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Vulnerable people conned into unnecessary home appliance insurance

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Cold calling scammers are targeting vulnerable people, talking them into signing up for appliance insurance direct debits, in some cases to cover appliances they don’t own.

That’s according to new warnings from consumer champion Which?, whose survey of members found that around one in four had received unexpected calls about home appliance insurance or extended warranties within the last year.

Callers were reported to have lied to respondents, saying that their existing cover was expiring, even though no insurance policy was in place, or claiming to be from well-known companies. In many cases these callers had access to personal information about the recipients, which made the calls appear genuine.

Losing thousands

The scam centres on selling ‘insurance’ that is easily forgotten, but involves a regular monthly charge.

Which? noted that it had seen one case involving a 92-year-old grandmother who paid out £10,000 over a two-year period for a range of insurances, including breakdown cover for her washing machine and boiler, as well as a dishwasher that she does not even have.

While she had a call-blocking service with her phone provider, she was nonetheless targeted by cold callers, to the point that there were 25 firms who either charged her each month or repeatedly pestered her with nuisance calls.

Which? found that the company websites look “strikingly alike”, using similar templates, with many based in or linked to Bournemouth and Poole. A host of these firms have appeared regularly in Which? reports centred on cold calling and misleading people into sharing their bank details.

Which? said it had shared its findings with National Trading Standards (NTS).

What you can do if you’re targeted

If a direct debit is set up without your permission, or you feel you have been duped, then you can claim all of the money back from your bank or building society. You will need to contact them directly, and the process is not always straightforward.

Which? noted that many of the people who have reported being on the receiving end of these scams to the consumer champion have been refunded, despite the fact the process is both time consuming and onerous.

You can also report a firm to NTS if you believe they have broken the law by misleading you into signing up for a policy you don’t need.

Don’t buy from anyone who cold calls with the intention of selling you some form of insurance cover, whether it’s for a household appliance or not. Similarly, if you are being targeted by calls, then it’s worthwhile to look into any call blocking services provided by your landline phone provider. However, as was clear from the case above, these are not exactly foolproof, so some scammers may still find a way through in order to call you.

Gareth Shaw, head of money at Which?, said: “We want to see landline providers offering more clarity to their customers about the call blocking services they offer, and we call on providers to include their existing, free of charge protections within landline packages by default. Consumers should not have to opt in to be protected from unwanted cold calls.”

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