Beware of ‘Ukash Vouchers’ scam loan telephone calls targeting the Highlands warns Highland Council Trading Standards

Highland Council’s Trading Standards are concerned about recent complaints relating to ‘cold call telephone calls’ offering loans. 

Complaints received by Trading Standards show that both consumers and businesses that may have applied and have been refused for online loans, are now targets for loan scams by telephone. The format and content of the ‘cold call’ telephone call, which usually originates outside the UK and the EU, can be as follows.

The caller may initially advise the consumer or business that they will be able to obtain a personal loan for them, but there is a one-off up-front fee payable. The fee amount requested by the caller can vary but amounts start from around £150 upwards.  

Both businesses and consumers have been targeted in this manner and are usually asked by the loan scam caller to pay this one-off ‘administration fee’ by debit or credit card.  However more recently, the scammers are asking both consumers and business alike to make payments through ‘Ukash Vouchers’.  ‘Ukash’ is the trading name for ‘Smart Vouchers Ltd’, a registered company authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority in the UK as an electronic money institution.

David MacKenzie, Highland Council’s Trading Standards Team Leader explained: “Anyone can change their cash (both notes and coins) into a,’Ukash Voucher’ for the same value, through an approved Ukash provider.  The Ukash voucher can then be used online to purchase goods and services.  This is done by quoting the ‘voucher code’ (shown on the Ukash Voucher) to an approved ‘Participating Ukash Voucher Merchant’.

He added: “If a consumer or business quotes a ‘Ukash Voucher Code’ in full or part by email or over the telephone to anyone other than a Participating Ukash Voucher Merchant, then they cease to be the holder of the Ukash Voucher and, just like cash, the ‘bearer’ of the Ukash Voucher can then go on to spend the value of the Ukash Voucher anywhere Ukash is accepted.”

So, the scammers simply take the Ukash voucher and no loan is provided.
Unlike payments made by debit or credit card, payments made by quoting an ‘Ukash Voucher Code’ cannot be traced and reversed.  For this very reason, ‘Ukash’ advise all customers to treat ‘Ukash Vouchers’ like cash and to check their list of secure ‘Participating Ukash Voucher Merchants’ shown on their website, before going ahead with any transaction: http://www.ukash.com/uk/en/alerts/security-tips.aspx

Further advice on how to spot scams can be found at:  www.direct.gov.uk/consumer or consumers can speak to an advisor on 08454 04 05 06. Victims of fraud or loan scams in the UK can make a crime report to ‘Action Fraud’ on 0300 123 2040 or report it online at: http://www.actionfraud.police.uk/report_fraud

Consumers and/or business can also visit or write to:  The Highland Council Trading Standards Service, 38 Harbour Road, Inverness IV1 1UF. For further Highland Trading Standards news please go to: http://www.highland.gov.uk

31 May 2012
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