April 2024, manufacturers of smart devices must comply with the new Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure act (or PSTI act), which will help buyers by ensuring new smart devices are designed to provide ongoing protection against cyber attacks.

The law means manufacturers must ensure that all their smart devices meet basic cyber security requirements. Specifically:

  • The manufacturer must not supply devices that use default passwords, which can be easily discovered online, and shared. If the default password is used, a criminal could log into a smart device and use it to access a local network, or conduct cyber attacks.
  • The manufacturer must provide a point of contact for the reporting of security issues which – if ignored – could make devices exploitable by cyber criminals.
  • The manufacturer must state the minimum length of time for which the device will receive important security updates. When updates are no longer provided, devices are easier to hack, or may stop working as designed.

To find out more about the changes and device security visit: Smart devices: new law helps citizens to choose secure... - NCSC.GOV.UK

 

 

Deepfake warning: videos impersonate the BBC and others

 

A deep fake video is when a person's face or body has been digitally manipulated using artificial intelligence to appear to be someone else. These videos have become increasingly common on social media and can be difficult to spot.

Scammers continue to misuse AI to create fake videos using celebrities and trusted brands. Find out more about our investigation into deep fake videos and how to spot one. Left click on how to spot one and choose open hyperlink to see more information.

 

 

 

APRIL 2024

 

Join Herts Connected to continue to receive police messages
 

OWL SYSTEM

You may be aware that the OWL system is moving to a new community messaging system called Herts Connected from (Monday 1 April) where you can continue to receive their free police messages.

 

If you haven’t already signed up, please click on this link www.hertsconnected.co.uk or sign up under ‘campaigns’ on the police website www.herts.police.uk

Due to GDPR, they are not able to automatically transfer people across to Herts Connected.  Once signed up, you will receive an email from Neighbourhood Alerts, which is used by over 30 police forces in the country.

If you have any problems signing up, you can contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

NETFLIX SCAM

There is a scam going around about Netflix. You will receive an email that looks like it’s from Netflix. It will say “Upgrade your account for free for 90 days at no extra cost for you” when you click on it, it will ask for your account details including bank details. This is a scam and allows the person access to your bank details.

 

Scammers imitating bank websites

In 2023 there were more than 2,000 reports of fake websites that appear to imitate UK banks. Although banks attempt to get lookalike websites taken down, the number being registered, and the sometimes inadequate response from domain websites, means they're up long enough to find victims.

These copycat websites play a crucial role in impersonation scams. Here we reveal the scale of the copycat bank websites, how to spot one and what needs to be done to stop them appearing in the first place.

 

PayPal invoice scam

A scam email is sent to you impersonating PayPal, they want you to think an amount of money has been taken from you and you need to ring this number to stop the money from being taken out of your account. But if you ring that number they want all sorts of personal information from you so they can access your accounts etc. If you know you haven’t authorised a PayPal payment don’t respond to this message! A picture below shows the kind of email you may receive.

Scammers impersonating PayPal are sending recipients a 'receipt' for a high-value order in an attempt to get them to call a dodgy phone number.

The number is provided if you 'didn't authorise this charge' and leads to a phone scam where a fraudster will try to obtain your personal details.

Don't click on the links in these emails and don't respond to them.

 

Scheme to help residents who have communication challenges

Hertfordshire Constabulary has launched a scheme – Pegasus - to help those with communication challenges when they have contact with police and other emergency services.

In partnership with the East of England Ambulance Service and Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, Pegasus is designed to assist those who sometimes find it difficult to speak or make themselves understood, especially in pressured situations.  It may be useful to anyone with any conditions, to help with any communication issues, including those neuro-diverse needs or visual or hearing impairments.

Inspector Dean Board, who has been working to implement the scheme, said: “Training and briefings have been provided to our Police colleagues and our frontline officers so that they are aware of this scheme and how to respond appropriately.

“This is a simple tool that provides a Prevention First approach to how we interact with the public so that we can tailor how we respond to the needs of the individual concerned and therefore avoid some of the pitfalls when communication breaks down.”

Registration is easy, free-of-charge and involves providing a few simple details via our dedicated webpage. It is open to everyone who lives or works in the county. Those who care for people with communication difficulties can also register on their behalf.

Following registration, the individual will receive a membership card and a PIN. When calling for assistance, the cardholder simply needs to say ‘Pegasus’ and quote their PIN for call handlers to provide the appropriate information to responding officers. There is also a Textphone option.

The card can also be shown in person to a police officer, paramedic or firefighter.

To apply or for further information please visit Pegasus card scheme | Hertfordshire Constabulary (herts.police.uk)

Any questions or feedback about Pegasus should be This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

WHICH REPORT: car leasing scams on Instagram

The victim paid £3,000 for a car that was never delivered, after they clicked on an Instagram ad. The perpetrators were impersonating a legitimate Essex-based company, having stolen the company's name, number, and other details from Companies House to con unsuspecting victims.

This can be used for any electronic advert, so be careful if buying large purchases online.


Discover more about what we found and how you can dodge similar car leasing scams.

 

ROGUE TRADERS

Trading Standards is warning residents to be cautious of spray foam insulation removal scams. Spray foam is an alternative to traditional insulation. However, if not properly installed it can cause problems and even decrease the value of a property.

Trading Standards have seen an increase of complaints relating to rogue traders who use scare tactics to convince homeowners of the need to remove spray foam insulation from their properties immediately. This can lead to complications including compromised roofs and extortionate prices.

We advise against dealing with any business that contacts you unexpectedly. We suspect that in some cases people are conned twice; firstly into paying thousands to put insulation in and secondly being called a couple of years later to tell them that they can never sell their house because of the insulation, charging them thousands more to remove it. The con is based on drumming up fear and pressure to act, resulting in decisions we might not ordinarily take.

Top tips to avoid rogue traders and doorstep criminals:

  • Choose a trader that is part of the Which? Trusted Trader Scheme
  • Never engage with cold callers knocking on your door or who call out of the blue
  • Be wary of using traders recommended on social media
  • Get separate quotes from different and independently sourced traders
  • Be careful of online reviews as these may not be genuine
  • Ask for proof of credentials and verify with the relevant authorities or professional associations

Trust your instincts if something doesn’t feel right or the trader is pressuring you into making a quick decision. If you can, talk about what has happened with a trusted friend or family member.

You can also seek advice from the Citizens Advice Consumer Service helpline on 0808 223 1133. To report a fraud to the Police please contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or go to www.actionfraud.police.uk

 

AFFINITY WATER

Affinity water have an exciting opportunity for you...

they are partnering with Sam Proctor from Chiltern Garden Design to create a stunning water-saving garden for the upcoming RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2024. This inspiring garden will show our customers how beautiful gardens can also save and reuse water.

To celebrate, we're giving away 20
RHS Gift Memberships* so you can spend this year visiting dozens of breath-taking gardens.

Click on the link below to see more details

save and reuse water

 

March 2024

 

Community information March 2024

Shopper Bus

Jeff our speaker from last month asked me to let you know about the shopper bus, it goes from Bushey and Bushey Heath to Aldi, Sainsbury’s and Tesco’s on a Monday. Abbots Langley, Bedmond and Leavesden to Asda and Sainsbury’s on a Tuesday. Rickmansworth, Moor Park and Mill End to Waitrose and Tesco on a Thursday and Friday. If you click on the first link it will give you details for the Watford area. Watford Shopper Bus Service | Communities 1st . For more general information visit

www.communities1st.org.uk/shopper

email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

tel: 01727649980

 

What is the Shopper Bus service?

Our Shopper Bus will take you from your door to the local supermarket where volunteers can help you carry bags, fetch items, and board on and off the bus.

It is a door-to-door service for people who have difficulties using public transport to go shopping. There may be mobility problems or other special needs. Our low-floor accessible mini-bus is ideal for wheelchair users and people who have difficulties with steps.

 

Where does this service operate?

This service currently operates across the boroughs of Hertsmere and Three Rivers and Welwyn and Hatfield!

In Hertsmere, we visit Borehamwood, Bushey, Radlett and Potters Bar. In Three Rivers, we visit Abbots Langley, Chorleywood, Rickmansworth, Sarratt, South Oxhey, among others. 

See our Shopper Bus timetables (below) for more details.

 

Is there a cost for this service?

Shopper Bus - Hertsmere and Three Rivers

A return fare is £6 (or £3 for a single).

If you would like a carer to accompany you, this will be a further charge of £2 for a return fare (or £1 for a single.)

 

 How can I book this service?

To book this service, telephone 01727 649980 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Our telephone lines are open 09:00-17:00, Monday - Friday.

 

LIBRARY SERVICES

Did you know that in local library’s there are many services you can access, there is a large jigsaw in many of them and you can just do a few pieces as you visit. More information on Library services coming in April.

 

TELEPHONE SCAMS

There is a current telephone scam to be aware of a caller will ask you specific questions and they want you to give specific answers so they can use these in an automated scam. If someone calls from a 304 area code claiming to be from customer service. The first thing they ask is “can you hear me” they want you to say yes they record what you are saying, you can respond I hear you but do not say yes and do not answer any subsequent questions.

Another number to watch out for is 01212853695 (a Birmingham number) all purporting to be for a text message and specifying numbers to press to either:

Listen the text message (1);

Listen again to the incoming answerphone message (2); learn more about text messages on a landline (4).

Three different numbers to tempt (bamboozle) the recipient to press!

01212853695 has thousands of hits online associated with an HMRC scam but the one above seems to be a new one.

 

QR Code scam

Hertfordshire Trading Standards is warning residents to be vigilant because of a nationwide rise in complaints about fraudulent apps and QR codes.

A recent Insolvency Service investigation has led to the winding up of Watford based Paragrim Ltd, which was found to have deliberately misled consumers into providing bank details for everyday online purchases, such as car parking or television streaming. Victims later discovered they had been signed up to monthly direct debit payments.

Take these steps to stay secure:

  1. Before scanning any QR code, make sure it's from a trusted and verified source. Double-check the QR code by looking for any signs of tampering or suspicious behaviour.
  2. Download a QR code scanner app from a trusted source eg the App Store or Google Play. These apps often have built-in security features to detect and warn you about potential scams.
  3. If you receive a QR code from an unknown or unexpected source, be wary. Scammers often use unsolicited codes to trick people into sharing personal information or downloading malware.
  4. When you scan a QR code, pay attention to the URL it leads to. If it looks suspicious or doesn't match the expected destination, don't proceed any further.
  5. Be wary if you are asked to pay a small sum of money to link your bank details before any service starts. Contact your bank immediately if you don’t recognise a transaction.
  6.  Keep your smartphone's operating system, apps, and antivirus software up to date. This ensures you have the latest security patches and protection against potential threats.

 

Meals on Wheels

If you are looking out for someone who receives meals on wheels, please make them aware of the following information from Health and Independent Living Support (HILS) to help to keep them safe::

BE SCAM AWARE:  if you receive a call from someone claiming to be from meals on wheels, make sure that this is true before giving them any personal information or paying for anything over the telephone.

  • We will only contact you for payment if you have not paid for your meals within 45 days of a bill being sent to you;
  • We will always send you a letter about an outstanding bill before calling you;
  • If you are concerned about someone who calls you claiming to be from meals on wheels, you can check if they are really from HILS by:

o            Asking for their name (if possible) then ending the call

o            Calling us back on 01462 887183 to check whether they are really from HILS (if you cannot give their name don’t worry, we can still check whether the call was legitimate). Please be aware that scammers can keep your phone line open even after you’ve hung up. Use a different phone, call someone you know first to check the line is free, or wait at least 10 to 15 minutes between calls to make sure that any scammers have hung up.

 

Scammers bypass Google ads rules

Scammers have exploited Google's advertiser vetting process and obtained 'verified status' to target the public with convincing fake ads.


One rogue advertiser, with the name 'Vodafone Finance Management', had been verified by Google. But in reality, it had no affiliation with Vodafone. These verified ads were used to appear at the top of search results when people searched for the phone network Lyca Mobile.


It can be difficult to distinguish authentic ads from fake ones, especially now there’s evidence of scammers abusing Google’s platform as verified advertisers. Click on the link here, We have some examples to help you spot and dodge fraudulent ads.

 

Cuckooing

Cuckooing is where criminals groom a vulnerable person in order to take over their home and use it as a base for their 

As part of this work a public survey is being conducted to see whether people would be able to spot the signs of cuckooing if it were happening in their street.

Please complete this survey to help prevent and detect cuckooing of vulnerable people in the county.

Spot the signs of cuckooing:

  • An increase in the number of visitors to the property through the day and night, often visiting for only short periods of time.
  • An increased number of vehicles outside the property including taxis or hire cars.
  • The usual occupier of the property having new associates staying and bags of clothing and / or extra bedding in the property.
  • The occupier moving out or staying away from the property whilst an unknown person remains.
  • Evidence of drug use such as discarded syringes, foil and cling film in and around the property and evidence of drug dealing such as scales and deal bags.
  • An increase in local crime and anti-social behaviour, including the accumulation and storage of stolen pedal cycles.
  • Victims of cuckooing may disengage from support services and be unwilling to discuss what is happening at their property when the subject is raised with them.
  • Individuals with large amounts of cash or multiple mobile phones.
  • Excessive receipt of texts/phone calls.
  • Leaving a care placement without any explanation.
  • Suspicion of physical assault/unexplained injuries.
  • Carrying weapons.
  • Changes to emotional wellbeing

  For more information on cuckooing visit: www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/cuckooing.

 

 February 2024

 

Warm Spaces

Watford Borough Council has a list of welcoming spaces on its web pages at

Find a welcoming space in Watford – www.watford.gov.uk

If you can, please find the time to check on any elderly or vulnerable friends and neighbours during this cold spell. 

 

If you are concerned you can ask Hertfordshire Fire Service to carry out a free Safe and Well visit.  Further details are on their website at

Fire safety home visits, school visits and open days | Hertfordshire County Council

or ring 0300 123 4046.

 

Holiday Scams

Typically, this time of the year is when people book their holidays, but it's also when fraudsters attempt to take advantage of consumers. Holiday scams are big business for fraudsters, with victims losing more than £15m in the 2022-23 financial year.


For example, scammers created a bogus copycat Booking(dot)com website, including a pop-up chat from a fake 'customer service' representative, encouraging victims to book.

some holiday scams can be harder to spot than others, but following these tips should help ensure you're booking from a genuine site.

  1. Is it too good to be true? Be suspicious of incredibly cheap deals and free holiday competitions.
  2. Check your protections If you’re buying a package holiday, check it’s Atol protected. You can also check if the company advertising the holiday is an ABTA member.
  3. Is it the correct URL? Double-check the URL on any websites you visit. Scammers often set up copycat siteswith slightly different URLs, making them difficult to spot.  
  4. Look up when the site was registered You can check when a site was registered on is. If a site is brand new, or has been registered in a different country than it claims to operate in, this can be a red flag. 
  5. Don't pay by bank transfer If bank transfer is the only payment option, it might be a scam. Fraudsters often ask for money by bank transfer as it's harder to trace.
  6. Check multiple review sites Dodgy reviews are commonplace, so if the company you're using isn't well-known, check reviews on several websites.

If you have been scammed, contact your bank immediately. Report the scam to Action Fraud

 

Types of postal scams

There are many different types of scam mail, such as:

  • fake lotteries and prize draws 
  • bogus health cures 
  • investment scams and pyramid selling
  • brushing scams

It’s important to note there is a difference between scam mail and legitimate mail sent by companies to advertise lawful services or the sale of genuine goods

 

Lottery and competition scams

You may receive a letter saying you’ve won a large amount of money.

The first thing to do is to consider whether you’ve actually entered an online or overseas lottery or competition. 

If you do respond and provide your personal information, the fraudsters will ask you to pay various fees so that they can release your non-existent winnings.

Each time you make a payment, the fraudsters will come up with a reason why your winnings can’t be paid out unless you make another payment. 

 

Brushing scams

If you've received an unsolicited package, you could be a victim of a brushing scam. Brushing involves an unscrupulous seller sending usually cheap-to-ship items and then falsely logging it as a genuine sale in order to artificially inflate sales volumes.

In 2021 one million households in the UK had potentially been hit by Amazon brushing scams

If you receive an unsolicited item from an Amazon marketplace seller, report the package to Amazon using its ‘Report Unwanted Package’ form.

You should also change your Amazon password and set up two-factor authentication, if you haven’t already done so.

The unsolicited package indicates that some of your personal information has been compromised, so you should take steps to check that everything is secure. 

In particular, you should check your bank account for any unusual activity.

 

Fake investments and pyramid schemes

Popular fake investment scams include wine clubs, precious stones and land. Beware of any offer too good to be true.

Pyramid schemes require you to join for a fee – and the only way to get back your money is to persuade other people to join and take their fees.

Scheme members are asked to sell goods or services through other members rather than direct to clients.

 

How to spot a postal scam

If you can tick off one or more of the following, it’s probably a scam and you should be suspicious:

  • Bad spelling or poor grammar in a letter claiming to represent a company, royalty or a prize agency should be a clear warning the letter is not from a legitimate organisation.
  • An unsolicited commercial or personal request. Do you even know of this company or person? If the name seems unfamiliar and you don’t recall ever signing up to the company or sharing details with them, you should be suspicious.
  • Asking for money. Always start from the position that a request for money is to be treated with suspicion until proven otherwise.
  • You’re asked to pay up front to receive what’s on offer – processing or handling fees are a con.

There are also certain letter styles that are often used in competition or lottery scam mail:

  • coats of arms
  • seals
  • serial numbers
  • barcodes
  • watermarks
  • reproduced signatures
  • rubber stamps

A letter containing these and promising you’ve won a prize draw or lottery you’ve never entered should ring alarm bells and you should never reply.

 

Report a postal scam

Reporting scams helps Royal Mail investigate them with the relevant authorities.

If you believe that you, or a family member, are receiving mail from fraudsters you should report it.

Royal Mail provides a form that you can use to report scam letters. You can submit this online or send it to Freepost Scam Mail.

Or you can report any scam to Action Fraud.

If you think you have given your details or paid money to a scammer, you should call your bank immediately using the number found on the back of your card. 

 

Communication assistance

Hertfordshire Constabulary has launched a scheme – Pegasus - to help those with communication challenges when they have contact with police and other emergency services.

In partnership with the East of England Ambulance Service and Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, Pegasus is designed to assist those who sometimes find it difficult to speak or make themselves understood, especially in pressured situations.  It may be useful to anyone with any conditions, to help with any communication issues, including those neuro-diverse needs or visual or hearing impairments.

Inspector Dean Board, who has been working to implement the scheme, said: “Training and briefings have been provided to our Police colleagues and our frontline officers so that they are aware of this scheme and how to respond appropriately.

“This is a simple tool that provides a Prevention First approach to how we interact with the public so that we can tailor how we respond to the needs of the individual concerned and therefore avoid some of the pitfalls when communication breaks down.”

Registration is easy, free-of-charge and involves providing a few simple details via our dedicated webpage. It is open to everyone who lives or works in the county. Those who care for people with communication difficulties can also register on their behalf.

Following registration, the individual will receive a membership card and a PIN. When calling for assistance, the cardholder simply needs to say ‘Pegasus’ and quote their PIN for call handlers to provide the appropriate information to responding officers. There is also a Textphone option.

The card can also be shown in person to a police officer, paramedic or firefighter.

To apply or for further information please visit Pegasus card scheme | Hertfordshire Constabulary (herts.police.uk)

 

January 2024

 

This time of year can be challenging for many people and for different reasons but help is available from a number of organisations:

  • There is information from Herts County Council about Cost of Living, Warm Spaces, Mental Health services, money & benefits advice, help for households and much more, or visit Help to manage the cost of living | Hertfordshire County Council
  • If you are, or someone you know is, a victim of domestic abuse please visit Herts Sunflower or ring 08 088 088 088 for free and confidential support, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. confidentially, anytime.  This service is available for anyone of any gender who is suffering.
  • Childline | Childline can assist children and young people who are experiencing difficulties or ring 0800 1111, and services are available from NSPCC | The UK children's charity | NSPCC or by calling 0808 800 5000.
  • The Samaritans website ( Samaritans | Every life lost to suicide is a tragedy | Here to listen ) says “We're waiting for your call.  Whatever you're going through, a Samaritan will face it with you. We're here 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Call 116 123 for free.”
  • Action Fraud is the place to report scams and attempted scams either online or by phone - please visit Action Fraud or ring 0300 123 2040.

Hertfordshire Constabulary is available all day every day – in an emergency ring 999 or ring 101, or you can use the free online chat facility at Contact us | Hertfordshire Constabulary (herts.police.uk)

 

December 2023

 

Scammers continue to target Herts residents posing as police or bank staff.
 

If you get an unsolicited phone call, do not rely on caller ID to decide if a call is trustworthy.

Criminals can copy legitimate phone numbers to appear like the genuine organisation.

If you receive a call and it sounds suspicious then hang up and ring back using a trusted number (not the number supplied by them!) on a different telephone, as criminals can remain on the line and not disconnect the call. If you do not have a different telephone to hand, then wait at least five minutes and ring a family member or friend to ensure the line has been disconnected before making the call.

Criminals will go to great lengths to appear genuine, and this can include obtaining personal information which they then disclose to the victim to give an appearance of legitimacy. These are organised criminals who can be very convincing and whose techniques sadly often scam people from all walks of life.

Even if you do not consider yourself to be vulnerable, it is important to be vigilant:

• Never give personal information in response to an incoming call, particularly if the caller is asking you to do something that will affect you financially.
• The police or your bank will never request money from you, nor will they ever request you to make a transaction on your bank card.
• If you receive such a call, end it immediately.

The ABC rule to help protect yourself and others against fraud:

- Never Assume someone is telling the truth,

- Never Believe what they say unless you are confident that they are who they say they are, and

- Always independently Confirm the details they have provided.

If you think that you may have been a victim of this or any other type of scam, then contact your bank immediately, which you can do by calling 159 and report it to Action Fraud at Action Fraud or call 0300 123 2040. 

 

Free Tech Support for Government workers

There is free tech support available to anyone who has worked for the Government and who has a Government pension. Details can be found in “Pension” magazine for a tech “Helpdesk” and a contact number for free tech help.

 

WhatsApp £200 voucher scams

A scam website promoting a non-existent £200 Next giftcard

Scammers are sending WhatsApp messages advertising £200 gift cards at retailers ASOS and Next.

The message includes a dodgy link which leads to a website where you're asked to complete a survey.

To 'claim' your prize, you're asked to share the website link with your WhatsApp contacts and groups, so that the scam spreads further.

This time of year sees an increase in online shopping and unfortunately there will be an increase in online fraud & cyber crime - shoppers lost over £10 million pounds to cyber criminals over last year’s Christmas period.

Fake websites and online marketplaces are common hunting grounds for criminals looking to con you:

  • It’s not a bargain if you spend money on something that doesn’t exist.
  • Always do your research and if something seems cheap, ask yourself why – if something looks too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Use safer payment methods such as credit cards / PayPal so that if something goes wrong you might get your money back.

 

REMEMBER IF SOMETHING SEEMS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE IT PROBABLY IS A SCAM.

 

County Court Bailiffs Enforcement Officers

There are scammers again phoning members of the public, posing as County Court bailiffs, High Court Enforcement Officers (HCEOs) and Certificated Enforcement Agents (CEAs).

In a number of cases they are claiming to be a bailiff at Northampton County Court.

They are targeting people with a County Court judgment for debt.

During the calls, the fraudsters claim that the person owes money, and demands that they transfer funds into a bank account.

We may contact you by phone to discuss a warrant of control and will offer to take debit or credit card payments over the phone.

However, we will never:

  • telephone you to ask for your bank details
  • telephone you to ask you to make a bank transfer using your sort code and account number.

If anyone claiming to be a county court bailiff, an HCEO or CEA calls asking for this information, you should not make any payment and not provide your bank details.

You should end the call and contact:

If you believe you have been a victim of this scam you should report the matter to:

Action Fraud online or call 0300 123 2040.

 

 November 2023

 

Asda parking fines

There has been a number of complaints about Asda Watford Lower car park. If anyone shops there apparently the lower car park has been taken over by a private company and they are fining people incorrectly. The company is called “Parking Eye”. If you do receive a parking fine notice from them if you go into Asda customer service I’ve been told they will sort it for you.

I’ve now been told that all the car parks in Asda are privately owned and you need to ensure you don’t park in them too long, ensure you are parked in a parking bay and follow any other notices that you see when you park.

 

Car Break-ins

I’ve mentioned this before. On Sunday 22/10/2023 at 02.00hrs a car parked in Holland Gardens, Watford, The next road along from here was broken into. The offender has gained entry and stole their disabled badge from the glove box.

However general motor break ins are also on the rise and Police in Watford are urging residents to be vigilant after the rise in reported vehicle crime across the town.

Please ensure that you lock your vehicles and remove any belongings.

It appears that Vehicles are being targeted overnight, with many victims receiving camera doorbell activations between the hours of midnight and 5:30am.

If you suspect a crime is in progress, you should dial 999 immediately.

 

Reach Out

Reach Out is looking for people in Hertfordshire who can spare an hour a week to help an elderly person in their local area who is home from hospital and feeling lonely and isolated.

Reach Out offers companionship and practical support to people as they recover and rebuild their confidence. Many elderly people really appreciate someone popping in for a cuppa and a chat, or helping them by collecting small items of shopping for them.

Autumn can be a difficult time for older people who are living with frailty and are still recovering from a hospital stay. As the nights are getting longer and the cold weather is setting in, social isolation can have a huge impact.

Reach Out Volunteers can help people to feel connected to their community, whilst offering vital support and encouragement to them as they recover.

Just giving a small amount of your time can make a huge difference.

You can register your interest here Helping People in Hertfordshire (google.com)

Find out more here Reach Out Hertfordshire - Helping People at Home (reachout-project.org.uk)

or contact Reach Out via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by calling 01462 689403.

 

Facebook Market place scams

If you buy or sell using Facebook market place as it has become a popular and convenient platform for scammers.

Remember - if it seems to good to be true, it's probably a scam.

Facebook Marketplace and other online sites are popular and convenient platforms for buying and selling goods but Herts Police urge caution.

Selling online:

Criminals are posing as buyers. Don’t ask for or agree to payment outside of the marketplace if there are secure options within the app available. If there is no option, use PayPal or another secure method.

  • Watch out for someone sending an overpayment then asking for a refund.
  • Watch out for a buyer sending a courier for the goods. They will normally ask you to pay for the insurance and ask you to provide your bank details for refund once the items have been delivered safely.
  • Be mindful of fraudsters arriving to collect an item claiming to have made payment online. Fake banking apps are being used and the payment is never received.
  • Don’t rely on a screenshot of a money transfer - make sure you receive payment confirmation before sending/handing over goods and check your own account to make sure funds have been received. 
  • Advertise your item will be cash on collection only.
  • Have the item ready at the front door and don’t invite strangers into your home.

Buying online:

Do some research to find out what a fair price is for similar goods in the same condition and check the online profile of the seller – if it’s a newly created profile beware.

When making a payment, never transfer the money directly into their bank account but use a secure payment site such as PayPal which offers payment protection (not for Friends & Family payments).

If collecting an item, it is best to meet in daylight hours and take a friend with you.

For more advice on buying and selling online, please visit Online shopping | Hertfordshire Constabulary (herts.police.uk) and Get Safe Online | The UK's leading Online Safety Advice Resource

Remember - if it seems to good to be true, it's probably a scam.

 

Copper network switch off 2025

Scammers are already exploiting fears about the copper network switch-off in 2025 to target vulnerable customers. In particular, they are phoning people who use health devices that rely on the existing network, such as personal alarms that contact emergency services. They pretend to be from the NHS or your phone company and ask for personal details. Some threaten to disconnect you if you don't hand over your bank details. The warning comes from the Local Government Association (LGA), which says that 1.8 million people in the UK use telephone-based health devices.

New Scam WarningIt effects everyone with Telephones in the U.K. This was in this months Computer Active Magazine.

Copper Network Switch-off Scammers

What's the threat?

Scammers are already exploiting fears about the copper network switch-off in 2025 to target vulnerable customers. In particular, they are phoning people who use health devices that rely on the existing network, such as personal alarms that contact emergency services. They pretend to be from the NHS or your phone company and ask for personal details. Some threaten to disconnect you if you don't hand over your bank details. The warning comes from the Local Government Association (LGA), which says that 1.8 million people in the UK use telephone-based health devices.

How can you stay safe?

First, make a mental note that switching from a copper-based landline to a digital phone service won't cost you any money.


Nobody from councils, healthcare firms, phone providers or the NHS will ask you for a payment to upgrade. However, if you own a health alarm outright rather than lease it from a company, you may need to buy a new one to work beyond 2025.

The LGA said that some councils are offering protection to residents. Staffordshire County Council, for example, has installed 155 call blockers in the homes of vulnerable people, with 51 more to follow. It claims these devices block 95 per cent of nuisance and spam calls (see www.snipca.com/47682). Halton Borough Council, which covers Runcorn and Widnes, has sent out alerts and newsletters to residents to warn them about the scam.

For more details on the switch from copper to digital, read Issue 659's Cover Feature, 'Survive the Landline Switch-off" (pictured above left). It has details of which healthcare devices will continue to work, including Taking Care's Anywhere pendant (pictured above), which is a GPS tracker alarm and fall detector. You can buy that edition as a back issue from www.snipca.com/47665.

 

Catalytic Converters Theft

It is advised that when parking your car to prevent the theft of your catalytic converter you park as near as possible to a wall behind you so thieves can't access underneath your car to reach your catalytic converter.

 

Which scam report

Which? Scam Alert Team
Which offer a free scam alert for  anyone who may find it helpful. You can sign up here to receive this directly to your inbox.

 

Which Technical support

Which? offers a tech support service with remote support for a fixed monthly or annual fee, if your interested you can sign up below, or just click to see more information about the service they offer:
https://signup.which.co.uk/wlp-tech-support


 

 

October 2023

Non-emergency Police calls

Hertfordshire constabulary are asking residents how they contact the police in non-emergency situations and what changes they would like to see and why.

They would like to hear from the public on how they rate contact with the Constabulary in terms of visibility and accessibility.

Results from the survey will be used to review the public’s experience of using non-emergency contact channels and to help design future services that are attuned to local needs.

The survey will enable those who live and work in Hertfordshire to provide feedback on their preferred way of contacting the police in situations which do not require a 999 call, such as when there is no imminent danger, a crime has taken place but is no longer in process, or the matter does not require an immediate police response.

The questionnaire can be completed by following this link bit.ly/hertspolicecontact and it is open until October 15th 2023.

Thank you for taking the time to share your views.

Cannabis Factories

Hertfordshire Police are launching a campaign to raise awareness and encourage the reporting of suspected cannabis factories located within residential areas.

In June a national operation targeting cannabis cultivation going on within communities, resulted in 27 people being arrested and more than 3,200 cannabis plants being seized.


During 2023 more than 20 large scale cannabis factories have been found and shut down in Hertfordshire, however many more properties are suspected to be hiding these farms in streets across the county.

Cannabis factories can spell danger for the homes and people who live in neighbouring areas, from posing potential fire hazards, to increased crime, violence and anti-social behaviour.

Spot the signs of cannabis cultivation:

• A powerful distinctive sweet, sickly aroma
• Frequent visitors throughout the day and night
• Blacked out windows, or vents sealed/blocked to prevent the heat and smell of cannabis from inside the property escaping
• Chinks of bright light throughout the night
• Birds gathering on the roof, particularly in cold weather
• In winter, snow melting unusually quickly on the roof
• High levels of condensation on windows


  • Noise from fans
    • Large amounts of rubbish, including compost bags
    • Electricity meter being tampered with/altered and new cabling, sometimes leading to street lighting.

    If you suspect an address in your neighbourhood is being used to grow or deal drugs contact Hertfordshire Constabulary via the non-emergency number 101 or report information online at: bit.ly/op-applustre

Neighbourhood Watch

There is a current campaign to increase neighbourhood watch members.

Neighbourhood watch is a great way to keep your community safe, it strengthens communities, shares information about crime and safety and brings people together.

It is one of the most successful crime prevention initiatives ever and is based on the simple idea that you and your neighbours can help to reduce crime and create a better place to live and work.

By looking out for your neighbours, watching out for their homes while they are away, keeping an eye on those who are elderly or vulnerable and reporting anything suspicious to the police.

It’s connected to the OWL network which I have spoken about before and as a neighbourhood watch member you will also receive OWL updates.

To join neighbourhood watch WWW.ourwatch.org.uk and enter your details.

Slipper Swap

Pickup free slippers to prevent slips & trips.  Learn how to stay steady on your feet.  Get information to help with money and the cost of living.  Abbots Langley Library, 10am – 1pm, Wednesday 18th October 2023.  No booking needed.  Come for a cuppa and a chat.  For more information visit www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/slipperswap or call 0300 123 4049.

 

SCAM ALERT

There has been a warning about a scam involving ULEZ. People are receiving emails asking them to pay for the charge offering them a lower fine if they pay by return. It’s very important people check they are paying the ULEZ charge to TfL website

Paying the ULEZ charge - Transport for London (tfl.gov.uk) says:

You can pay by midnight on the third day following the journey or up to 90 days in advance. The daily charge is £12.50 for cars, motorcycles, vans and specialist vehicles (up to and including 3.5 tonnes) and minibuses (up to and including 5 tonnes).

Penalty charges for non-payment are £180 reduced to £90 if paid within 14 days.

If you spot a scam please report to Action Fraud which may help other people from losing their money to a fake website. 

 

BLUE BADGE HOLDERS

Motorists in Watford are being reminded to remove their blue parking permits from their vehicles overnight after police identified a recent rise in thefts.

Since Wednesday 9 August, there have been five incidents in Watford which a blue badge has been reported as stolen from a vehicle.

Inspector Dan Jones, who leads the Watford Safer Neighbourhood Team, said: “We’re urging those with disabled parking permits to remove them from their vehicles overnight, because we’ve identified a crime series where we believe vehicles have been targeted specifically for the badges.

“We know these permits are a lifeline for those with reduced or limited mobility and without one, it can sometimes be impossible for them to carry out their day-to-day activities.”

 

FACEBOOK

With thanks to Dave our study group co-ordinator we now have an active Facebook account I would like to encourage everyone who is on Facebook to to follow the page and I would like to post items and information on it. I will be responsible for the administration of the account so feel free to send me anything you would like to be put on it. I will pick up photos and information for the page so if anyone doesn’t want me to post anything that shows them, please let me know either by speaking to me or contacting me on my mobile or by email. We can also set up a private group page which would allow anyone who had joined the group to post pictures and information, if you think this would be a good thing to do and enough people would be interested in joining let me know. My details are email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or mobile: 07810058122.

The page is called:   ‘South West Herts u3a 2023’ 

https://www.facebook.com/photo/?fbid=106778962487016&set=a.106779242486988

 

OPALS Older Persons Activity Learning and Safety

An OPALS (Older Persons Activity Learning and Safety) event is taking place on Tuesday 15th August tomorrow at 10.30am at Holywell Community Centre, Chaffinch Lane, Watford, WD18 9QD. I sent the invitation out by email previously.

The aim of the OPALS event is to provide quality information, advice and help available within the local community on a wide range of services available to reduce vulnerability and provide reassurance, safe and wellbeing support and reduce loneliness.

All event guests will be seated and served refreshments and a Free hot meal. 

Representatives from a variety of agencies will move from table to table to give advice and details about the services they offer.

It is a free and sociable event, and a great opportunity to meet other residents in the local area.

Speakers at these events generally include representatives from Trading Standards, Herts Police Cyber / Fraud department, Herts Fire service, Victim Support, and many more 

Places are limited and are on a first come first served basis those of you that are on the OWL service can book these through Sandra Jackson who came to our general meeting. I have put her contact details on the website.

 

ROADWORKS

Did you know there are130 planned road works during August in Hertfordshire, if you want to find information on when and where any roadworks are taking place you can do this on the Herts Gov.uk site. I have put the full web address https://www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/services/highways-roads-and-pavements/roadworks-and-road-closures/roadworks-and-road-closures.aspx  

 

Live Longer Better in Hertfordshire Celebration Day

Herts Sports & Physical Activity Partnership would like to invite U3A members to the "Live Longer Better in Hertfordshire Celebration Day" taking place on September 7th 2023 at the University of Hertfordshire and Hertfordshire Sports Village. This event is free of charge to attend and lunch and refreshments will be provided.

The event’s aim is to promote the importance of physical activity for living longer better, and to heighten awareness of the range of opportunities available for getting and staying active aimed at those adults aged 50+.

The event will run from 9.30am-3.30pm and you are welcome to enjoy the whole day or come and go as you please. The day will feature a number of talks, interactive workshops, marketplace and practical physical activity and sport sessions.  A schedule of activities for the day will be released ahead of time, but to give you a flavour of what to expect there will be seated dance workshops, walking football, pickleball sessions and everything in between.

To book on for free, please register online here or phone 01707 281201. We hope to welcome as many people as possible and empower individuals to Live Longer Better 

 

Reach Out

Reach Out is looking for people in Hertfordshire who can spare an hour a week to help an elderly person in their local area who is home from hospital, or living with frailty, and feeling lonely and isolated. 

Reach Out offers companionship and practical support to people as they recover and rebuild their confidence. Many elderly people really appreciate someone popping in for a cuppa, or helping them by collecting small items of shopping for them. Reach Out links up people who are isolated with volunteers who can offer a friendly face and a chat.

Just giving a small amount of your time can make a huge difference. 

Find out more here https://www.reachout-project.org.uk/  

or contact Reach Out via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by calling 01462 689403.

Please only reply if you have information that the sender has asked for by tapping on this email address: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. If you want to discuss anything else or report a crime, please refer to the Police Contact Advice below.

 

Make Your Home Safer this Year 

More than three quarters of fire related deaths happen in the home. You can make sure that your home is safe by arranging a

Safe & Well visit from the Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service.

Safe & Well visits are carried out by uniformed technicians free of charge. You will receive advice on making your home safe and on staying well. Fire and Rescue Service will fit smoke detectors where necessary and check your existing ones. With a working smoke alarm, you are 4 times more likely to survive.

Safe & Well visits are available to anyone. It won’t cost you a penny, but it could save a life.

Everyone can benefit from fire safety advice, but some groups in our community may be at greater risk. Homes of older people, people with disabilities, those with visual or hearing impairments, people who hoard and those who use drugs or alcohol, may need greater consideration when it comes to fire safety. If you are caring for a family member or a friend, speak to them about fire risk. You can help them access the service and feel safer in their home. 

Help is available so visit HFSC (safelincs.co.uk) or telephone on 0300 123 4046

If you are worried about a young person’s or child’s behaviour around fire you can report it anonymously at Report dangerous behaviour around fire.

 

Arriva Click Watford on demand Transport App

Arriva Click is a flexible on demand service, it offers quick and convenient transport for multiple passengers going in the same direction. You register your details on the app, when you want to travel you enter your pick up and drop off points and times. It will then match you as near as possible and notify you the timing, pick up and drop off points it can offer. If we don't use this service Watford may loose it.

 

ArrivaClick | On-Demand Minibus Services & App | Arriva Bus

 

Warm spaces

Warm spaces is an initiative to offer places where people can go due to the increased cost of heating our homes. The link below is from Hertfordshire County Council. Libraries are also offering this. The Stanborough Church have introduced a warm space on Tuesdays from 10 to 12. If there is the demand they will look to increase availability. They are looking for volunteers to welcome visitors, offer a hot drink and maybe chat.

https://directory.hertfordshire.gov.uk/Search?categoryId=165

 

OWL On-line Community Watch

OWL keeps communities safe, helps reduce crime and keeps people informed of what's going on locally. 

It's a secure platform for the public and shared with the police and local authority to maximise the potential of Neighbourhood Watch, Rural Watch, Business Watch and dozens of other schemes. OWL sends you the latest local crime alerts and provides management tools for maintaining and expanding watches. Note you may also be eligible for a discount on your home insurance if you are a member.

https://www.owl.co.uk/

SPAM text OFCOM 7726

 

Too Good To Go - Delicious Food at a Third of the Price.

Every year, one-third of food is thrown away. Too Good to Go is trying to change that. Use the app to rescue Surprise Bags filled with delicious, unsold food from businesses near you.

https://toogoodtogo.co.uk/en-gb/consumer

 

Watford Borough Council - Cost of living support.

Advice and support is available from Watford Borough Council and a range of voluntary and community groups across the borough, we're here to help.

https://www.watford.gov.uk/cost-living-support

 

Keep Warm keep well

Tips for staying warm and well this winter:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/keep-warm-keep-well-leaflet-gives-advice-on-staying-healthy-in-cold-weather

       

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