Time running out to save hundreds of pounds on your energy bills
Coventry council running Switch and Save scheme - but the deadline to register is this Wednesday.
Coventry City Council is encouraging residents to sign up to the Switch and Save scheme.
The collective switching scheme is run in partnership with iChoosr, one of the country’s leading collective switching organisations, but households in Coventry must register before Wednesday, May 13.
Earlier this year, iChoosr ran a similar scheme in which 98 per cent of the people who registered were able to save money, with the average saving being £236 a year.
After the closing date, the energy companies will bid against each other for the opportunity to supply energy to the registered households and the company which bids the lowest price will win the auction. The more homes in the scheme, the lower the price should be.
iChoosr will get in touch with residents to inform them of how much they could save if they choose to switch to the winning company. If they choose to switch, iChoosr will negotiate the transfer and there will be no effort required by the household and no obligation to switch.
Michael Checkley, Sustainability and Low Carbon Manager at Coventry City Council, said: “We’ve all noticed a gradual drop in energy prices over the last few months but there are still more savings to be had. A few minutes finding out how much energy you use and registering for Switch and Save could save you hundreds of pounds a year.
“In the past there were hundreds of energy tariffs on offer, some were complicated and were not easy to compare because of features like cashback deals. Switch and Save will offer a simple and straightforward tariff so that people can see exactly what they can save if they choose to switch.
“Many people are still paying too much for their energy - we really want to help those people get a better deal. The more people that register, the better deal we can get for everyone, so it’s really worth taking a few minutes to register and finding out what you could save.”
You can register for Switch and Save online at www.coventry.gov.uk/switch, by calling 024 7678 6603 or by filling in a form in at a Coventry library. 
Beware of Nepal earthquake scam appeals
We are highlighting the need for people looking to donate to appeals to support the victims of the recent earthquake in Nepal to ensure they are donating through genuine routes.
Often, following these types of event large number of emails, websites and social media posts appear either claiming to have exclusive video or pleading for donations for the disaster relief efforts. Sadly some of these will be fraudulent or will have attachments or links to sites which will attempt to infect your computer or device with malware or viruses.
If you want to donate to charities looking to help the victims of the Nepalese earthquake ensure you:
  • Donate directly to reputable charitable organisations
  • Can find a physical address and phone number for the charity
  • Never respond to requests via unsolicited emails
  • Do not open links or attachments received in unexpected emails
More details of the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) Appeal. 
Warning on counterfeit goods ahead of May Bank Holiday markets and car boots
Think of going to a car boot sale over the Bank Holiday weekend? Then watch out for counterfeit goods.
Counterfeit items harm the economy and can harm people. Good previously seized from local markets have mostly been illicit tobacco products and unsafe cosmetics. 
Counterfeit goods are shoddy imitations and will leave people out of pocket and could cause serious harm. Fake electrical goods can cause fires and electrocution whilst cosmetics such as make up may have high lead levels.  
Legitimate traders suffer as a result of counterfeit sales; harming the local economy in the process. Money made also goes into the pockets of organised criminal gangs. 
Some of the hidden dangers of counterfeit goods include: 
  • Counterfeit alcohol such as vodka may contain dangerous chemicals which can cause health problems such as blindness 
  • Counterfeit perfume can often burn skin or leave a nasty rash and may contain lead 
  • Fake sunglasses often offer no UVA protection, causing eye damage 
  • Fake tobacco often contains unknown chemicals, higher tar levels and cigarettes can be a fire risk as they do not burn out like legitimate products 
  • Counterfeit children's toys can often be unsafe with unsuitable small parts and children's clothes may be inflammable
Court hearing scam email
Fraudsters have been sending out legitimate looking spoofed emails designed to trick recipients into installing malware.
The emails say you have been notified and scheduled to appear at a court hearing, and contains specific dates, times, locations and reference numbers.
It asks you to download a copy of the “court notice” but the downloadable .zip file actually contains an .exe file (a file that executes when clicked) containing a virus. 
The email has no connection to the Criminal Justice System and anyone receiving the email should not download any attachments or click any links.
Don’t bite this Apple!
We are again warning Apple users to be aware of phishing emails attempting to steal your Apple ID log in details as well as personal and financial details.
A local resident has reported receiving an authentic looking email ‘invoice’ from the Apple iTunes Store with regard to an order that was placed. At the end of the email, there is a statement saying if you did not authorize this purchase you need to click on a link to take you to the Apple website but this will take you to a fake website which will ask you to provide personal information, including full credit / debit card details.
The iTunes Store will never ask you to provide personal information or sensitive account information (such as passwords or credit card numbers) via email.
If you receive what you think is a phishing email claiming to be from Apple, forward it to them, full details are available on the Apple website. www.apple.com/legal/more-resources/phishing/ 
Booking a holiday on-line? Then read this
Criminals have targeted online booking firms to swindle at least £2.2 million from unsuspecting holiday makers.
A report by the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau revealed there were 1,569 cases of holiday booking fraud reported to the police's Action Fraud team last year with average losses of £889.
Many disappointed travellers only discovered they had been duped when arriving at their ‘accommodation’ to find nothing had been booked, or it did not even exist. UK caravan stays were also targeted, with fake promotions for accommodation being posted on Facebook, and websites such as Gumtree or Craigslist. There were also reports of non-existent flight tickets from bogus websites.
Sports and religious trips were particularly targeted because of the limited availability of accommodation and tickets.
The majority of those who had been defrauded had paid by methods such as bank transfer or cash with no means of getting their money back.
Our advice is to exercise caution and:
Check the website address is legitimate and has not been altered by slight changes to a domain name – such as going from .co.uk to .org
Read on-line reviews. People who have been defrauded are likely to have posted warnings 
Is the company a member of a recognised trade body such as ABTA? Check on-line at www.abta.com  
Never pay directly into an ‘owner’s’ bank account as this is like paying cash – the money can’t be traced. Pay by credit card or a debit card that offers protection 
Study invoices including the terms and conditions and be wary of companies that do not provide any 
Use your instincts. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is
Air Passenger Duty (APD) has been scrapped for children under 12 from Friday 1 May
APD is charged only on outgoing flights from the UK, not on inbound ones. It's a charge paid by the airlines to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), although it's typically passed on to passengers via ticket prices.
If you've already paid APD for flights taking off on or after 1 May, airlines are expected to refund the charge. HMRC confirms there's no deadline to reclaim the APD.
Safety recalls
The following safety recalls have been issued:
Netto Ltd 
Netto Ltd is recalling packs of their 50g Aruna Sweet Paprika with a Best before’ end: October 2017 because it has tested positive for almond protein. This makes the product a possible health risk for anyone who is allergic or intolerant to almond.
Advice: If you have bought the above product and have an allergy or intolerance to almond, do not eat it. Instead, return it to your nearest Netto store for a full refund.
The Wine Society
The Wine Society is recalling bottles of its Ottoventi Punto 8 2013 wine [Lot number OT3014] because glass wine bottle neck may break when trying to pull out the cork.
Advice: If you have bought the above product, do not open it. Instead, contact Member Services at the Wine Society to arrange a collection and refund/credit.
Mars Chocolate UK 
Mars Chocolate UK is recalling certain batches of its Galaxy Cookie Crumble bars because the product may contain a small white piece of plastic.
Batch code: PB21, PB22 and PB23. Pack size: 114g. ‘Best before’ end: 16 August 2015
No other Mars Chocolate UK products (this includes Galaxy products) are known to be affected.
Advice: If you have bought the above product, do not eat it. Instead, contact the Mars Consumer Care Team.
Lidl UK
Lidl UK is recalling its 100g Deluxe Mature Cheddar with Pickled Onions and Chives with a ‘Use by date’ of 8 June 2015 because the product contains undeclared presence of sulphites, not mentioned on the product packaging. This means the product is a possible health risk for anyone with a sensitivity to sulphur dioxide and/or sulphites.
Advice: If you have bought the above product and have a sensitivity to sulphur dioxide and/or sulphites, do not eat it. Instead, return the product to the store from where it was bought for a full refund.
Iceland is recalling its 260 grams Blackened Salmon Portions due to paprika used in the manufacture being contaminated with almond protein which is undeclared on the packaging. This means the product is a possible health risk to anyone with an allergy to almond.
Batches affected:
Best Before 29/07/16 Lot No. L5029.
Best Before 02/08/16 Lot No. L5033 and 05/09/16 Lot No. L5064,
Advice: If you have bought the above product and have an allergy to almond, do not eat it. Instead, return it to the store from where it was bought for a full refund.
For more information on scams, visit: www.coventry.gov.uk/scams
How to report scams
If you've received a potential scam message or computer virus but no money has been lost or you haven’t responded to it, contact Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06. 
If you have been a victim of a scam, contact Action Fraud (UK’s National Fraud Office) on 0300 123 2040.
Investigators suspect as many as eight illegal loan sharks could be targeting desperate people in Coventry.
In one instance a person borrowed £50 but had to pay back a staggering £650 - an interest rate of 1,200 per cent.
Despite this and other similar cases not enough evidence was provided for police to successfully prosecute any of the illegal lenders.
However the information is being held on file and if investigators find out any more the cases could be re-opened.
Sophie Parkes, campaign co-ordinator at Coventry Citizens Advice Bureau, said: “We do have cases of people lending from loan sharks but it’s under-reported.
“Often people don’t take it further because they are scared of the consequences.
“So instead of saying what’s really happening what sometimes happens is on financial statements they say they have lent money from a friend.
“Befriending people is one of the tactics used so victims don’t report it to the authorities.
“We did a recent survey and awareness is quite high but it did reveal that recently two people had lent money from sharks.
“Payday lenders have caused massive problems for us, although that seems to have reduced a bit.
“Only 17 per cent of people questioned said they had taken out, or where thinking about taking out, a payday loan.
“Two years ago when we carried out that survey that figure was 75 per cent.”
A recent survey carried out by the centre identified one person who borrowed £50 from a loan shark and had to pay back £650.
Payday lenders in Coventry now face competition from not-for-profit credit unions who offer ethical products at competitive interest levels.
Illegal money lending in Coventry is investigated by Birmingham City Council who receive a grant from the government to operate a national team.
The continued delegation of powers to that team was approved at a recent council meeting.
The council describes loan shark activity as “deliberate criminal fraud and theft, with extortionate rates of interest meaning borrowers facing demands for payment far exceeding what was initially borrowed”.