Carol (not her real name*) was pleasantly surprised when she turned up for her appointment at Citizens Advice. She was having difficulty with a furniture shop from which she had bought a two seater sofa, which had literally broken ten months after she bought it. A friend recommended she seek help from her local CAB.
Carol did not have a clear picture in her mind of what to expect from the CAB adviser she met. She was however surprised to find how quickly and efficiently the adviser had ascertained the relevant facts and directed her to web pages on the Citizens Advice website which set out her rights and gave her advice on how to proceed. Armed with this information, Carol was happy to take the next steps herself, confident that if she met any further difficulties she could go back to Citizens Advice Waverley (CAW) for more help.
She might have asked herself how a local charity like Citizens Advice Waverley can provide such an effective service? The answer is in two parts. Firstly it is the quality of its volunteer advisers. Secondly, Citizens Advice Waverley is a member of the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux, which oversees adviser training and the quality of advice provided by local offices (although as local charities we receive no financial support from the national organisation or central Government). Citizens Advice Waverley relies on the support of the local authority and town and parish councils, and on donations from local groups and individuals.
Another important aspect of the work the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux does is to use the data gathered by local offices anonymously to take part in national campaigns. Scams Awareness Month (which is taking place right now) is an example. It seems that there has been a marked increase in the number of people falling victim to scammers posing as professionals from financial and legal services organisations reported to Citizens Advice in the last year.
Investment scams in particular – such as cryptocurrency, binary option investments and holiday timeshares – are on the rise; the number of cases reported to Citizens Advice doubled this year compared to last.
One former finance professional fell for a sophisticated clone investment scam, investing £25,000 in a company she thought was legitimate. The scammer had set up a clone website in a regulated investment company’s name so it appeared to be legitimate. Citizens Advice helped her to report the scam to Action Fraud, her bank and the police. A working mother turned to Citizens Advice after realising her cryptocurrency investment was a scam. She initially invested £500 in what she thought was Bitcoin and continued to invest to a total of £40,000 under daily telephone pressure. Citizens Advice helped her take appropriate action.
Here are some types of scam of which to beware
- Cryptocurrency – Fake websites claim to offer cryptocurrency investments, like Bitcoin. Often, scammers will pretend that household names have endorsed the company to give it some legitimacy
- Binary options – Scammers pose as stockbrokers and get you to place bets on whether phoney shares will rise or fall within a certain date range, promising big returns. Check if they are on the FCA Register and not on the warning list of firms to avoid.
- Bogus solicitors – A scammer will pose as a legitimate solicitor having intercepted emails from them. Scammers often strike when a property is being bought and sold diverting funds transferred on exchange to their own bank account instead. Always check that destination bank account details are genuine before agreeing to transfer funds.
Worried about something?
Don’t put it off – Citizens Advice Waverley can almost certainly help.
For free, independent, confidential advice call:
0344 848 7969
You can follow CAW on https://twitter.com/waverleycab
* This is a representative story of someone in need of support. Client confidentiality is never breached.