IF you think the Government fees for either renewing your passport, getting a health card or a driving licence seem high, this may be the best route if you don’t want to get ripped off. Her Majesty’s Passport Office charges £72.50 for making an online application, but if you decide to shop around you won’t save money – in fact you’ll be hit in the pocket. The Passport Office charge is the standard fee and you can’t shop around for a cheaper deal. However some people have turned to the internet and have been miseld into believing they are logged onto the official Government site. In fact they are logged onto a site run by a private company – a site that often imitates the official site – but one that will cost you almost double what it should do. Because these rogue sites often charge a fee of between £40-£49 on top of the official £72.50 and although they are vdoing nothing illegal you are paying for something that you can get for nothing. Rogue websites are using Google to cash in on people searching for official information on everything from passports to health cover and fishing licences. Private companies have set up websites that mimic those run by official government bodies, but hit users with hefty fees. Significantly, they pay Google to ensure that their names and adverts appear on the front page of searches when families are looking for information.
As a result, a large number of Britons are being diverted to commercial websites that carry charges for forms and information which should be cheaper or free. Several companies have created copycat websites which provide the same service for up to £121.50 – a rise of 68 per cent. People travelling to EU countries are entitled to a European health card, which ensures free emergency care. This is free of charge from an official government website, but copycat commercial firms charge £23. The DVLA website charges £20 for a driver who wants to change their paper licence to a photocard, however the copycats carry a fee of £50. Her Majesty’s Passport Office has made several complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority about the problem, but the ASA has the power to only name and shame, rather than impose fines or a ban. A spokesman said: “It is totally unacceptable that unscrupulous companies are continuing to trick people into paying for information which is available free of charge.
WHEN we buy a branded product we expect to get what we pay for. The rule of law, administered and upheld by an independent judiciary, makes it nearly certain that when we go into a store and buy an iPod, we will get something manufactured by Apple that does exactly what we expect it to.
These days, you can’t be so certain that the same will be true for the medicines you get from the pharmacy. Counterfeit drugs are now a booming global business. Over the last two years, the number of counterfeit drug cases examined by the FDA doubled, and it is estimated that such drugs now account for over 10 per cent of the global market.
While a large portion of those sold in the US are ‘lifestyle’ drugs such as Viagra, a host of other fakes are finding their way into the medicine cabinets of people with life-threatening conditions. Racketeers now produce fakes of all classes of drugs, including medicines for cancer, anti-hypertension, cholesterol, obesity and even human growth hormone.
Recently, customs agents seized a large shipment of fake Tamiflu, currently one of only two drugs that can provide treatment in the event of an Avian Flu pandemic. At their best, counterfeit drugs lack adequate quantities of the active ingredient; meaning sick people are not getting the doses they need. But they can also contain substances that are actually harmful, such as when anti-freeze was fatally added to cough syrup in Haiti.
Counterfeit drugs can also render genuine, branded drugs useless
If they contain too little of the active ingredient, such drugs may act like an “inoculation” to the virus, bacterium or parasite they are designed to kill. The Internet is currently awash with fake Tamiflu, which, in the event of an Avian Flu pandemic, could help the virus mutate into new, drug resistant strains.
This is a very real and frightening prospect: It is already happening with malaria. Counterfeiters around the world have cashed in on the massive demand for the latest and most effective anti-malarial drug, Artemisinin. Over half the drugs sold in Southeast Asia contain incorrect levels of the active ingredient. As a result, drug resistance to anti-malarials is becoming disastrous—more than 100,000 people die each year as a result of fake anti-malarials in Southeast Asia alone.
The same is true for the antiretroviral drugs used to treat HIV-AIDS. The effectiveness of even the latest drugs is undermined by drug-resistant forms of the HIV virus—largely due to counterfeits.
The gravity of counterfeits prompted the World Health Organization to hold a conference in Rome last month to develop an international framework to address the problem. But no global treaty can overcome the reality that fake medicines are the product of increasingly organized criminal gangs who feed on the weaknesses of the legal systems that characterize the majority of less-developed countries.
When properly upheld, the rule of law—contract law, civil law and property rights—ensures that entrepreneurs can participate freely in the market, ensuring economic growth and progress. When the rule of law is weak or arbitrary, as it is in the majority of lower-income countries, people are forced into the black market as a way of sidestepping the bribes and uncertainty of conducting business legally.
In addition to being responsible for decades of economic underperformance in Africa and other continents, this situation is also to blame for the increasing numbers of dangerous fake drugs finding their way into the US. There are several reasons why this is so. First, when there are few legitimate business opportunities, people will be driven to crime to support themselves. Counterfeiting is a high-profit, low-risk business, so it offers an easy way to make a fast buck.
Second, countries with corrupt law-enforcement bodies will not necessarily act when a counterfeiting ring is discovered. Often, the criminals in charge of the operation can bribe or even intimidate the police and courts to make them turn a blind eye.
Third, countries that have weak civil liability law provide few opportunities for those harmed by counterfeit medicines to seek redress. Cases can take many years to progress through under-resourced—and sometimes corrupt—courts. This gives an almost free rein to the racketeers.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, countries that do not enforce trademark laws make life a cinch for counterfeiters. Weak trademark law means that companies cannot protect their trademarks, or “brands,” which are the main means by which they signal the quality of their product to a consumer. When consumers cannot tell the difference between a fake and the real thing, counterfeiters get a free ride.
China and India are two of the main sources of the counterfeit drugs that are increasingly infiltrating the UK market
Despite their recent economic advancements, they are still hobbled by an arbitrary, uneven and sometimes corrupt administration of the law. Fakes are also flowing into the US from nearer neighbors, such as Costa Rica and Mexico, as well as from Africa.
Twenty million packages containing pharmaceuticals are mailed into the US every year, while many other fakes seep into the supply chain from unscrupulous overseas wholesalers. These are often undetectable without sophisticated testing equipment.
When officials gathered in Rome last month, the talk was of some kind of international framework to co-ordinate action against counterfeits. This is a start, but does not go to the heart of the problem—weak rule of law. This is not just some arcane side issue. It goes right to the heart of African nations’—and other countries’—failure to progress economically, and is the main reason why the trade in fake goods is increasing.
Rather than wait for the WHO to come up with a grandiose plan, governments in countries where fake drugs are manufactured should act immediately to improve the situation. That means undertaking legal reforms to bolster the free and fair functioning of courts of law. Fail to address this, and we can never be certain that the drugs we entrust our lives with will heal rather than kill.
IT’S years since I went to Whitechapel in the heart of London’s East End. I suppose the last time was to look at an alleged bullet hole left by the notorious Kray Twins in the woodwork of the Blind Beggar pub. That was a genuine piece of criminal folklore, but walk along the road in Whitechapel High Street these days and there is nothing genuine about what’s happening there.
The most obvious crime being committed is the selling of counterfeit cds and dvds. The latest films all being touted by gangs of Chinese men and women in full view of market traders.And when we went to Pizza Hut that same evening in nearby Leyton, some four miles or so away, the same Chinese gangs were there too openly offering “good quality copies” of top films.
At five for a tenner there was no shortage of people wanting to buy and the gangs anxious to sell quickly, always having one eye on the money and the other eye on Old Bill coming round the corner.But what is happening every week in Whitechapel and Leyton is happening every day up and down the country. The films are never great quality and you’ll often find someone getting up in their seat and walking across the screen or coughing during the screening of the film. So you’re only getting what you pay for – bad quality copies. And illegal one’s too.
Counterfeit goods are everywhere and not just dvds and cds. Copies of Rolex, Cartier, Dunhill, Omega and other top watches, even clothes made to look like a top fashion house, can be found in high street’s, in markets, at boot sales and even in pubs.It’s that old nudge, nudge, wink, wink attitude. “Wanna buy some cheap perfunme” or “fancy a nice watch for the wife”. They will tell you the articles are genuine and are so good with the patter you’ll believe them.
But they are about as genuine as a politician’s speech. Even respectable, legitimate businesses can be taken in and end up selling dodgy items without knowing it. Go to any market or boot sale and you will find Louis Vuitton bags – probably the most-copied of them all – Cartier watches, Nike trainers, Adidias sweatshirts, Boss perfume all at ridiculously cheap prices, far too cheap to be the real thing.
Many small market traders carry items like that, or knock-off football and rugby shirts. It’s part of their stock in trade, although the cleverer ones won’t have them on obvious display in case Trading Standards come around. Go to any outdoor market in the country and you can probably find something that’s fake, be it clothing, trainers, foodstuffs or even a Dyson vacuum cleaner. The things people wouldn’t normally imagine being faked, even brand-name toilet paper, are there. The rule of thumb is that if it seems too cheap to be real, then it’s almost certainly fake.
To be fair, you won’t find too many designer knock-offs at car boot sales. But in amongst the junk you can often find pirated trading cards, CDs, video games and DVDs. They’re usually very easy to spot – the DVDs will often have photocopied covers, and they’ll generally be titles that are still on general release in the cinema rather than in the shops. The CDs won’t have the full printed booklets, and the games might well only have the title handwritten on the CD. With trading cards, though, sometimes the production and presentation is very professional indeed, and it needs someone familiar with the items (generally someone who’s an avid collector) to tell the real from the fake.
Online auctions like e-Bay are a haven for the counterfeiter. It’s easy to convince with a description and a photo (generally of the real thing), so it’s only when the buyer receives the goods that they see it’s a fake – and by then they’ve parted with their money. If the item is convincing enough, they might not even care, as long as they’ve snagged a bargain. Unfortunately, in spite of all they say and the user guides they publish, auction sites often do very little to battle counterfeiters. A good rule of thumb is that those D&G glasses, or any other expensive item that’s supposedly new, with a starting price of a penny, is not going to be the real thing.
There are also those shops that spring up overnight then vanish a short while later selling suspiciously cheap, supposedly brand-name merchandise. The odds are that it’ll be fake – if they were truly legitimate they wouldn’t leave as quickly and as quietly as they arrived. So if you want to get the real thing go to a long established shop that sell the genuine article all year round – and not just an overnight fly-by-night.
PIRATE DVDs, CDs and video games are usually poor quality Criminals generate around £200m a year from DVD piracy in the UK, making it the second worst affected market for DVD piracy in the world after the US. Film piracy is not only damaging to legitimate film making and distribution, but proceeds also contribute to wider organised crime. And it’s not only films and DVDs that are targeted by counterfeiters. Pirate or copied video games and CDs are also readily available to buy and download illegally.
The dangers of pirate DVDs, CDs and video games
It’s not just manufacturers who suffer as a result of piracy – consumers get a raw deal too. Pirate films, CDs and video games are usually of a poor quality, both in terms of their build and playback – some may not even work at all. Pirate movies may have been filmed inside a cinema, leading to picture obstructions, distorted sound quality and fuzzy details.
Many pirate console games will only play in machines that have been specifically altered or ‘chipped’ to play pirate console games. Chipping your machine will invalidate the warranty, could damage it and may lead to the machine being remotely inactivated by the console manufacturer. Downloading films, music and games is illegal and could leave you liable to prosecution if you’re caught. You may download more than you bargained for too, as download sites are rife with viruses and other malicious software.
How to spot pirate DVDs, CDs and video games
Check out the seller and shop Does the seller seem genuine? Examine your surroundings and the context in which goods are offered. Markets, car boot sales and street sellers are prime situations for sales of DVDs, CDs and computer games. According to the Anti-Counterfeiting Group, 33% of pirate DVD buyers and 29% of pirate CD buyers purchase pirate media at car boot sales or markets.
Examine product packaging
DVD, CD or video game packaging should be the same as you would expect to see in a high-street shop with no spelling mistakes and all words written in English (except foreign-language films). Don’t buy products with poorly printed or ill-fitting covers. If new, the package should be sealed and wrapped in a clear covering.
Look at the disc
CD discs that are coloured rather than silver are likely to be pirated If you can open the box, take a look at the disc. It should be free of scratches with one printed surface. Consider rejecting discs that are easy to see though, lack a printed side or show disc manufacturer logos (such as Maxell or TDK). DVD or CD discs that are coloured rather than silver are likely to be pirated.
Take notice of release dates
Has the film, album or computer game been released yet in the UK? If not, it could be pirated. Retailers of genuine products will never sell products before their official release date.
Beware large discounts
Think about how much the CD, DVD or computer game should cost new. If the seller has priced the disc at a large discount, it may be a pirate copy.
Check out feedback scores
If you’re buying from an online seller (such as those advertising on eBay or Amazon Marketplace), check the level and type of feedback the seller has from previous buyers. Buyers may have left negative feedback after being sold pirate DVDs, CDs or computer games. Read our eBay tips and tricks guide for advice on using auction sites.
Do your homework
Research the DVD, CD or computer game you want to buy. Find out how many versions have been officially released, how many discs they box should contain and what, if any, special features they have. Our online retailers survey can help you find top rated DVD, CD or computer game retailers.
Be region aware
The majority of recently released DVDs are encoded to be watched only in certain countries or ‘regions’ (though your DVD player may be able to play DVDs from other regions too). DVDs legally for sale in the UK should be marked on the back as Region 2. DVDs advertised as ‘region free’ or ‘Region 0,’ particularly online, are often counterfeit.
Poor picture and sound quality are key ways of identifying pirate DVDs. Menus and subtitles may be in a foreign language and pre-presentation copyright warnings may be absent or from a different country (for example an FBI copyright warning will often be present if a DVD has been copied from a US disc).
PEOPLE living in rural areas of the country may be just as vulnerable as those living in towns and cities to identity crimes, a new report has warned. Traditionally people were thought to be more at risk of being targeted if they lived in major urban areas as it gave fraudsters more opportunity to operate under a cloak of anonymity.
The latest research, however, warns that the internet is allowing people to target victims remotely from around the world. Figures there were more than 55,000 cases of personal fraud, including identity theft, recorded at homes across the Yorkshire region last year. Personal fraud figures showed urban areas including Sheffield and Leeds are being hit especially hard. They were supplied by Cifas, the UK’s fraud prevention service, which has published its latest report, Identity Crime: On Your Doorstep, in collaboration with Ordnance Survey, highlighting how criminals are changing tactics. Richard Hurley, Cifas communications manager, said yesterday: “The findings of this report confirm that everyone is vulnerable to fraud and that anybody can fall victim.” The report shows that in Leeds and parts of North Yorkshire there were between 3.79 and 6.18 frauds per 1,000 victims – a figure that is higher than many other parts of the country including Edinburgh, though victim numbers in areas such as London and Birmingham are higher. The fraud watchdog says analysis of frauds in 2012 shows a shift in tactics with criminals now able to successfully target people living in rural communities with data they have found onlin Previously, crooks raided bins outside apartment blocks for discarded bills or other information, or intercepted post for addresses and the personal details they needed to pose as somebody else and buy goods and open accounts in their name. The report warns that rural areas, are particularly susceptible to some identity crimes such as those where criminals hack into a person’s bank or another person’s account to launder money or steal cash. Organised crime is frequently linked to the scams but the watchdog – which collates fraud figures from banks, mail order and savings companies – says in some cases the con artists are known to their victims.
MULVIE Wright, a 76-year-old widow from St Agnes, Cornwall, died suddenly from a brain haemorrhage in 2007. It was a terrible shock for her family, and their grief was compounded when they made a disturbing discovery after going through her effects in the annexe of her daughter’s house, where she lived. “Upstairs in her bedroom we found boxes and boxes of correspondence from fake clairvoyants,” recalls her daughter, Louise. The family found that for the last 12 months of her life Mrs Wright had on a daily basis been writing, and paying money, to 34 bogus ‘psychics’ based in Luxembourg, Switzerland, the US and Ireland. “We thought she’d been going out for walks, but she had actually been going to post these letters by registered mail,” says Louise. In one month alone, Mrs Wright paid £400 to bogus clairvoyants. To many people, unsolicited letters from phoney psychics or clairvoyants offering predictions or the promise of healing properties seem a blatant scam – less plausible even than the infamous Nigerian scams, where confidence tricksters claim to be associates of President Abacha of Nigeria, (or, more recently, Saddam Hussein) persuading hapless victims to deposit money into a bank account in the hope of receiving a larger sum. But the reality is that both are effective because the con men target the vulnerable. Figures from the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) reveal that more than 170,000 people fell victim to clairvoyant scams, losing an average of £240 each. An estimated 70,000 victims were ripped off by the ‘Nigerian’ scams, at a total cost of £340m. Jackie Snow, team leader at Cornwall’s Trading Standards Office, has read the letters that Mrs Wright was flooded with over the last months of her life. “They were particularly nasty,”she says. “They work by frightening people into doing all kinds of things, including parting with money.” Snow’s office has issued a warning about corresponding with a ‘clairvoyant-astrologer’ who calls herself Samantha, after menacing letters were sent out widely in the area bearing an Austrian address and enclosing a jack of spades playing card. “This letter reveals worrying events concerning your future,” began one of the ‘Samantha’ letters sent to Mrs Wright. “It is the jack of spades card which dominated the deck of your destiny – a symbol of treason and disaster that you must absolutely destroy in order to avert the curse!’ Another fake psychic (‘ever present to protect and assist you’), wrote bullying letters claiming that she was missing out on untold fortunes from a lottery win (‘Dear Mulvie, Quite honestly I was expecting a reply from you. Even today I was impatiently waiting for the mailman…’). The OFT acknowledges that it does not know who is behind these malevolent cons. But they are clearly commercial companies rather than business-minded individuals, reckons Mike Lambourne, head of its ‘Scambusters’ campaign. He explains that the scammers buy an address list from ‘a list broker’ and identify target groups such as those interested in psychic phenomena. Those who respond are added to a ‘suckers list’ and the scammer sells the names on to other con artists. According to Lambourne, those who respond to the initial approach ‘typically find themselves deluged by scam mailings and often lose thousands of pounds, causing not only financial detriment but also deleterious effects on their health’. Louise Wright is convinced that the scammers’ letters contributed to her mother’s failing health and may have led to her death. “She had become increasingly withdrawn and wasn’t communicating with us,’ she says. “She had become obsessed by winning money which we didn’t need. She had high blood pressure, which she was on medication for, and was becoming more and more stressed.” The OFT has tried to contact a number of the clairvoyants but, unsurprisingly, none has responded. Most letters come from outside Europe, where the OFT has no enforcement powers. “We’ve written to our counterparts in Switzerland, where the majority of [European-based] psychics have return addresses, asking them to shut down the PO boxes used by the psychics and share any intelligence on those responsible for the mailings,” Lambourne adds. Louise Wright is still coming to terms with her mother’s death. “She was a very fit and active 76-year-old. Every day she would dig her vegetable garden,” says Louise. In 2006, Mulvie Wright was diagnosed as clinically depressed. “I think she became vulnerable to depression in the winter, when she couldn’t work in the greenhouse,”says Louise. Mrs Wright only spoke to her daughter once about the letters, when she received one from a psychic claiming to have walked past her house and felt ‘a sense of evil’.
FORMER Chancellor George Osborne gave everyone over 55 the right to cash in their retirement pot this year despite fears that it would lead to criminals dreaming up schemes to cheat you out of your money. But since Osborne launched those reforms pension scam losses TREBLED in just one month after he announced the new deal. The City of London police has revealed losses from pension liberation fraud jumped 235 per cent to £4.7m in May — up from £1.4m in April when savers were given greater flexibility to spend pension cash as they wished. The leap comes after consumer groups and MPs warned that greater safeguards were needed to protect people from losing their life savings to swindlers. Some of the tactics used by pension scammers include offering free pension reviews, health checks and promises of better returns on their savings, pension loans, upfront cash or other promotions to tempt them. Most of these are bogus. Some scammers are also directing members to transfer their pension savings into small (often one or two member) occupational schemes in an attempt to escape scrutiny from regulators. Once you’ve transferred your money into a scam, it’s too late. You could end up losing all your pensions savings and face a tax bill of up to 55%. The Pension Service has now issued a series of tips to make you aware of the tricks that fraudsters will try so that you don’t find your retirement pot has disappeared. Scammers will try any of the following: 1. A cold call, text message, website pop-up or someone coming to your door offering you a ‘free pension review’, ‘one-off investment opportunity’ or ‘legal loophole’. 2. Convincing marketing materials that promise you returns of over 8%. 3. Paperwork delivered to your door that requires immediate signature. 4. A proposal to put your money in a single investment and claim that you can access your pension before age 55.
Is ‘pension unlocking’ a scam? No. With pension unlocking, a person aged 55 or over can release up to 25% of their total pension as a tax free lump sum. Unlocking your pension will almost certainly mean you will have less income in retirement and, as a result, unlocking is only suitable for a very limited number of people and circumstances.
THERE’S an old saying – beware of Greeks bearing gifts. Well police are now warning householders to beware of any doorstep callers bearing gifts – in particular deliveries of wine and roses. The warning comes after a couple in St. Albans had a phone call from someone claiming to be Express A Couriers asking if they were going to be home because there was a package for them, and the caller said that he delivery would arrive at their home in roughly an hour. Sure enough, about an hour later, a delivery man turned up with a beautiful basket of flowers and wine. The householder was very surprised since it did not involve any special occasion or holiday, and they certainly were not expecting anything. Intrigued about who would send them such a gift, they inquired as to who the sender was. The deliveryman said he was only delivering the gift package, But allegedly a card was being sent separately; (the card has never arrived!). There was also a consignment note with the gift and he then went on to explain that because the gift contained alcohol, there was a £3.00 “delivery charge” as proof that he had actually delivered the package to an adult, and not just left it on the doorstep to just be stolen or taken by anyone. This sounded logical and they offered to pay him cash. He then said that the company required the payment to be by credit or debit card so that everything is properly accounted for. The husband, who, by this time, was standing beside his wife, pulled his debit card out of his wallet and ‘John’, the “delivery man”, asked the husband to swipe the card on the small mobile card machine which had a small screen and keypad where he was also asked to enter the card’s PIN and security number. A receipt was printed out and given to them. To their surprise, between Thursday and the following Monday, £4,000 had been withdrawn from their account at various ATM machines, particularly in the Midlands area! It appears that somehow the mobile credit card machine which the deliveryman carried was able to duplicate and create a “dummy” card with all their card details after the husband swiped their card and entered the requested PIN and security number. After finding out it was an illegal transactions they immediately notified their bank and the account was closed. They also personally went to the police, where it was confirmed that they had definitely been scammed because several households have been similarly hit. This is a clever new ploy by fraudsters and police in the Midlands have warned other forces so they can put residents on alert.
WARNING: Be wary of accepting any “surprise gift or package”, which you neither expected nor personally ordered, especially if it involves any kind of payment as a condition of receiving the gift or package. Also, never accept anything if you do not personally know or there is no proper identification of who the sender is. Above all, the only time you should give out any personal credit/debit card information is when you yourself initiated the purchase or transaction!
Marketed as something that would cover you if you should fall ill or lose your job, payment protection insurance (PPI) is commonly sold alongside loans, credit and store cards, and mortgages. But while the concept is good, the product itself has plenty of flaws. Firstly, a lot of PPI is sold as a ‘single premium policy’ – this is where a lump sum is added to the amount you have borrowed. The result is that you have to pay interest on your insurance premium as well as your loan. PPI is also fairly expensive. For example, based on a five-year £7,500 loan, monthly repayment with PPI costs £201.61 – £52.37 more than the monthly repayments of £149.24 without the cover. At the end of the term, you would have paid £3,142 for your PPI, adding 30% to your final bill. Not only does a PPI policy come with a hefty price tag, but it’s also full of exclusions compared with other protection insurance products. “The small print is very small, so to speak, and it’s difficult to claim,” warns financial manager at getmemymortgage.co.uk For example, the conditions most people claim for, such as back pain and stress, are generally not covered, and if you are on a short-term contract, work part-time or are self-employed, then you may not be eligible to claim on your policy at all. PPI policies aren’t long-term either: most don’t pay out for more than 12 months (although some pay up to 24 months), so if you’re not able to return to work within a year, your payouts will stop. Instead of paying for this cover, check with your employer to see what kind of sick pay it would offer you should you become ill or suffer an injury. If you don’t feel it’s sufficient, you could consider taking out an income protection insurance policy, which is a more comprehensive insurance product that would not only pay out until you return to work or retire, but would also cover common conditions such as back pain and mental health problems.
Any new goods you buy will have a manufacturer’s guarantee that will last for at least one year – this renders extended warranties pointless for the first year after purchase. Depending on the product, extended warranties will typically cover you from two to five years. However, Cathy Neal, senior researcher at Which?, explains that in most cases the time period offered by extended warranties is still short enough for manufacturers and retailers to feel fairly confident that they won’t need to make a payout. “They pretty much know that nothing is going to go wrong in that time,” says Perkins. He cites his own example of buying a TV last month: “The shop offered me a five-year extended warranty. I asked it: ‘Are you telling me that after five years it’s going to break?’ If it does, then I’ll have to pay for either a repair or a new TV anyway, so what’s the point of buying a warranty as well?” In addition to the manufacturer’s guarantee, under the 1979 Sale of Goods Act, retailers are liable to pay for any repairs or replacements to items they have sold that develop faults or don’t function properly within a short time of their purchase. For products expected to last longer, traders could be liable to compensate you for up to six years. A lot of extended warranties only cover mechanical breakdown and not general wear and tear. So read the small print, and watch out for exclusion clauses. The only way to address unfair exclusion fees is through the courts – and retailers and manufacturers alike rely on the reluctance of consumers to go through this process. Also watch out for cashback warranties, which promise to refund all of your premiums if you don’t claim on the policy for a fixed period. These may sound great, but they require customers to register within a short time of buying the warranty. If you miss the deadline, you could lose your right to the cashback at the end of the term.
Mobile phone insurance
You’ve just bought a brand-new mobile phone, and while it seems inconceivable that you would drop your precious toy, let alone leave it behind somewhere, you could be forgiven for thinking that getting mobile phone insurance is a priority. Mobile phone insurance costs anything from £5 to £15 a month but tends to pay out only if your phone is stolen. Also, depending on the level of cover, the excess ranges from £10 to £50. For expensive smart phones, such as iphones, this is only a fraction of the total cost of the handset, but considering that you can buy most standard phones for the total excess, it represents much worse value for money for the average mobile phone owner. Phone salesmen will invariably tell you that insurance is essential, but just as cover for your dishwasher and TV might be included under your home contents insurance, your mobile phone is likely to be protected under this policy too. Look for an ‘all-risk’ home contents policy. Although it will cost slightly more, this will cover items such as mobile phones and mp3 players, even when they’re not in your home, and will insure against accidental damage and loss as well as theft.
ID theft cover
Banks are especially astute when it comes to marketing these products. If you’ve been in the unenviable position of having to call up to cancel stolen bank cards or report fraudulent activity, after the tea-and-sympathy act, the operator will often take the opportunity to tell you about the particular provider’s ID theft-cover package. If you’ve been a recent victim of theft, and are therefore feeling a little more vulnerable than usual, signing up to this kind of cover might seem like a sensible move. But is it really worthwhile? Premiums cost approximately £7 a month; however, any loss as a result of theft is covered under the Banking Code, which costs you nothing. So what do you get for the extra £7? With ID cover, you can see your credit record, and you’ll be alerted if someone has checked your credit report or committed any fraudulent activity. It also offers you expert advice from trained professionals. “But banks can’t really do much more than you can do yourself,” says Neal. For example, the government’s fraud prevention service, CIFAS, provides free advice, and you can check your credit report for a one-off £2 fee with one of the three main credit agencies, Experian, Equifax or Callcredit. If you want regular access to your report it will cost you around £10, but bear in mind that even with this service no agency can repair your credit status.