Each week former trading standards officer Richard Thomson answers your questions.
Q I’ve received a convincing letter from ‘Marie Beauval’ of Geneva Switzerland, who claims she has psychic information for me about winning National Lottery numbers. Apparently, consultations normally cost £125 but if I send her an administration fee of £18, plus a further £3 post and packing she’ll send me sure-fire winning numbers. Surely this can’t be genuine?
A They say the old ones are the best. As scams go this is definitely old wine in new bottles. Mme. Beauval’s first trick will be to make your money vanish, and you’ll never hear from her again.
Beware, she’s not even a woman, but a creation of Swiss postal scamsters sat somewhere high in the mountains just waiting to relieve you of your hard-earned cash.
Another warning. She’s apparently got lots of relatives in the same game. Previously surfaced mystic clones include a heartless ‘Madeleine LeCoeur’, one ‘Bella Marti’, and for any fans of early motion picture detectives, ‘Charli Chang’. Once these rogues start to surface, the Swiss postal authorities are normally active in shutting all their box numbers.
Come to think of it, if Mme. Beauval is a genuine psychic, why does she need a PO box number? Surely she can spirit the money from your account!
Q I’m afraid it looks as if I’ve fallen for an online rogue peddling fake shares. I’ve lost about £5,000. The police have been informed and I was also advised to pass the details onto the Financial Services Authority to investigate. Is there any chance I’ll get my money back?
A Despite all the publicity about resisting the temptation to respond to online fraudsters offering tempting share deals, cyber criminals still find willing victims.
To be honest, the chances of getting your money back aren’t good.
There’s no substitute for dealing in securities through conventional brokers. You know where they are and how to contact them.
Q I saw an offer by Tesco in the national press for a James Bond DVD boxset reduced only on Boxing Day from £50 to £22. When I tried to order it online I couldn’t obtain the advertised price reduction. Tesco claimed the offer wasn’t available online, but their advert made no mention of this, even in the small print. Can you advise please?
A You’d initially reported the matter to the ASA, but I advised you that it was potentially a misleading price offence under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 and to inform trading standards.
As a result you contacted Tesco’s head office and told them you’d written to me.
Initially, you were given the less than diplomatic equivalent of ‘get lost,’ but after only a few minutes the person you rang called back to confirm you could buy the DVD set online at the advertised price.
A clear demonstration of Streetwise power to champion the consumer.
Richard Thomson is a former trading standards officer with many years experience. If you have a question, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and wherever possible he will try to provide practical assistance. Unfortunately he cannot guarantee to respond to every letter or e-mail. Richard Thomson welcomes letters from readers on consumer issues. Replies are intended to give general help or advice, not a complete statement of law.