The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) is raising awareness of the methods used by fraudsters to trick victims into calling apparent mobile phone numbers beginning with “070”which transpire to be premium rate numbers.

“070” numbers featured in over 2,600 fraud reports received by Action Fraud over the past year. Known as ‘personal numbers’, they are virtual numbers often programmed to forward incoming calls to one of a list of fixed or VoIP telephone numbers pre-selected by the client.

VoIP numbers allow phone calls over the Internet, enabling calls to be made or received anywhere with an internet connection, which makes tracing the calls much more difficult.
This enables potential fraudsters to provide an “070” number to victims while masking the number(s) that it diverts to, thus adding some protection to their true identity and location.

Although legitimate numbers, calls to “070” numbers are charged at a premium rate and they have long been used by fraudsters to scam unwitting victims. Calls from a landline can cost up to 65p p/min and may incur an additional call set-up fee of up to 51p. Calls from mobiles can cost up to £1.50 p/min. In extreme cases, victims have received triple figure phone bills as a result of calling these premium rate numbers. Providers of ‘personal numbers’ include Vodafone, Magrathea, and Digital Mail.

Key methods used by fraudsters

  • Fraudster sends a text message to or leaves a voicemail/missed call on the victim’s phone. The victim then calls back assuming this is a UK mobile number and is unwittingly connecting to a premium rate number.
  • Fraudster places an advert for a job on an online shopping/auction site along with an “070” number for the victim to call to obtain more information about the post and/or apply for it over the phone.
  • Fraudster contacts an individual who is selling an item on a shopping website and sends fake PayPal emails to the victim requesting a shipping fee to be paid via Western Union, prior to the payment being released to the victim. They will often provide an “070” number, causing the victim to incur further charges if they attempt to make contact.

Protection advice

  • If anyone approaches you online or otherwise providing an “070” number for contact, be wary that this could be a scam and do not call the number.
  • Consider informing PhonepayPlus, which regulates premium numbers and has statutory powers to stop mobile phone frauds and fine the offenders.
  • If you, or anyone you know, have been affected by these, or any other scams, report it to Action Fraud.

To report a fraud and receive a police crime reference number, call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or use their online fraud reporting tool.

Bringing empty buildings back to life in the North

Liberal Democrat Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has announced plans to see abandoned buildings brought back to life in a renewed effort to tackle a chronic problem where vast Empty homes in Bradfordsites in Northern cities become empty and unused for long periods of time, making areas look blighted.

Nick wants to help match-make entrepreneurs and community groups with local authorities and land-owners to find temporary uses for vacant buildings and land rather than let those sites go to waste.

The North has nearly twice as many hectares of previously developed vacant land and buildings than the South.

The vacant buildings could provide invaluable space for a wide range of local people to set up a business, open a shop or put on an event. It can have a knock on effect and revitalise city centres drawing in talent and investment from far and wide.

On a visit to Berlin to a project called Betahaus, Nick saw how collaborative working space in the heart of the creative district has been set up using derelict land and property.

Nick said:

“Leaving useful land in the North to languish is not only bad for business, it can hamper the success of an area in so many ways. Which is why I want to see empty buildings brought back to life and back in business.

“We need to understand what stands in the way of some of the most incredible space in the country being used, and make things more flexible so that we can fill these buildings with artists, start-ups, and other entrepreneurs to restore the buildings’ purpose and appeal.

“Through my Northern Futures initiative, I’m championing innovative ideas from people in the North to build a stronger economy and fairer society.”

To help unlock this potential, Nick will form a working group immediately – comprised of local government, businesses and charities – to investigate how more vacant buildings and land across the North can be brought back into temporary use. The group will explore sites with potential across Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Liverpool and Newcastle.

36 years ago today the world lost gay rights pioneer Harvey Milk

Today marks the anniversary US politician and gay rights pioneer Harvey Milk.

Milk was the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California, winning a post on the Board of Supervisors as a result of changes in the social makeup of San Francisco after three unsuccessful attempts to gain office.

Read more about Harvey Milk in the rest of this article at http://ht.ly/EZ3ZQ 

Nick Clegg announces mental health taskforce

Deputy Prime Minister and Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg announced that he will be establishing and chairing a new Mental Health Taskforce, which will include Cabinet Ministers from across the coalition.

The Liberal Democrats have been campaigning on mental health issues for many years, with a focus on bringing treatment for mental health problems in line with physical health and ending years of discrimination.

You can back our campaign to help us stamp our mental health stigma here.

Mental Health Matters

October this year, Nick Clegg announced a £120 million investment in mental health, which will include the introduction in April 2015 of the first ever waiting time standards for mental health in the NHS.

Nick said:

“Mental Health affects every aspect of our lives. One in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem and it costs the country more than £100 billion. This is too big an issue for the NHS to deal with alone.

“The whole of Government needs to combine its efforts and pool its resources to help the millions of people whose mental health condition is preventing them from getting on in life.

“For far too long mental health has been in the shadows and many people have suffered in silence as a result.

“It is time to turn a corner on outdated attitudes and bring mental health issues out into the open. It is time that the whole of society started providing the care and support to those with mental health conditions in the same way that they would to those with a physical condition.”

Mental health issues such as stress or depression are now the leading cause of illness in the workplace, with more than eleven million working days lost last year.

Liberal Democrat Care Minister Norman Lamb is calling on big businesses to focus more on the mental well-being of their employees.

The taskforce will meet within days and urgently discuss how we can improve mental health services for young people, welfare and employment issues and how we can improve crisis care.re mental health problems ending up in police cells and prisons.

Deputy PM announces £214 million investment in cycling

The biggest single investment in cycling will be unveiled by Nick Clegg today to help make it easier and safer to get on your bike in the UK.

In July, the Liberal Democrat Deputy Prime Minister said he wanted to see the number of journeys made by bike more than doubled by 2020. Today, at a dedicated cycling summit hosted by him in Bristol and attended by Chris Boardman MBE, the Deputy Prime Minister will discuss how the government can make this happen with a package of measures totalling £214 million.

The investment will include:

  • £114 million to secure funding to support the Cycling Ambition Cities Programme for the next 3 years (Bristol, Birmingham, Cambridge, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle, Norwich and Oxford) accelerate their development of local cycling networks, increase protection for cyclists at junctions and traffic hot spots and help prevent accidents
  • £100 million investment over the next years to improve the conditions for cyclists and walkers travelling alongside and crossing Britain’s most important and busiest roads – what’s called the Strategic Road Network

This brings the total invested in cycling by the government to £588 million.

The Deputy Prime Minister said:

I want to bring cycling down from the Alps and onto British streets. The inspiration and legacy of the 2012 Olympics and the Tour de France starting in Yorkshire this year has started a revolution in cycling for everyone, not just in velodromes, not necessarily in lycra, but for going to school or to work or to the shops.

I’m committed to helping our dream of becoming a cycling nation, similar to places like Denmark and the Netherlands, become a reality.

The rewards could be massive. Billions of pounds in savings for the NHS, less pollution and congestion, and a happier and safer population. In government, we’re putting the money down: now we need the public and local authorities to jump on their bikes and get us to the finish line.

On top of this investment, The Deputy Prime Minister will also launch 2 new initiatives to help inspire a new generation of cyclists:

  • a new scheme from Halfords, which will recondition and donate bikes and helmets to primary school children in disadvantaged areas of the 8 current cycling cities
  • a new pilot scheme to enhance the Bikeability cycle training programme to provide extra training to schools and parents, each designed to address a specific barrier to cycling

Olympic gold medallist Chris Boardman MBE said:

This is a great stepping stone on the road to creating a safer environment and enabling more Brits to choose cycling as their preferred mode of transport.

The new funds are fantastic for the 8 cycling cities – giving them more security to plan for the next 3 years and I thoroughly welcome the announcement. The benefits of cycling – as outlined by the Deputy Prime Ministers speech and in the press release – show how investing in cycling will pay dividends. If we want to a cycling revolution, something I truly believe we can achieve, we have to invest in it, commit to it long term.

To that end, the next step, building on today’s announcement, is to make investment like this one a permanent, embedded and an ongoing part of our transport strategy. If we do, then the benefits for our nation’s health, wealth and environment will be monumental.

Today’s summit will be attended by local leaders, cycling experts and businesses who joined together to discuss how cities in the UK can seize the economic, social and environmental gains that come from being a cycling nation.

It follows recent research commissioned by British Cycling, which found that if the UK became a cycling nation like the Netherlands or Denmark it could:

  • save the NHS £17 billion within 20 years
  • reduce road deaths by 30%
  • increase mobility of the nation’s poorest families by 25%
  • increase retail sales by a quarter

Over the past 4 years, this government has made significant investments in cycling by:

  • more than doubling funding for cycling to £374 million in 2011 to 2015 to improve cycling safety, infrastructure and availability and affordability of bikes for more people across the country
  • helping leverage an extra £248 million of local funding to deliver these programmes
  • giving Bristol and 7 other major UK cities (Birmingham, Cambridge, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle, Norwich and Oxford) access to £94 million of grants to help them improve their cycling infrastructure and build a reputation as modern cycling cities

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said:

Under this government the Department for Transport has doubled the amount money available for cycling.

We want all new roads cycle-proofed, making cycling safer and encouraging awareness on our roads. This additional funding is about further improving the thousands of short journeys made by bicycle every day.

Citizens Advice: More private renters are struggling with horror homes

More people are struggling with private rented homes which are damp, dangerous and in need of significant repair, reveals Citizens Advice.

The national charity helped people with 14 per cent more repairs and maintenance problems between July and September this year than in the same period in 2013.

Difficulties getting repairs and maintenance is the most common problem with private rented homes reported to Citizens Advice. In the past 12 months the charity helped people with almost 17,000 of these issues.

In one case a couple with two young children were living in a rented home which had severe damp problems, causing mould all over walls and in cupboards. Their private landlord repeatedly refused to treat the damp, but after the family contacted environmental health he agreed to pay for some anti-mould paint. Not long after this he evicted them.

In its Advice Trends report published today Citizens Advice highlights that one in three private rented properties in England does not meet the Government’s decent home minimum standard. Yet renters in England have very few rights and find it hard to hold landlords to account over poor conditions, for fear of eviction. Citizens Advice helped with 20 per cent more issues where people are facing eviction despite being up to date with rent.

The new Advice Trends report highlights a range of problems private renters are increasingly turning to Citizens Advice for help with. Between July to September 2013 and the same period this year Citizens Advice helped with:

  • A seven per cent rise in the number of issues around paying rent up front.
  • Seven per cent more issues where people struggle to get their deposit back.
  • A 15 per cent increase in the number of issues where people are harassed or illegally evicted by landlords.

Further analysis of the figures shows that young people are more likely to have problems with private landlords compared with older renters. One in six people in their twenties receiving help from Citizens Advice has an issue with a privately rented home.

Citizens Advice wants protections for people renting from private landlords to be improved. On Friday 28 November the Tenancies Reform Bill will be debated in Parliament. If enacted the Private Members Bill would prevent such retaliatory evictions.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“It’s hard to feel at home in the private rented sector. People can struggle to lead a normal life when their home is in a state of disrepair and they could be told to leave at any time. But many feel powerless to speak out.

“People face a huge number of different housing problems. But despite one in five now renting privately, the sector is subject to comparatively little regulation. Rogue landlords and letting agents are free to mistreat tenants and charge ever increasing rents. In other markets consumers have far more protection, such as the right to refunds or repairs, if the product or service the pay for is not up to scratch.

“Urgent action is needed to bring renters’ rights up to a decent 21st century standard. Putting an end to retaliatory evictions is a good place to start.  We hope that MPs support the Tenancies Reform Bill on Friday.”

N E Lincs Library system temporarily unavailable

Customers will be unable to access their online account or search for items using computers in the libraries from 7pm on Saturday November 29. The service will be restored on Monday, December 1.

The work has been scheduled to take place during the library service’s quietest period. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause. For further information ask a member of the library team or contact (01472) 323628

Credit card det is the second most common debt problem brought to Citizens Advice

Citizens Advice helps with 14,000 credit card debt problems a month making it the second most common debt issue people seek advice on, the charity has revealed today.

The new figure is released as the Financial Conduct Authority announces the terms of reference for its study into the credit card market.  The national charity is calling on the FCA to make sure the market is working for consumers and that lenders behave responsibly when collecting debts.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice , said:

“Credit cards can leave people dependent on debt.  Borrowers who only pay off the minimum amount can find themselves in a never-ending cycle of borrowing which means their debt only gets bigger.  Evidence from Citizens Advice has found some people go onto face harsh debt collection practices, like the threat of bankruptcy, from their card providers.

“Paying for items using a credit card can help people manage unexpected expenses and provides extra protection if something goes wrong.  But sometimes people find they can’t keep up with repayments.  Citizens Advice helps with 14,000 credit card problems a month, making it is the second most common debt issue we deal with.  For people who seek help from us about serious debt problems, the average credit card debt is £6,000.

“With millions of pounds borrowed on credit cards each year this review by the FCA is important to make sure the market works for consumers and lenders are behaving responsibly when it comes to debt collection. The regulator needs to look at whether the checks for credit card applications are rigorous and don’t allow people to borrow money they can’t afford to repay.”

Public want urgent global action to tackle climate change

A new Populus survey reveals an appetite for action on climate change by the UK public.

It showed that 73% of people want world leaders to agree a global deal and 66% think action must happen now.

However, the survey also showed that just 40% of people recognise the potential impact of climate change on their lifestyle.

To demonstrate the scale of the expected impacts, the DECC is teaming up with a huge range of organisations and individuals, such as the UN, Microsoft and the Natural History Museum to bring the issue to life.

Liberal Democrat Minister for Energy and Climate Change Ed Davey will answer questions on the DECC Twitter about the impact of climate change and the actions that can be taken.

key_green_laws.jpg

Ed said:

“The science is clear. Climate change poses great risks to health, global food security and economic development – and unchecked will change every part of our lives. Without urgent action nowhere on earth will be left untouched.

“We are at a global turning point – never before have so many countries made clear their determination to act to tackle climate change. Those governments are backed by a groundswell of people who want to see action in their own countries and around the world.”

Citizens Advice: Financial abuse is too often “invisible” in abusive relationships

A new report from Citizens Advicehas found that abusive partners are using money to control and trap their victims.  The research reveals perpetrators are leaving their partners without money, controlling their day-to-day spending and taking payday loans out in the victim’s name.

Citizens Advice’s pioneering new report, Controlling money, controlling lives, seeks to highlight how financial abuse often accompanies other forms of domestic abuse, such as physical violence.  It is published today to coincide with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (25 November). The report is based on a survey of advisers and reports from people who sought Citizens Advice’s help about financial abuse.

Of the advisers who had helped someone with financial abuse:

  • Almost three-quarters had reported someone forced by their abuser to take out credit, such as a payday loan
  • 43 per cent had seen cases of the abuser stealing from the victim
  • Over half had reported perpetrators controlling access to the victim’s income, banking or savings
  • 77 per cent reported victims being left to pay joint bills alone, including council tax and fuel debt

The report finds that most financial abuse cases Citizens Advice helps with involve current or former partners of victims. Nine in ten victims of financial abuse who came to Citizens Advice for help this year were women.

The new research from the national charity suggests that control of someone’s finances can often be an overlooked element of abusive relationships. People whose partner or relative restricts their financial independence do not always recognise that they are a victim of domestic abuse and often do not report it to others.

Financial institutions often fail to acknowledge financial abuse when it is reported and by ignoring it make the situation more difficult for victims. The charity is calling for Government departments, local authorities, banks and creditors to be more aware of financial abuse and have better guidance for staff to help victims.

Chief Executive of Citizens Advice Advice, Gillian Guy, said:

“Financial abuse is an invisible crime in abusive relationships. Control over money is another weapon abusers use to hurt their victims.

“Recognising the abuse in a relationship is itself a tough challenge for victims. Getting out of an abusive relationship may be practically impossible for people whose abusers ensure they don’t have any access to money. Similarly the ties of joint finances or threat of severe debt is used by perpetrators to stop people cutting ties with their abuser.

“Authorities’ lack of awareness of financial abuse leaves victims at risk of further harm. The Government is right to have made tackling domestic abuse a top priority. Citizens Advice wants financial abuse to form part of this commitment. Ministers must ensure that abuse victims are able to get the support they need from legal aid and that family assistance like Child Benefit is not being misused by abusers. The FCA should look to provide guidance for banks and creditors dealing with financial abuse cases.”

A woman in her early twenties found her abusive ex-partner was continuing to take money out of their joint account, leaving her overdrawn. Even though she had taken out a legal injunction to stop her former partner contacting her, the bank told her that they would both need to be present for the account to be frozen.

Advisers reported that in some cases financial abuse victims were denied access to the legal aid they needed ensure the safety of them or their families.  One victim of financial abuse had her possessions destroyed by her husband and was also physically and emotionally abused. When she tried to get help from a solicitor she was told her case was not “extreme enough” to qualify for legal aid.

Without access to legal aid the costs of leaving abusive partners may be prohibitive to some victims, including those who have dependent children. Citizens Advice wants the Government to review the availability of legal aid in cases relating to financial abuse.