Senior citizens and their carers are warned to be on the alert against scams, following the forced winding up of another company that had targeted the elderly.
Souza Healthcare Ltd, a London-based company, that sold overpriced health supplements, specifically targeting elderly and vulnerable consumers was wound up by the High Court following an investigation by the Insolvency Service.
The company’s sales representatives had made inaccurate claims about health benefits and pain reduction qualities of the health supplements, falsely implied that they had medical experience and claimed to be calling on behalf of medical organisations. The investigation found that the company’s customers, some of whom were suffering from severe medical conditions including Cerebral Palsy and Dementia, were subjected to lengthy unsolicited telesales calls from call centres in in Goa and Mumbai.
Business Minister Margot James said:
Unfortunately, companies seeking to rip-off older people are nothing new and pray on their politeness in not wanting to say no.
Victims are paying a lot and get nothing in return. The old adage remains true: if something seems too good to be true, it very often is.
The worst aspect of this type of scam is that due to their age, the majority of victims will never be able to make good their loss.
Previous Insolvency Service investigations have led to companies who targeted vulnerable consumers selling mobility scooters, hearing aids, home alarm systems, heritage coins and plots of land being wound up in the public interest.
Age UK has published eight tips for the elderly and their carers to help spot potential scammers and keep themselves safe:
Don’t rush into anything
Scammers try to rush people into making quick decisions by claiming that a great offer or investment is time-limited. Don’t be rushed and seek advice first. Ask your family and friends what they think or call an advice agency such as Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 04 05 06. For suspected pension scams call The Pensions Advisory Service on 0300 123 1047.
Make sure the company is reputable
Before you commit to buying, check the seller. Does the company have a contact number that works and a postal address, and is it a member of a trade association? Financial companies must be authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) – you can check the FCA register online or call them on 0800 111 6768.
Know who’s on your doorstep
When answering the door to an unexpected caller, remember: Lock, Stop, Chain, Check:
- make sure all your doors are locked
- stop to think if you are expecting anyone
- put the door chain on
- check who it is
Ask for an identity card or phone the company they represent to check who they are. Think about putting up a notice saying you don’t buy on the doorstep.
If you’re suspicious or the caller won’t leave, call 999 and ask for the police. Age UK has published Staying safe guidance which is available online or you can order a copy from the Age UK Advice Line on 0800 169 65 65.
Beware of banking scams
Your bank will never call you and ask for your PIN number, for you to give your card to a courier, or for you to transfer your money to another account. If you get a call like this, don’t panic, hang up and then call or visit your bank directly.
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is
Ignore letters, emails or phone calls offering a brilliant investment or saying you’ve won a lottery. Remember, if you haven’t entered a lottery then you can’t have won it. Ignore these offers and never reply - it shows your details are active which will encourage scammers to contact you again.
Contact the Mailing Preference Service on 0845 703 4599 to have your name taken off UK direct mailing lists to help stop some junk mail.
Stay safe online
If you use a computer, don’t open emails or attachments from people you don’t know. Make sure your computer has up-to-date anti-virus software and ignore any phone calls that say your computer has a problem or a virus, as this is a scam.
Can you read Age UK’s guidance about staying safe on the internet or you can order it from the Age UK Advice Line on 0800 169 65 65.
Be aware of new pension scams
Now that people have more freedom to access their pension cash fraudsters have developed new scams to trick people out of their retirement savings. Be cautious of anyone that claims to know about loopholes, talks about overseas investments or says you can get your money before age 55.
Anyone can be taken in by a scam, so don’t feel embarrassed or ashamed if it happens to you. If you think you’ve been scammed, or you’ve spotted a scam contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 to report it and get help. You can also download Age UK’s free guide Avoiding scams or visit the scams page on the Age UK website.
Notes to Editors
Souza Healthcare Limited – company registration number 08334872 - was incorporated on 18 December 2012. The company’s registered office is at Avanta House, 79 College Road, Harrow-on-the-Hill, London HA1 1BD.
The company received an income from the sale of health supplements of approximately £2.8m between May 2013 and September 2016 the company. Supplements were priced between 13 to £33 per box. Some customers were found to have paid several hundreds of pounds in separate transactions spread over one to two years. Customers were falsely told that they would see a significant reduction if not eradication of pain and some were even told that the supplements would cure or prevent serious conditions such as Dementia.
The petition to wind-up Souza Healthcare Limited was presented under s124A of the Insolvency Act 1986 on 7 November 2016. The company was wound up on 7 December 2016 and the Official Receiver has been appointed as liquidator.
On passing his judgment, Registrar Briggs referred to the information provided by the customers commenting that ‘the responses made for some disturbing reading’ and furthermore that the company lacked commercial probity’ and trading was ‘contrary to all morality’ in business matters.
Company Investigations, part of the Insolvency Service, uses powers under the Companies Act 1985 to conduct confidential fact-finding investigations into the activities of live limited companies in the UK on behalf of the Secretary of State for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS). Further information about live company investigations is available.
The Insolvency Service, an executive agency sponsored by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), administers the insolvency regime, and aims to deliver and promote a range of investigation and enforcement activities both civil and criminal in nature, to support fair and open markets. We do this by effectively enforcing the statutory company and insolvency regimes, maintaining public confidence in those regimes and reducing the harm caused to victims of fraudulent activity and to the business community, including dealing with the disqualification of directors in corporate failures.
BEIS’ mission is to build a dynamic and competitive UK economy that works for all, in particular by creating the conditions for business success and promoting an open global economy. The Criminal Investigations and Prosecutions team contributes to this aim by taking action to deter fraud and to regulate the market. They investigate and prosecute a range of offences, primarily relating to personal or company insolvencies. The agency also authorises and regulates the insolvency profession, assesses and pays statutory entitlement to redundancy payments when an employer cannot or will not pay employees, provides banking and investment services for bankruptcy and liquidation estate funds and advises ministers and other government departments on insolvency law and practice.
Further information about the work of the Insolvency Service, and how to complain about financial misconduct, is available.
By virtue of the appointment of the Official Receiver all public enquiries concerning the affairs of the company should be made to: The Official Receiver, Public Interest Unit, 2nd Floor, 4 Abbey Orchard Street, London SW1P 2HT. Tel: 0207 637 6404 Email: email@example.com.
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Published: 25 December 2016
From: The Insolvency Service