Warning to parents - be on your guard against a new truancy phone scam

HMS Illustrious leaves Portsmouth for the last time
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Our consumer champion answers your questions.

Q I received an unexpected phone call about my daughter from someone claiming to be from the education welfare service. I was told that she had not attended school for the last two days and I would have to pay a fine of £200 or she would be excluded. I panicked and foolishly paid up by credit card. Please warn others about this scam.

EG (e-mail)

A You experienced a relatively new truancy fraud scam that’s beginning to sweep the country.

After speaking with your daughter when she came home, you phoned the school the following day, and received confirmation she had a 100 per cent attendance record.

But that wasn’t quick enough to stop the thieves.

Once they had your credit card details, they stole another £530 from the account before the bank blocked all further transactions.

This is a lesson into not being caught off-guard by a phone call out of the blue.

The school told you that the Education Welfare Service would not phone parents requesting penalty payments over the phone.

It was only then the penny dropped, and you rang the card emergency number to report the scam.

I can’t repeat this often enough. No kosher outfit ever asks for credit card numbers and security information over the phone.

No-one. Not even your bank.

They just don’t operate in that way.

I hope there won’t be a next time, but if there is, keep your cool, forget you’re a lady, and send them packing with a suitable strident admonition, the last word of which is ‘off’.

Q I’ve had words with a rep from a holiday insurance company who refused to pay out when my travelling companion was taken ill with angina on the day of travel. They claimed she had a pre-medical condition, and therefore the insurance was void. Can you advise please?

DB (e-mail)

A The small print in most holiday insurance contracts requires travellers to declare any medical condition that might affect the risk on cover.

In this case your friend failed to make a declaration of her medical condition, and the insurer treated the matter as a breach of contract, and refused to pay out.

You could complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service, but it’ll be a complete waste of time as you’re onto a loser.

When I contacted the insurer, they told me your conversation with their contact centre was not as measured and constrained as it could have been.

Despite that, they’ve agreed to cover your cancellation costs, and the cheque is in the post.