A group of fraudsters are taking advantage of rising energy prices by selling consumers faulty plug-in energy-saving devices over the phone.
Costing £99, scammers claim the devices will shave up to 40% off energy bills but buyers are left with goods that are faulty and don't save any significant amount of energy.
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The products have failed electrical safety standards and Ron Gainsford, Trading Standards Institute chief executive, warns consumers against using them: "They pose a risk of fire and electrocution and a safety recall has been issued for the items traced so far."
Trading Standards has received 200 complaints but Gainsford says this is just "the tip of the iceberg". He also says elderly people appear to have been "deliberately targeted".
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The cold-callers perpetrating this scam usually know some of the customer's personal details, energy supplier and sometimes some or all of their card digits. They have also been giving out a fake company address of Oxford Street, London, W1.
"The address they give is that of a virtual office provider, the companies involved in these scams are not actually located there - we believe the call centre they use is based abroad and the appliances appear to be distributed by a number of individuals in the UK," says Sue Jones from Westminster Trading Standards, which has been investigating the scam.
So far, four different suppliers have been identified: 1 Stop Marketing solutions, ITC Development Corp, Power Saver and Athico Ltd. Trading standards warns fraudsters could be operating under other names and also points out that some names could be very similar to genuine companies.
Stop the fraudsters
Victims of the scam should report the calls to Action Fraud on its website actionfraud.org.uk or telephone 0300 123 2010 or call Consumer Direct on 0845 404 0506.
Also contact your bank or credit card lender to cancel any payments if you've bought one of the devices.
If you've received a plug-in device do not use it. Throw it away instead.