Consumer has been repaid after roofing scam (stock image)
In a dreadful year, our support has been more in demand than ever. Amid such anguish for consumers and businesses, describing the sums involved as “wins” does not seem right. But with often thousands of pounds at stake, say for a disputed cancelled holiday or helping a trader get the loan they needed to survive and bounce back, the overall amount is close to £1million. And that’s aside from the advice we have given so customers avoid the bear traps in the first place.
However we never forget either how devastating it is when you have little anyway and stand to lose it.
++ If you feel you’ve been a victim of injustice, please contact consumer and small business champion Maisha Frost on [email protected] ++
Covid fears and pressures affected most of the problems we took on, with scammers attempting to profiteer at every turn.
They traded on lockdown anxiety when they knocked on Alan Carter’s door, who was shielding because of cancer, scaring him and his wife about bogus holes in their roof.
Once they spooked the couple into giving permission to investigate they gouged the holes themselves, then demanding vast repair fees, standing over Alan while he tried to transfer the cash.
Part of a £350,000 spree by the crooks across north London, Alan felt the payment might have been prevented had he got more support from his bank, First Direct, at the time when he sought advice about paying.
A voluntary code many banks have signed up enables victims of Authorised Push Payment (APP) fraud, where consumers are tricked into paying scammers, to be reimbursed.
After a detailed investigation into the case, the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) has ruled Alan was the vulnerable victim of a scam and his complaint be upheld.
“FOS and The Crusader stuck with me all the way. I want this to give hope to others,” says Alan.
In July we exposed a brazen pet scam that conned a couple out of £850.
It profiteered from cruelly selling underage puppies and people wanting pets to ease isolation during lockdown.
The couple were left coping with the heartbreak of putting their new puppy to sleep just days of welcoming him into their home.
Covid chaos led to hundreds of complaints about holiday bookings and lettings firms.
We helped Caron and Daniel Fitzgerald get their £850 deposit back from tour operator Loveholidays for a spa package trip after they discovered the hotel would not be open.
We also fought successfully for customers, understandably reacting to travel restrictions and risks, who then found themselves accused of disqualifying themselves to any refund on the grounds they were the one who cancelled.
Holiday lettings firms felt the beady eye of watchdog The Competitions and Markets Authority on them.
A full £1,749 refund from Sykes Holiday Cottages has made the world of difference to Donald Beck and his wife, after ill-health obliged them to shield and pull out of a booking made before lockdown but due to go ahead after restrictions had been eased.
Ferociously expensive equipment leasing contracts have been the ruin of many smaller firms and organisations.
In September we highlighted the plight of charity The Missing Kind (TMK), which supports the vulnerable and lonely.
It continues to fight off a £96,000 court action involving a deal for two second-hand printers. “But we are still open and won’t give in,” vows TMK’s Tom Gaskin.
Evil men sold ill puppies (stock image)
And then there were the furious gardeners, in their thousands seeking solace in greenery during lockdown, whose orders with online sellers wilted in warehouses.
Everyone of those who complained to us we have tried to help.
Stay safe dear readers, we will keep doing our best for you in 2021.
* Alan’s name has been changed