Consumer show. The team track down a company taking money for tickets they did not provide, and unravel the lies of a company telling parents their children could become models.
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We asked you to tell us who has left you feeling ripped off.
And you contacted us in your thousands, by post, e-mail,
even stopping us on the streets.
And the message could not be clearer.
They're in it for what they can get, not to provide a service.
I didn't sleep! It upset me so much that I didn't sleep.
You told us, with money tighter than ever,
you need to be sure that every pound you spend is worth it.
How do I get my money back? Because I just think I'm entitled to it.
So whether it's a deliberate rip-off,
a simple mistake or a catch in the small print,
we'll find out why you're out of pocket and what you can do about it.
Keep asking the questions, go to the top if you have to.
We do get results, that's the interesting thing.
Your stories - your money.
This is Rip-Off Britain.
Hello and welcome to Rip-Off Britain.
Today we'll be looking at situations where,
let's not beat about the bush, you've been told something that
was either misleading or it was simply untrue.
Because often with the stories that you ask us to investigate,
it can turn out that there was a small detail that you missed
or maybe a bit of small print that you just didn't understand.
But that is not the case with the stories that we've got
coming up this time. In fact, it's almost worse than that.
Promises made to get your business were not correct,
sometimes deliberately, other times not.
But as we'll see, it's not just
fly-by-night companies that can bamboozle you with
misleading promises. Even big names can be caught doing it.
Coming up, the latest on some of the most memorable stories
we've investigated before.
We're after answers from a travel company that took
thousands of pounds but gave nothing in return.
You ask them for money, they send you money,
and they don't ever get their tickets.
Can you explain why?
The modelling company caught on tape, lying to get new business.
They were plugging directly into the heart of a parent who
wants their child to be happy, succeed, get a job.
They were cynically after my wallet.
And a problem shared is a problem solved at our consumer advice shop.
Sometimes you tell us about companies that aren't simply
giving bad service - they don't seem to be providing any service at all.
And here's one that appears to be a classic example of exactly that.
Their website says that they offer creative travel solutions.
But who would have guessed that creativity would mean
that some customers have paid hundreds of pounds for cheap flights
and then received absolutely nothing in return?
I don't understand how people can do this to other people. Just...
So, so angry.
I told them, frankly, how do you sleep at night?
If it wasn't against the law to go and shake them, I probably would.
When we search the web for the best flight prices,
we don't always look quite so carefully into the reputation of
the companies that are offering them,
and that can end up costing you dearly,
as it has Dev and his fiancee, Shalu.
They needed flights to Kenya after being invited to a wedding.
A friend that I went to school with was getting married.
And they chose Mombasa as the destination.
Um... So we were delighted to go and delighted to be invited.
For me, it was an unmissable event.
Dev and Shalu were among dozens of friends
and family who were invited to Kenya to celebrate the big day.
And word very quickly spread about a website that seemed to be
offering a really great deal to get them all there.
It belonged to a company called Azzy Travel Limited,
not to be confused with companies of a similar name.
A lot of the wedding party had mentioned Azzy.
We hadn't come across them before.
It looked like a good travel website, their price was fairly decent.
So we decided to book with them.
Meanwhile, in Nottingham,
Dr Narendra Sharma was after flights to the same wedding and also heard
that there were low fares being advertised by Azzy Travel.
I looked at the website.
They looked quite impressive, they looked quite legitimate.
So, Dr Sharma called them to book the flights.
But unusually, they wouldn't let him pay by credit card.
The only way we had to give them money was by transfer
of money through my bank account, which I did on the same day.
In London, Dev and Shalu were also surprised to be asked
to pay by bank transfer and not with a card.
It was a bit strange
when they asked for the payment to be made by bank transfer.
You know, question marks were raised but since there was such a big
group doing it, you tend not to question these things.
So, Shalu went ahead and transferred the money for two flights
to Azzy Travel's bank account, just as Dr Sharma had done.
But that didn't mean any of them got their tickets.
They were told they would be sent via e-mail,
but nothing showed up in their inbox.
So, as time passed, with no sign of the tickets he'd paid £1,350 for,
Dr Sharma chased Azzy Travel to see what was going on.
They said, "Yes, your ticket will be issued on Monday."
Monday came and went, with no tickets.
So he rang Azzy Travel again, this time speaking to a manager.
He said, "Sorry, there was a problem, the airline actually was
"overbooked so we have to...
"you have to find alternative dates."
So, we agreed on an alternate date,
with the understanding that the tickets would be issued to me the same day.
But they weren't.
And in London, Dev and Shalu were being led a very similar dance
as they tried to get hold of their tickets.
They said that our tickets would be issued
and we just had to be patient.
So we waited until the end of the week and nothing came.
It got to a point where I was calling them two to three times a day.
And with the wedding getting closer,
Dr Sharma had also had enough of Azzy Travel's constant reassurances
that his tickets would soon be on their way. I said, "No.
"I want the tickets now.
"If you can't issue today, what is the hitch?
"Cancel my tickets. And I want a full refund now."
And he said, "Since the ticket can't be issued today,
"your refund will be available soon."
But - you guessed it - just like the tickets,
that promised refund didn't arrive.
So, faced with the prospect of missing the ceremony,
both sets of wedding guests felt they had no alternative
but to cough up the cash for a second time,
and buy the tickets to Kenya from someone else.
Ultimately, your good friend's wedding, we had to make
the decision, do we go anyway, even if we don't get the money back?
I rang KLM airline, and they gave me
a ticket within five minutes, being paid on credit card.
The wedding itself was the unforgettable experience
they had hoped for.
When we got there, for the one week,
it was actually the one week where we forgot about the Azzy situation.
We enjoyed the wedding.
But when they got home, there was
still no joy getting their promised refunds.
Four times a week that I would call them
and they would say, "Oh, your cheque has been put in the account.
"Your cheque is being processed.
"We're banking you a cheque today, the money should be in your account."
They were lying through their teeth.
Other members of the wedding party who experienced the same sort of
problems with Azzy Travel did get them resolved
after threatening legal action.
But it seems the company has a track record for this kind of thing.
A quick search online turns up plenty more customers who also claim
that after they handed over cash,
they got absolutely nothing in return.
We wrote to Azzy Travel for an explanation, but they didn't
respond to any of the letters or e-mails that we sent them.
So we decided to phone the company and see if we could get
an explanation as to why some customers have paid thousands
of pounds for flights but never had their tickets.
'Just a moment, please.' Thank you.
But, over a number of fruitless calls,
it soon became clear exactly what Dev, Dr Sharma
and other unhappy Azzy Travel customers were up against.
It's gone very quiet. Do you know when he might be free?
That's right, yes, I'd like to speak with him now, please, if I may.
Regarding Azzy Travel.
We've had an awful lot of people get in touch with us
who tell us that they try to book tickets through Azzy Travel,
you ask them for money, they send you money,
and they don't ever get their tickets.
Can you explain why?
We made more calls to Azzy Travel later,
and eventually they did answer some of our questions,
blaming problems on difficulties the company has been experiencing
with the internet and one of its phone numbers.
They also said though refunds are generally paid within a week,
they sometimes take longer.
But there's good news for Dev, Shalu and Dr Sharma.
After we got involved, and after they had also looked into taking
action through the Small Claims Court,
their money was finally refunded.
On top of that, when we passed on the names of other customers
who hadn't had their tickets, they were given their money back too.
Meanwhile, Dr Sharma is relieved to have got his money back at last.
In future, he'll be wary of buying anything without
the protection he'd get by paying with a credit card.
I have strong advice for all my friends and colleagues, and public
in general - never transfer money electronically for any purpose.
Use your credit card or debit card.
And use a travel agency which is well reputed,
trusted or one that you have used before.
Since we first featured the story, we have continued to hear
from customers who say that they have been let down by Azzy Travel.
They, too, say that they forked out for airline tickets that have
failed to materialise, and they've been left out of pocket.
And the company has not explained why that's the case.
Next, three letters that have become a real financial hot potato
over the last couple of years. PPI.
I'm sure you know by now, it stands for payment protection insurance,
a policy that turned out to have been mis-sold
to millions of people right across the UK.
And as a result,
what seems like no end of companies have sprung up, offering to help
you claim back money that you should never have paid in the first place.
We have investigated some of those companies before.
But I'm afraid they show no sign of going away.
And that's despite the fact that most people don't even
need their help anyway.
You would be much better ignoring the middleman
and claiming your money back yourself, something this next couple
wishes they had known before they signed up.
There are nearly 2,700 of them out there.
With their ads everywhere.
And they may even bombard you with texts and phone calls.
We're talking about the companies promising that,
in return for a fee, they'll get you back money
they think you're owed in mis-sold payment protection insurance.
Like many others, grandparents Anne and Michael Costello
had no idea that they might be entitled to anything,
until, that is, one of these companies suddenly called
Anne right out of the blue.
A company called Tucan Claims called me, saying they could get me
PPI back from any credit cards or any loans that I've had
over so many years.
And they said they had already refunded
lots of money for a lot of customers.
I didn't know I had any PPI on any of my loans or credit cards,
I wasn't aware at that time if I had any or not.
Anne wasn't sure that she wanted to go ahead, but Tucan Claims
reassured her they were registered with the Ministry of Justice
and that recently they had got another customer £7,000 back.
So she signed up, agreeing to pay Tucan Claims 10% of whatever
they recovered on her behalf, and an upfront fee of £250,
although she did wonder why that was exactly necessary.
I thought that if they did the job right,
if they were charging a 10% fee, that's the way of being paid.
I didn't think they needed an upfront fee anyway.
Tucan Claims told Anne that seven different companies could owe
her money, but in order to access her records,
she'd need to pay each of them £10, which she did,
but it took over a year before Tucan sent her a confirmation letter
to say that they had been successful with a claim.
It stated that they were very happy to tell me that they
had negotiated a refund of £802 from a credit card.
Of course, I was really pleased because this was the first time
any money looked as though it was coming back to me.
It may have looked like the cash was on its way,
but sadly it never materialised.
So Anne rang the credit card company that was supposed to be making
the refund to check why they hadn't sent the money on to Tucan,
and what she was told next came as quite a shock.
They had already sent the amount of money to Tucan Claims.
Um... It went on the 12th of November.
I got the letter on the 17th of November,
and they cashed the cheque in the bank on the 23rd of November.
So, that was it.
My money had gone into Tucan Claims's bank. I've not seen it since.
Although they had certainly received her money, Tucan Claims hadn't
sent one penny of it to Anne. So what had they done with it?
I was calling two or three times a week to try to chase up where
this money was.
Excuse after excuse. I never got an answer
when the money was coming at all.
Just couldn't get any ideas about the refund.
So, Anne and her husband decided to do their own research
into reclaiming payment protection insurance. And they soon discovered
a website that they wished they had known about in the first place.
It just said, "Download this information
"and you can send off and find out yourself
"if you've got PPI on any loans or any credit cards," which he did.
It downloaded the form and we sent it off for a credit card
of my husband's and, within five weeks of him
sending off the information, he got a cheque back into the bank.
So, while her husband Michael had got his PPI payments back
without paying a middleman, Anne was left bitterly regretting ever
agreeing to let Tucan Claims reclaim money on her behalf.
I just feel totally disgusted with Tucan Claims, the company.
They're just not a help to anybody. You don't need them.
You can do everything yourself and I'm not happy at all about them.
Three months after Tucan Claims had cashed the cheque,
Anne got in touch with them once again.
On the advice of the Citizens Advice Bureau, she threatened them
with court action if they didn't pay up within 28 days.
I've not heard a single word from them. They're just not interested.
I think they're not bothered.
I think my money is in their bank, making lots of interest for them,
and I think I'm just like a lot of other people,
I don't know where the money has gone. I haven't got it.
Anne isn't the only one unhappy with Tucan Claims.
In April last year,
the Ministry of Justice, which regulates companies like these,
prohibited them from providing any further claims management activities.
And that sort of action happens quite regularly.
Since 2007, the Ministry of Justice has actively cancelled
over 900 other companies who promised to reclaim
mis-sold payment protection insurance.
As for Tucan Claims, the company has now gone into liquidation,
which perhaps explains why no-one from the company has
responded to our calls, e-mails or letters.
They were ordered to repay refunds to all customers,
but Anne still hasn't got her money back.
She can try to claim it back through Tucan's administrators,
but so far she's had no luck.
However, there is some light on the horizon for Anne.
It's hoped that as of next year,
she or indeed anyone else who has lost money through claims management
companies will be able to take their case to the legal ombudsman,
who will be able to ensure that compensation is given where appropriate.
But for the time being, Anne has learned the hard way that
if you want to reclaim your PPI, the best way to do it is to do it yourself.
For more information on how to do that,
you can always log on to our website.
As Anne has discovered, you don't usually need one of these
companies to help you reclaim any mis-sold PPI.
It's usually pretty straightforward to do it yourself.
Paul Lewis, from Radio 4's Money Box programme,
is here to explain how.
I never recommend going to any company that tries to get
payment protection insurance compensation for you.
First of all, there's no point - you can do it yourself.
There's lots of help online. Which?, the consumer organisation,
has a dedicated part of its website to help you,
so does moneysavingexpert.com,
so you can see if you are due compensation, and how to make
the claim, and they both have template letters to fill in.
I'm sure a lot of you are thinking, "I may not have the documents,
"I don't know where I filed them, I probably threw them away."
The firm that sold you the insurance will have to provide them for you.
They will see if you were a customer,
whether you were sold insurance, and the terms on which it was sold.
Once you have sent that letter, the firm has eight weeks to reply.
If it hasn't replied in eight weeks, or if it's sent you a reply
you don't like, you can go to the Financial Ombudsman Service,
which will arbitrate.
What you have to get back is all the premiums you paid
for the policy, right throughout its life,
plus interest at 8% a year on those premiums.
If the offer's any less than that, don't accept it -
go to the ombudsman, because the ombudsman is there to arbitrate
and the vast majority of people who go there get their money.
These days, we live in what many people will think of
as an age of celebrity and glamour.
But you know, it's not just television talent shows that
might encourage you to think
that you too could have your moment in the spotlight.
You often write to us about companies who, for a fee,
will offer to get you modelling work.
And after you've paid it, well, in the cases that we've heard about,
the work that had sounded so likely to happen never quite comes off.
So, if you've ever wondered exactly how people are persuaded
to sign up to these companies, well,
here's someone who recorded all the calls,
meaning that we can tell which bits are true and which aren't.
Like all mothers,
Sam Hewitt from Lincoln thinks that her daughters are adorable.
And she got such a positive reaction from friends to pictures
that she had taken of her eldest daughter Sienna that she decided
to send them off to some modelling companies that she found online.
I contacted four different companies
and I didn't really expect anything to happen, to be honest with you.
But it did. She got a call from a company called Form Models,
which started an expensive chain of events.
They phoned up, just said who they were, that they
had seen the picture of Sienna, how beautiful she was, she'll go
really far in this career, so I just went weak at the knees at just that.
Form Models said they needed Sam and Sienna to come to
London for a test shoot, but there would be a payment involved.
They were really keen to book her in - too keen, thinking back now -
but said, "All we need is a £50 deposit to secure your booking.
"And then as soon as you've turned up for the test shoot,
"you will get your money back for that."
They said that once she had gone for the test shoot,
we would see how she was in front of the camera
and if she was successful, we would get her work.
She then started reeling off how much a week she could actually get.
With stars in her eyes, Sam paid the money by credit card for Sienna
and was also encouraged to sign up her younger daughter, Olivia.
She then phoned her husband to tell him the good news.
He said about the fake modelling agencies that were out there, so
I started to freak out a little bit and looked into it a bit more
and then found that they didn't have a very good write-up at all.
Sam phoned Form Models two days later to cancel her shoot.
I mentioned I thought that they were a modelling agency
and she then said, "We never said we were a modelling agency.
"That's just the way you thought we were."
On closer inspection,
the Form Models website says it is not a model agency
but "a modelling platform", and that it doesn't provide work for models.
After managing to cancel,
Sam thought that all she had lost was a little pride.
But when she got her next credit card statement,
she realised she had lost an awful lot more.
They'd charged £140 per child for cancelling the photoshoot
and then £50 per child for the actual deposit that they'd kept.
And that's a total of £380.
I felt sick about it all.
It was, like, £380 out the account for nothing.
Despite phoning and e-mailing,
Sam had no luck getting her money back from Form Models.
Luckily for her, as she had paid on her credit card,
she was able to claim it back through her credit card company.
I feel really stupid about it all, to be honest with you, but then
I'm a mother and I got lured in by her nice comments of the children.
Sam was lucky.
We've heard from other people who DID go through the photoshoots
that were arranged by Form Models who said they were then
talked into handing over hundreds of pounds to buy picture portfolios.
In fact, that is NOT how proper model agencies do things,
and nor would they normally ask for a deposit.
Felix Dawes, from the Wirral, also contacted Form Models.
He was looking for a way to earn a bit of extra cash during the summer.
Originally, I looked on the internet for modelling firms,
modelling agencies, and Form Models popped up at the top.
One of the sponsored links.
And four days later, the company gave him a call.
When they first got in touch, they said
I was perfect model material, exactly what they were looking for.
Very flattering. I was really, really excited.
At that point,
the Form Models representative asked to speak to Felix's mother.
I had just come home from work, staggered in through the front door,
and Felix came running to me with this bloke on the phone
and said, "Mum, Mum, there's a model agency on the phone.
"They want me to go down for a test shoot."
'And I spoke to him and it was this incredibly excited bloke,
'effusive, saying how wonderful my son was.'
He had "boy band looks" and he was "really gorgeous".
'And I felt my stomach start to contract, thinking,
'"Wow, I've got a gorgeous child!"'
And you don't... You know your own child is gorgeous to you,
but you never think that professionals might be
ringing you up and asking your child to come and work for them.
But this time, Form Models had made the wrong call.
Felix's mum is a BBC journalist.
So she grabbed her Dictaphone and recorded the conversation.
I knew this couldn't be real,
and that's when I grabbed my tape recorder.
They were so positive about how wonderful this was, how
important it was that we rushed to do this and grab this opportunity.
And the fact they wanted me involved as well made me very suspicious.
The parent side of me really wanted this to be real.
The journalist side of me knew it couldn't possibly be.
We've listened to the whole call,
and there are several bits that are nonsense.
Like this, for starters.
It wouldn't be illegal to photograph Felix without his mum.
So, why would they be so insistent that she was there?
Could it be perhaps
because she'd be more likely to have the money to buy the pictures?
It was quite clear that what he was really after was MY credit card.
Because my son doesn't have a credit card
and doesn't have any money, he was flattering me
about my gorgeous child in order to get ME to allow this all to happen.
So, in other words, you were being pressured
and forced into making a decision very, very quickly.
"If you don't make the decision now, if you don't buy the portfolio now,
"we'll kill the pictures, we delete them for copyright reasons."
Copyright reasons? Come off it!
It's made clear several times during the call that Felix's test shoot
wouldn't guarantee him work.
But the overall impression is that he stands a good
chance of getting it, especially because of claims like this one.
That's NOT true.
We checked with both high street names and they told us they'd
never use this company and certainly didn't have any work with them now.
So, at the time we first featured this story, we asked Form Models
about what we had heard on the call and the way they do business.
They reiterated they're not an agency but a "modelling platform".
And they say that means they work alongside models to help them
get casting opportunities
and contacts without charging any commission or admin fee.
They accept they have not helped models to get work with
River Island or H&M.
They didn't say why Felix and his mum were told otherwise, but they did
send us the name of other companies for which they have provided models,
although, when we contacted these companies, some of them
said they had also never worked with Form Models.
Form Models say it is clearly stated on their website that models
under 22 need to be accompanied by a parent at their photoshoots.
That is so that they can...
And to stop them ordering photos out of their price range...
They stress that at these test shoots, they offer many
different types of portfolio, starting with single images at £50,
and there is no obligation or minimum purchase.
Meanwhile, Felix and his mum are glad they did not sign up with
Form Models, but they can understand why others have.
They take people's hopes up, people who might not have much
and want to, you know, get out there,
get out in the world, be the people on the poster boards.
'They were plugging directly into the heart of a parent who
'wants their child to be happy, succeed, get a job.'
They were cynically after my wallet.
Since we featured this story, Trading Standards have told us
they continued to receive dozens of complaints about the company
until, in February of this year, Form Models stopped trading.
But there are plenty of other modelling companies that
won't deliver what they promise.
You'll find more advice on what to watch out for on our website,
Still to come on Rip-Off Britain, the fraudulent mobile phone
apps that are secretly stealing your money.
It was pretty clear that I wasn't the only person in the country to
have suspicious text messages on their mobile phone.
For one weekend only,
we've set up our very own one-stop consumer advice shop.
Inside, our team of experts is ready
and waiting to offer practical advice on your consumer issues.
The solicitors' fees came to £800.
Flight's still here, we're here, you can't have your money back.
So, have you paid him at all for what he did? Just under £1,000.
'Sarah has been telling Trading Standards expert Sylvia Rook
'how she feels well and truly misled after buying her son Ross what
'she thought was a great value birthday treat.'
We have recently purchased a paintballing experience day out for
ten people, and I said to the salesman, "That seems very cheap."
It was £60 for ten people, and I said, "There must be more to pay."
He said, "No, it's a one-off special offer."
Having got the pack home and read it properly,
we've realised that the price we actually paid for the product
is nowhere near the price we will actually have to pay on the day.
It is going to cost approximately £300 more to use.
The situation is slightly difficult
because of the fact that your husband signed a contract.
I would always say, never sign something unless you've read it.
Even if you're being put under pressure,
spend time reading the small print.
Having said that...
if you were induced into entering a contract through misrepresentation
and had you known all the facts you would not have signed up,
then that puts you in a very strong position.
And it seems Sarah isn't the only person in the area to feel
ripped off after buying a paintball package.
Gillian fell for the same package.
So you thought you were paying 59.99 for a full day for ten people?
Yeah. But when I went to book up, they had said it was 9.99 per person.
I think what you need to do is you need to write to the company
and say you were completely misled when you entered into the contract,
and had they been honest with you, you would never have signed up for that contract.
Have you paid on credit card? I did, yeah.
When you pay on credit card,
you're also covered by the Consumer Credit Act.
So if the trader won't give you a refund, you can make a claim against the credit card company.
Good. I think it's very important you also speak to Trading Standards,
because Trading Standards can look and see if the company
are deliberately misleading consumers and they can take action
against the company in relation to the way in which they trade.
I hope you manage to find somewhere you can celebrate your birthday soon.
Thank you very much for coming. Thanks. Thank you.
'Travel expert Simon Calder has been listening to your holiday nightmares,
'and there's something bugging our next consumer, Carol,
'after her family holiday to Turkey.'
There was these black insects all over the headboard
and all over my husband's pillow.
We spoke to the hotel reception the next morning,
showed them the insects, and she said, "Yes, the bedbugs."
We expressed our disappointment. Since we've arrived home,
I have sent two e-mails back to the hotel saying that, you know, it was
a bit disappointing and would we be able to be recompensed in any way?
And what did they say? I've never had a reply from the e-mail.
Simon, I know you're itching to sort this out,
but that is horrific, isn't it? Well, yeah.
I mean, this hotel wasn't, dare I say it, up to scratch.
However, the hotel is in Turkey, it's outside the EU,
so a lot of the consumer rights that you would normally get do not apply.
If you had applied... If you'd bought the holiday
from a tour operator, you might be a bit luckier.
It is unsettling, but I'm afraid it's one of those things
where there is no legal recourse for being unsettled.
I'm afraid I can't see any way through this.
It is a horrible story,
and I'm really sorry you have all had to go through it. How awful!
We've been meeting consumers face-to-face
and hearing about their concerns all weekend.
I've been a victim of card fraud. Oh!
Come with me. Let's go for it. I know. I won't lead you astray, I tell you.
So nice meeting you.
Sometimes, when you feel ripped off,
it could be YOU that's made a mistake.
Perhaps you didn't read the small print or realise
the consequences of what you signed up to.
Well, whoever is at fault, when things go wrong,
you need to know what to do about it.
So we've put together a booklet of tips and advice.
Now, you can find a link to the free guide on our website...
Or, to receive a copy in the post,
send a stamped, self-addressed A5 envelope to the address which
we'll give you right at the end of the programme.
And now something that millions of people in the UK would say
has revolutionised their lives.
Over half of adults now own a smartphone of some sort -
hi-tech gadgets that don't just make calls, they'll book your holiday,
operate your TV, they'll even take money out of the cashpoint for you.
So it surely can't be too long before someone finds a way
to get them to make you a cup of tea.
But beware, because wherever there's a clever new technology,
there's someone equally clever thinking of ways that they
can use it to trick you out of your cash.
They're designed to make life easier,
so is it any wonder that we love them so much?
I'm so reliant on my smartphone
and couldn't imagine my life without it.
The thing I like most is how it has so many different ways
of connecting with other people.
It's a minicomputer, so I can just carry it around wherever I want.
And what smartphone owners love most of all
is the apps -
software applications that you can download to do,
well, just about anything.
There are apps to tell you
when to get on the next bus and games to play
when you're on it - all at the swipe of a finger.
The cinema app on my phone's great. I can check what time films are on at
and what cinema I can go to.
When it comes to games on the phone,
I've got Cut The Rope and Angry Birds, which a lot of people have.
Indeed, they have.
The Angry Birds game has been downloaded 1.7 billion times.
Even David Cameron says he's a fan.
I downloaded it and my children got interested in it
and it is quite addictive.
An app like Angry Birds might typically cost around 69p,
but with so many people buying them, this is big business -
a fact that hasn't gone unnoticed by fraudsters.
They are now creating rogue smartphone apps,
copying the original games and designed to steal money from you
without you realising it,
as John Gladstone discovered. What they've spotted
is that the phone itself is actually
a direct link to people's bank accounts.
They can charge you and they can get to your money, through your phone.
John is an engineer from Southampton and loves gadgets. I like my toys.
I like to play with things, fiddle with new technologies.
When John got his very first smartphone, he couldn't wait to
start downloading his apps. I was very excited,
started to download lots and lots of applications
and, before I knew where I was, I'd already filled the phone memory up.
The shiny new phone was an Android handset,
developed by online giant Google.
They also run the site for downloading Android apps,
I found a website recommended - Top Ten Apps.
I downloaded the prerequisite Angry Birds and other apps
that pretty much everyone has had on their phone at some point.
A lot of them were free and so I thought, "Why not? If it's free,
"then what's the harm?" John had no reason to worry about anything
that he'd downloaded, but he did notice that, when he tried
to use the apps, some of them wouldn't work properly.
A few of them maybe didn't open properly.
The screen went black, the phone crashed.
Because they'd been free, John didn't worry too much about the apps
that weren't working.
Or, at least, he didn't until a few weeks later,
when his phone bill arrived, with some unexpected costs.
I was quite shocked that I had £15 worth
of text messages. My normal phone bill is only £5 a month,
so I knew something was wrong.
John contacted his phone company, who explained that
the £15 was down to three premium-rate text messages,
which had cost £5 each. John was baffled.
I had never sent, nor do I ever intend to send,
a premium-rate text message. I've got far better things
to spend my money on than spending £5 on a message like that.
Though John insisted he hadn't sent them, his phone company
was adamant that the messages had come from his phone.
They recommended that he contact PhonepayPlus,
the body that regulates the UK's premium-rate services.
When I spoke to PhonepayPlus, it was pretty clear that I wasn't
the only person in the country to have the same
suspicious text messages on their...on their mobile phone.
In fact, they were already looking into
34 similar complaints from people who had been charged for messages
that they knew nothing about. It turns out there had been something
very sneaky lurking inside a few of those apps that John downloaded.
Nitin Lanchani was involved in the investigation.
were uploaded to the official Android marketplace
and they were made
to look like free games, which otherwise you would need to pay for -
popular games, such as Angry Birds, Assassin's Creed, Cut The Rope.
By hooking up a computer to a phone, he can demonstrate exactly
what happened to John and hundreds of others around the world
who downloaded those free games.
It's going to shed light on any background processes which the user
doesn't normally see.
When the apps are installed, the phone is blank,
as if nothing is going on, but the computer screen shows that,
hidden away in the background, is all sorts of secret activity.
Nitin can work out what that means.
We grab that and we can decode that. It states you have been billed £5
for this message. So if we have a look at the phone itself
and go to the inbox...
none of that activity can be seen.
So these fake versions of games like Angry Birds had caused a lot
of angry customers, including John. It's not clear exactly which of
the apps he'd downloaded was the culprit, but whichever it was,
when he thought it had simply crashed, it had secretly
been triggering those premium-rate texts - and racking up charges
to his bill.
It looks like a clever scam...
but not clever enough.
PhonepayPlus were able to take action and stop it,
but only after whoever was responsible had earned themselves
tens of thousands of pounds. And although this smartphone scam
has been foiled, more are sure to follow,
as PhonepayPlus chief executive Paul Whiteing explains.
As more people are getting smartphones, which are computers
of a form, then the risk
of this malicious type of activity is growing.
We expect it to grow further
and consumers will need to be aware of this problem
and take action to watch out for it.
So, John is going to be
keeping a close eye on his smartphone in the future.
Certainly, these days, I'm a little more cautious
before pushing the button to download the app that I'm really sure
I know what I'm downloading and I'm confident that it's not
Here at Rip-Off Britain, we're always ready to investigate
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I think it's fair to say that very few companies deliberately set out
to mislead, but on the whole, we're a trusting lot and,
not unreasonably, most of us do tend to believe what we're told,
whether it's in an advertisement or because we hear it on the phone.
In the end, the priority for even the most honest company
is trying to get your custom, so before you agree to anything,
let alone handing over money,
make sure you have time to see if it's all as it seems.
Couldn't agree more. I think the best advice is,
don't take anything at face value,
especially if somebody's trying to get you to make a decision
in a hurry or, indeed, if they've contacted you right out of the blue.
With that advice, that's where we've got to leave it for today.
Thanks for being with us and, hopefully, we'll see you again soon.
Until then, from us, bye-bye. Bye. Bye.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
Angela Rippon, Gloria Hunniford and Julia Somerville investigate situations where viewers feel they have been misled, tracking down a company taking money for airline tickets they did not provide, and unravelling the lies of a company telling parents their children could become models. Plus, how fraudsters can use phone apps to steal your cash without you knowing, and a company that did as it promised by claiming back missold PPI, but then kept the money itself.