Episode 2 Rip Off Britain


Episode 2

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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Transcript


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We asked you to tell us who has left you feeling ripped off.

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And you contacted us in your thousands, by post, e-mail,

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even stopping us on the streets.

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And the message could not be clearer.

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They're in it for what they can get, not to provide a service.

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I didn't sleep! It upset me so much that I didn't sleep.

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You told us, with money tighter than ever,

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you need to be sure that every pound you spend is worth it.

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How do I get my money back? Because I just think I'm entitled to it.

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So whether it's a deliberate rip-off,

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a simple mistake or a catch in the small print,

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we'll find out why you're out of pocket and what you can do about it.

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Keep asking the questions, go to the top if you have to.

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We do get results, that's the interesting thing.

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Your stories - your money.

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This is Rip-Off Britain.

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Hello and welcome to Rip-Off Britain.

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Today we'll be looking at situations where,

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let's not beat about the bush, you've been told something that

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was either misleading or it was simply untrue.

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Because often with the stories that you ask us to investigate,

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it can turn out that there was a small detail that you missed

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or maybe a bit of small print that you just didn't understand.

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But that is not the case with the stories that we've got

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coming up this time. In fact, it's almost worse than that.

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Promises made to get your business were not correct,

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sometimes deliberately, other times not.

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But as we'll see, it's not just

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fly-by-night companies that can bamboozle you with

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misleading promises. Even big names can be caught doing it.

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Coming up, the latest on some of the most memorable stories

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we've investigated before.

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We're after answers from a travel company that took

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thousands of pounds but gave nothing in return.

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You ask them for money, they send you money,

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and they don't ever get their tickets.

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Can you explain why?

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The modelling company caught on tape, lying to get new business.

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They were plugging directly into the heart of a parent who

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wants their child to be happy, succeed, get a job.

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They were cynically after my wallet.

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And a problem shared is a problem solved at our consumer advice shop.

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Sometimes you tell us about companies that aren't simply

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giving bad service - they don't seem to be providing any service at all.

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And here's one that appears to be a classic example of exactly that.

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Their website says that they offer creative travel solutions.

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But who would have guessed that creativity would mean

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that some customers have paid hundreds of pounds for cheap flights

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and then received absolutely nothing in return?

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I don't understand how people can do this to other people. Just...

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So, so angry.

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I told them, frankly, how do you sleep at night?

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If it wasn't against the law to go and shake them, I probably would.

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When we search the web for the best flight prices,

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we don't always look quite so carefully into the reputation of

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the companies that are offering them,

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and that can end up costing you dearly,

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as it has Dev and his fiancee, Shalu.

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They needed flights to Kenya after being invited to a wedding.

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A friend that I went to school with was getting married.

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And they chose Mombasa as the destination.

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Um... So we were delighted to go and delighted to be invited.

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For me, it was an unmissable event.

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Dev and Shalu were among dozens of friends

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and family who were invited to Kenya to celebrate the big day.

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And word very quickly spread about a website that seemed to be

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offering a really great deal to get them all there.

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It belonged to a company called Azzy Travel Limited,

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not to be confused with companies of a similar name.

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A lot of the wedding party had mentioned Azzy.

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We hadn't come across them before.

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It looked like a good travel website, their price was fairly decent.

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So we decided to book with them.

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Meanwhile, in Nottingham,

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Dr Narendra Sharma was after flights to the same wedding and also heard

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that there were low fares being advertised by Azzy Travel.

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I looked at the website.

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They looked quite impressive, they looked quite legitimate.

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So, Dr Sharma called them to book the flights.

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But unusually, they wouldn't let him pay by credit card.

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The only way we had to give them money was by transfer

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of money through my bank account, which I did on the same day.

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In London, Dev and Shalu were also surprised to be asked

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to pay by bank transfer and not with a card.

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It was a bit strange

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when they asked for the payment to be made by bank transfer.

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You know, question marks were raised but since there was such a big

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group doing it, you tend not to question these things.

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So, Shalu went ahead and transferred the money for two flights

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to Azzy Travel's bank account, just as Dr Sharma had done.

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But that didn't mean any of them got their tickets.

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They were told they would be sent via e-mail,

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but nothing showed up in their inbox.

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So, as time passed, with no sign of the tickets he'd paid £1,350 for,

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Dr Sharma chased Azzy Travel to see what was going on.

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They said, "Yes, your ticket will be issued on Monday."

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Monday came and went, with no tickets.

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So he rang Azzy Travel again, this time speaking to a manager.

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He said, "Sorry, there was a problem, the airline actually was

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"overbooked so we have to...

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"you have to find alternative dates."

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So, we agreed on an alternate date,

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with the understanding that the tickets would be issued to me the same day.

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But they weren't.

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And in London, Dev and Shalu were being led a very similar dance

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as they tried to get hold of their tickets.

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They said that our tickets would be issued

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and we just had to be patient.

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So we waited until the end of the week and nothing came.

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No e-mails.

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It got to a point where I was calling them two to three times a day.

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And nothing.

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And with the wedding getting closer,

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Dr Sharma had also had enough of Azzy Travel's constant reassurances

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that his tickets would soon be on their way. I said, "No.

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"I want the tickets now.

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"If you can't issue today, what is the hitch?

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"Cancel my tickets. And I want a full refund now."

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And he said, "Since the ticket can't be issued today,

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"your refund will be available soon."

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But - you guessed it - just like the tickets,

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that promised refund didn't arrive.

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So, faced with the prospect of missing the ceremony,

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both sets of wedding guests felt they had no alternative

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but to cough up the cash for a second time,

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and buy the tickets to Kenya from someone else.

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Ultimately, your good friend's wedding, we had to make

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the decision, do we go anyway, even if we don't get the money back?

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I rang KLM airline, and they gave me

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a ticket within five minutes, being paid on credit card.

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The wedding itself was the unforgettable experience

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they had hoped for.

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When we got there, for the one week,

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it was actually the one week where we forgot about the Azzy situation.

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We enjoyed the wedding.

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But when they got home, there was

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still no joy getting their promised refunds.

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Four times a week that I would call them

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and they would say, "Oh, your cheque has been put in the account.

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"Your cheque is being processed.

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"We're banking you a cheque today, the money should be in your account."

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They were lying through their teeth.

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Other members of the wedding party who experienced the same sort of

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problems with Azzy Travel did get them resolved

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after threatening legal action.

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But it seems the company has a track record for this kind of thing.

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A quick search online turns up plenty more customers who also claim

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that after they handed over cash,

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they got absolutely nothing in return.

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We wrote to Azzy Travel for an explanation, but they didn't

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respond to any of the letters or e-mails that we sent them.

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So we decided to phone the company and see if we could get

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an explanation as to why some customers have paid thousands

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of pounds for flights but never had their tickets.

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'Just a moment, please.' Thank you.

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But, over a number of fruitless calls,

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it soon became clear exactly what Dev, Dr Sharma

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and other unhappy Azzy Travel customers were up against.

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It's gone very quiet. Do you know when he might be free?

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That's right, yes, I'd like to speak with him now, please, if I may.

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Regarding Azzy Travel.

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We've had an awful lot of people get in touch with us

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who tell us that they try to book tickets through Azzy Travel,

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you ask them for money, they send you money,

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and they don't ever get their tickets.

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Can you explain why?

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We made more calls to Azzy Travel later,

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and eventually they did answer some of our questions,

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blaming problems on difficulties the company has been experiencing

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with the internet and one of its phone numbers.

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They also said though refunds are generally paid within a week,

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they sometimes take longer.

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But there's good news for Dev, Shalu and Dr Sharma.

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After we got involved, and after they had also looked into taking

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action through the Small Claims Court,

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their money was finally refunded.

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On top of that, when we passed on the names of other customers

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who hadn't had their tickets, they were given their money back too.

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Meanwhile, Dr Sharma is relieved to have got his money back at last.

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In future, he'll be wary of buying anything without

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the protection he'd get by paying with a credit card.

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I have strong advice for all my friends and colleagues, and public

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in general - never transfer money electronically for any purpose.

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Use your credit card or debit card.

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And use a travel agency which is well reputed,

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trusted or one that you have used before.

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Since we first featured the story, we have continued to hear

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from customers who say that they have been let down by Azzy Travel.

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They, too, say that they forked out for airline tickets that have

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failed to materialise, and they've been left out of pocket.

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And the company has not explained why that's the case.

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Next, three letters that have become a real financial hot potato

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over the last couple of years. PPI.

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I'm sure you know by now, it stands for payment protection insurance,

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a policy that turned out to have been mis-sold

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to millions of people right across the UK.

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And as a result,

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what seems like no end of companies have sprung up, offering to help

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you claim back money that you should never have paid in the first place.

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We have investigated some of those companies before.

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But I'm afraid they show no sign of going away.

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And that's despite the fact that most people don't even

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need their help anyway.

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You would be much better ignoring the middleman

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and claiming your money back yourself, something this next couple

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wishes they had known before they signed up.

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There are nearly 2,700 of them out there.

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With their ads everywhere.

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And they may even bombard you with texts and phone calls.

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We're talking about the companies promising that,

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in return for a fee, they'll get you back money

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they think you're owed in mis-sold payment protection insurance.

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Like many others, grandparents Anne and Michael Costello

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had no idea that they might be entitled to anything,

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until, that is, one of these companies suddenly called

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Anne right out of the blue.

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A company called Tucan Claims called me, saying they could get me

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PPI back from any credit cards or any loans that I've had

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over so many years.

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And they said they had already refunded

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lots of money for a lot of customers.

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I didn't know I had any PPI on any of my loans or credit cards,

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I wasn't aware at that time if I had any or not.

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Anne wasn't sure that she wanted to go ahead, but Tucan Claims

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reassured her they were registered with the Ministry of Justice

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and that recently they had got another customer £7,000 back.

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So she signed up, agreeing to pay Tucan Claims 10% of whatever

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they recovered on her behalf, and an upfront fee of £250,

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although she did wonder why that was exactly necessary.

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I thought that if they did the job right,

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if they were charging a 10% fee, that's the way of being paid.

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I didn't think they needed an upfront fee anyway.

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Tucan Claims told Anne that seven different companies could owe

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her money, but in order to access her records,

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she'd need to pay each of them £10, which she did,

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but it took over a year before Tucan sent her a confirmation letter

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to say that they had been successful with a claim.

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It stated that they were very happy to tell me that they

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had negotiated a refund of £802 from a credit card.

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Of course, I was really pleased because this was the first time

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any money looked as though it was coming back to me.

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It may have looked like the cash was on its way,

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but sadly it never materialised.

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So Anne rang the credit card company that was supposed to be making

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the refund to check why they hadn't sent the money on to Tucan,

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and what she was told next came as quite a shock.

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They had already sent the amount of money to Tucan Claims.

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Um... It went on the 12th of November.

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I got the letter on the 17th of November,

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and they cashed the cheque in the bank on the 23rd of November.

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So, that was it.

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My money had gone into Tucan Claims's bank. I've not seen it since.

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Although they had certainly received her money, Tucan Claims hadn't

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sent one penny of it to Anne. So what had they done with it?

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I was calling two or three times a week to try to chase up where

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this money was.

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Excuse after excuse. I never got an answer

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when the money was coming at all.

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Just couldn't get any ideas about the refund.

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So, Anne and her husband decided to do their own research

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into reclaiming payment protection insurance. And they soon discovered

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a website that they wished they had known about in the first place.

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It just said, "Download this information

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"and you can send off and find out yourself

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"if you've got PPI on any loans or any credit cards," which he did.

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It downloaded the form and we sent it off for a credit card

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of my husband's and, within five weeks of him

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sending off the information, he got a cheque back into the bank.

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So, while her husband Michael had got his PPI payments back

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without paying a middleman, Anne was left bitterly regretting ever

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agreeing to let Tucan Claims reclaim money on her behalf.

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I just feel totally disgusted with Tucan Claims, the company.

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They're just not a help to anybody. You don't need them.

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You can do everything yourself and I'm not happy at all about them.

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I'm absolutely...

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..fed up.

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Three months after Tucan Claims had cashed the cheque,

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Anne got in touch with them once again.

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On the advice of the Citizens Advice Bureau, she threatened them

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with court action if they didn't pay up within 28 days.

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I've not heard a single word from them. They're just not interested.

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I think they're not bothered.

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I think my money is in their bank, making lots of interest for them,

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and I think I'm just like a lot of other people,

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I don't know where the money has gone. I haven't got it.

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Anne isn't the only one unhappy with Tucan Claims.

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In April last year,

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the Ministry of Justice, which regulates companies like these,

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prohibited them from providing any further claims management activities.

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And that sort of action happens quite regularly.

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Since 2007, the Ministry of Justice has actively cancelled

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over 900 other companies who promised to reclaim

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mis-sold payment protection insurance.

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As for Tucan Claims, the company has now gone into liquidation,

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which perhaps explains why no-one from the company has

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responded to our calls, e-mails or letters.

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They were ordered to repay refunds to all customers,

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but Anne still hasn't got her money back.

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She can try to claim it back through Tucan's administrators,

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but so far she's had no luck.

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However, there is some light on the horizon for Anne.

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It's hoped that as of next year,

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she or indeed anyone else who has lost money through claims management

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companies will be able to take their case to the legal ombudsman,

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who will be able to ensure that compensation is given where appropriate.

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But for the time being, Anne has learned the hard way that

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if you want to reclaim your PPI, the best way to do it is to do it yourself.

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For more information on how to do that,

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you can always log on to our website.

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As Anne has discovered, you don't usually need one of these

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companies to help you reclaim any mis-sold PPI.

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It's usually pretty straightforward to do it yourself.

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Paul Lewis, from Radio 4's Money Box programme,

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is here to explain how.

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I never recommend going to any company that tries to get

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payment protection insurance compensation for you.

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First of all, there's no point - you can do it yourself.

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There's lots of help online. Which?, the consumer organisation,

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has a dedicated part of its website to help you,

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so does moneysavingexpert.com,

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so you can see if you are due compensation, and how to make

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the claim, and they both have template letters to fill in.

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I'm sure a lot of you are thinking, "I may not have the documents,

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"I don't know where I filed them, I probably threw them away."

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Don't worry.

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The firm that sold you the insurance will have to provide them for you.

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They will see if you were a customer,

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whether you were sold insurance, and the terms on which it was sold.

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Once you have sent that letter, the firm has eight weeks to reply.

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If it hasn't replied in eight weeks, or if it's sent you a reply

0:19:020:19:05

you don't like, you can go to the Financial Ombudsman Service,

0:19:050:19:09

which will arbitrate.

0:19:090:19:10

What you have to get back is all the premiums you paid

0:19:100:19:14

for the policy, right throughout its life,

0:19:140:19:17

plus interest at 8% a year on those premiums.

0:19:170:19:20

If the offer's any less than that, don't accept it -

0:19:200:19:23

go to the ombudsman, because the ombudsman is there to arbitrate

0:19:230:19:27

and the vast majority of people who go there get their money.

0:19:270:19:31

These days, we live in what many people will think of

0:19:340:19:37

as an age of celebrity and glamour.

0:19:370:19:39

But you know, it's not just television talent shows that

0:19:390:19:42

might encourage you to think

0:19:420:19:44

that you too could have your moment in the spotlight.

0:19:440:19:47

You often write to us about companies who, for a fee,

0:19:470:19:50

will offer to get you modelling work.

0:19:500:19:53

And after you've paid it, well, in the cases that we've heard about,

0:19:530:19:57

the work that had sounded so likely to happen never quite comes off.

0:19:570:20:02

So, if you've ever wondered exactly how people are persuaded

0:20:020:20:05

to sign up to these companies, well,

0:20:050:20:08

here's someone who recorded all the calls,

0:20:080:20:11

meaning that we can tell which bits are true and which aren't.

0:20:110:20:15

Like all mothers,

0:20:200:20:21

Sam Hewitt from Lincoln thinks that her daughters are adorable.

0:20:210:20:25

And she got such a positive reaction from friends to pictures

0:20:250:20:29

that she had taken of her eldest daughter Sienna that she decided

0:20:290:20:33

to send them off to some modelling companies that she found online.

0:20:330:20:38

I contacted four different companies

0:20:380:20:41

and I didn't really expect anything to happen, to be honest with you.

0:20:410:20:44

But it did. She got a call from a company called Form Models,

0:20:460:20:49

which started an expensive chain of events.

0:20:490:20:53

They phoned up, just said who they were, that they

0:20:530:20:55

had seen the picture of Sienna, how beautiful she was, she'll go

0:20:550:21:00

really far in this career, so I just went weak at the knees at just that.

0:21:000:21:04

Yay!

0:21:040:21:06

Form Models said they needed Sam and Sienna to come to

0:21:060:21:09

London for a test shoot, but there would be a payment involved.

0:21:090:21:14

They were really keen to book her in - too keen, thinking back now -

0:21:140:21:18

but said, "All we need is a £50 deposit to secure your booking.

0:21:180:21:22

"And then as soon as you've turned up for the test shoot,

0:21:220:21:24

"you will get your money back for that."

0:21:240:21:26

They said that once she had gone for the test shoot,

0:21:260:21:28

we would see how she was in front of the camera

0:21:280:21:31

and if she was successful, we would get her work.

0:21:310:21:34

She then started reeling off how much a week she could actually get.

0:21:340:21:37

With stars in her eyes, Sam paid the money by credit card for Sienna

0:21:370:21:42

and was also encouraged to sign up her younger daughter, Olivia.

0:21:420:21:46

She then phoned her husband to tell him the good news.

0:21:460:21:50

He said about the fake modelling agencies that were out there, so

0:21:500:21:54

I started to freak out a little bit and looked into it a bit more

0:21:540:21:58

and then found that they didn't have a very good write-up at all.

0:21:580:22:01

Sam phoned Form Models two days later to cancel her shoot.

0:22:010:22:06

I mentioned I thought that they were a modelling agency

0:22:060:22:08

and she then said, "We never said we were a modelling agency.

0:22:080:22:11

"That's just the way you thought we were."

0:22:110:22:14

On closer inspection,

0:22:140:22:15

the Form Models website says it is not a model agency

0:22:150:22:19

but "a modelling platform", and that it doesn't provide work for models.

0:22:190:22:24

After managing to cancel,

0:22:240:22:25

Sam thought that all she had lost was a little pride.

0:22:250:22:29

But when she got her next credit card statement,

0:22:290:22:32

she realised she had lost an awful lot more.

0:22:320:22:35

They'd charged £140 per child for cancelling the photoshoot

0:22:350:22:40

and then £50 per child for the actual deposit that they'd kept.

0:22:400:22:45

And that's a total of £380.

0:22:450:22:48

I felt sick about it all.

0:22:480:22:50

It was, like, £380 out the account for nothing.

0:22:500:22:53

Despite phoning and e-mailing,

0:22:530:22:56

Sam had no luck getting her money back from Form Models.

0:22:560:22:59

Luckily for her, as she had paid on her credit card,

0:22:590:23:03

she was able to claim it back through her credit card company.

0:23:030:23:07

I feel really stupid about it all, to be honest with you, but then

0:23:070:23:11

I'm a mother and I got lured in by her nice comments of the children.

0:23:110:23:15

Sam was lucky.

0:23:160:23:18

We've heard from other people who DID go through the photoshoots

0:23:180:23:21

that were arranged by Form Models who said they were then

0:23:210:23:24

talked into handing over hundreds of pounds to buy picture portfolios.

0:23:240:23:29

In fact, that is NOT how proper model agencies do things,

0:23:290:23:33

and nor would they normally ask for a deposit.

0:23:330:23:36

Felix Dawes, from the Wirral, also contacted Form Models.

0:23:370:23:41

He was looking for a way to earn a bit of extra cash during the summer.

0:23:410:23:45

Originally, I looked on the internet for modelling firms,

0:23:450:23:48

modelling agencies, and Form Models popped up at the top.

0:23:480:23:50

One of the sponsored links.

0:23:500:23:52

And four days later, the company gave him a call.

0:23:520:23:56

When they first got in touch, they said

0:23:560:23:58

I was perfect model material, exactly what they were looking for.

0:23:580:24:01

Very flattering. I was really, really excited.

0:24:010:24:04

At that point,

0:24:040:24:06

the Form Models representative asked to speak to Felix's mother.

0:24:060:24:10

I had just come home from work, staggered in through the front door,

0:24:100:24:13

and Felix came running to me with this bloke on the phone

0:24:130:24:16

and said, "Mum, Mum, there's a model agency on the phone.

0:24:160:24:20

"They want me to go down for a test shoot."

0:24:200:24:23

'And I spoke to him and it was this incredibly excited bloke,

0:24:230:24:26

'effusive, saying how wonderful my son was.'

0:24:260:24:28

He had "boy band looks" and he was "really gorgeous".

0:24:280:24:32

'And I felt my stomach start to contract, thinking,

0:24:320:24:35

'"Wow, I've got a gorgeous child!"'

0:24:350:24:38

And you don't... You know your own child is gorgeous to you,

0:24:380:24:41

but you never think that professionals might be

0:24:410:24:43

ringing you up and asking your child to come and work for them.

0:24:430:24:46

But this time, Form Models had made the wrong call.

0:24:460:24:51

Felix's mum is a BBC journalist.

0:24:510:24:53

So she grabbed her Dictaphone and recorded the conversation.

0:24:530:24:58

I knew this couldn't be real,

0:24:580:25:00

and that's when I grabbed my tape recorder.

0:25:000:25:02

They were so positive about how wonderful this was, how

0:25:020:25:05

important it was that we rushed to do this and grab this opportunity.

0:25:050:25:09

And the fact they wanted me involved as well made me very suspicious.

0:25:090:25:13

The parent side of me really wanted this to be real.

0:25:130:25:18

The journalist side of me knew it couldn't possibly be.

0:25:180:25:21

We've listened to the whole call,

0:25:220:25:25

and there are several bits that are nonsense.

0:25:250:25:28

Like this, for starters.

0:25:280:25:29

It wouldn't be illegal to photograph Felix without his mum.

0:25:390:25:43

So, why would they be so insistent that she was there?

0:25:430:25:47

Could it be perhaps

0:25:470:25:48

because she'd be more likely to have the money to buy the pictures?

0:25:480:25:53

It was quite clear that what he was really after was MY credit card.

0:25:530:25:58

Because my son doesn't have a credit card

0:25:580:26:00

and doesn't have any money, he was flattering me

0:26:000:26:03

about my gorgeous child in order to get ME to allow this all to happen.

0:26:030:26:08

So, in other words, you were being pressured

0:26:190:26:21

and forced into making a decision very, very quickly.

0:26:210:26:23

"If you don't make the decision now, if you don't buy the portfolio now,

0:26:230:26:27

"we'll kill the pictures, we delete them for copyright reasons."

0:26:270:26:32

Copyright reasons? Come off it!

0:26:320:26:34

It's made clear several times during the call that Felix's test shoot

0:26:340:26:38

wouldn't guarantee him work.

0:26:380:26:41

But the overall impression is that he stands a good

0:26:410:26:44

chance of getting it, especially because of claims like this one.

0:26:440:26:48

That's NOT true.

0:26:570:27:00

We checked with both high street names and they told us they'd

0:27:000:27:03

never use this company and certainly didn't have any work with them now.

0:27:030:27:07

So, at the time we first featured this story, we asked Form Models

0:27:070:27:10

about what we had heard on the call and the way they do business.

0:27:100:27:15

They reiterated they're not an agency but a "modelling platform".

0:27:150:27:19

And they say that means they work alongside models to help them

0:27:190:27:22

get casting opportunities

0:27:220:27:23

and contacts without charging any commission or admin fee.

0:27:230:27:28

They accept they have not helped models to get work with

0:27:280:27:31

River Island or H&M.

0:27:310:27:33

They didn't say why Felix and his mum were told otherwise, but they did

0:27:330:27:37

send us the name of other companies for which they have provided models,

0:27:370:27:41

although, when we contacted these companies, some of them

0:27:410:27:44

said they had also never worked with Form Models.

0:27:440:27:48

Form Models say it is clearly stated on their website that models

0:27:480:27:52

under 22 need to be accompanied by a parent at their photoshoots.

0:27:520:27:56

That is so that they can...

0:27:560:27:58

And to stop them ordering photos out of their price range...

0:28:030:28:07

They stress that at these test shoots, they offer many

0:28:120:28:15

different types of portfolio, starting with single images at £50,

0:28:150:28:20

and there is no obligation or minimum purchase.

0:28:200:28:24

Meanwhile, Felix and his mum are glad they did not sign up with

0:28:260:28:29

Form Models, but they can understand why others have.

0:28:290:28:32

They take people's hopes up, people who might not have much

0:28:320:28:36

and want to, you know, get out there,

0:28:360:28:38

get out in the world, be the people on the poster boards.

0:28:380:28:41

'They were plugging directly into the heart of a parent who

0:28:410:28:45

'wants their child to be happy, succeed, get a job.'

0:28:450:28:47

They were cynically after my wallet.

0:28:470:28:51

Since we featured this story, Trading Standards have told us

0:28:510:28:54

they continued to receive dozens of complaints about the company

0:28:540:28:58

until, in February of this year, Form Models stopped trading.

0:28:580:29:03

But there are plenty of other modelling companies that

0:29:030:29:05

won't deliver what they promise.

0:29:050:29:07

You'll find more advice on what to watch out for on our website,

0:29:070:29:11

bbc.co.uk/ripoffbritain.

0:29:110:29:14

Still to come on Rip-Off Britain, the fraudulent mobile phone

0:29:180:29:21

apps that are secretly stealing your money.

0:29:210:29:24

It was pretty clear that I wasn't the only person in the country to

0:29:240:29:27

have suspicious text messages on their mobile phone.

0:29:270:29:30

For one weekend only,

0:29:340:29:35

we've set up our very own one-stop consumer advice shop.

0:29:350:29:39

Inside, our team of experts is ready

0:29:390:29:41

and waiting to offer practical advice on your consumer issues.

0:29:410:29:45

The solicitors' fees came to £800.

0:29:450:29:47

Flight's still here, we're here, you can't have your money back.

0:29:470:29:51

So, have you paid him at all for what he did? Just under £1,000.

0:29:510:29:55

'Sarah has been telling Trading Standards expert Sylvia Rook

0:29:550:29:58

'how she feels well and truly misled after buying her son Ross what

0:29:580:30:03

'she thought was a great value birthday treat.'

0:30:030:30:06

We have recently purchased a paintballing experience day out for

0:30:060:30:11

ten people, and I said to the salesman, "That seems very cheap."

0:30:110:30:16

It was £60 for ten people, and I said, "There must be more to pay."

0:30:160:30:21

He said, "No, it's a one-off special offer."

0:30:210:30:23

Having got the pack home and read it properly,

0:30:230:30:27

we've realised that the price we actually paid for the product

0:30:270:30:31

is nowhere near the price we will actually have to pay on the day.

0:30:310:30:34

It is going to cost approximately £300 more to use.

0:30:340:30:37

The situation is slightly difficult

0:30:370:30:40

because of the fact that your husband signed a contract.

0:30:400:30:42

I would always say, never sign something unless you've read it.

0:30:420:30:46

Even if you're being put under pressure,

0:30:460:30:48

spend time reading the small print.

0:30:480:30:50

Having said that...

0:30:500:30:52

if you were induced into entering a contract through misrepresentation

0:30:520:30:55

and had you known all the facts you would not have signed up,

0:30:550:30:58

then that puts you in a very strong position.

0:30:580:31:01

And it seems Sarah isn't the only person in the area to feel

0:31:010:31:05

ripped off after buying a paintball package.

0:31:050:31:07

Gillian fell for the same package.

0:31:070:31:10

So you thought you were paying 59.99 for a full day for ten people?

0:31:100:31:16

Yeah. But when I went to book up, they had said it was 9.99 per person.

0:31:160:31:21

I think what you need to do is you need to write to the company

0:31:210:31:24

and say you were completely misled when you entered into the contract,

0:31:240:31:27

and had they been honest with you, you would never have signed up for that contract.

0:31:270:31:31

Have you paid on credit card? I did, yeah.

0:31:310:31:32

When you pay on credit card,

0:31:320:31:34

you're also covered by the Consumer Credit Act.

0:31:340:31:36

So if the trader won't give you a refund, you can make a claim against the credit card company.

0:31:360:31:40

Good. I think it's very important you also speak to Trading Standards,

0:31:400:31:44

because Trading Standards can look and see if the company

0:31:440:31:47

are deliberately misleading consumers and they can take action

0:31:470:31:50

against the company in relation to the way in which they trade.

0:31:500:31:52

I hope you manage to find somewhere you can celebrate your birthday soon.

0:31:520:31:56

Thank you very much for coming. Thanks. Thank you.

0:31:560:31:58

'Travel expert Simon Calder has been listening to your holiday nightmares,

0:31:580:32:02

'and there's something bugging our next consumer, Carol,

0:32:020:32:05

'after her family holiday to Turkey.'

0:32:050:32:08

There was these black insects all over the headboard

0:32:080:32:12

and all over my husband's pillow.

0:32:120:32:14

We spoke to the hotel reception the next morning,

0:32:140:32:16

showed them the insects, and she said, "Yes, the bedbugs."

0:32:160:32:19

We expressed our disappointment. Since we've arrived home,

0:32:190:32:23

I have sent two e-mails back to the hotel saying that, you know, it was

0:32:230:32:27

a bit disappointing and would we be able to be recompensed in any way?

0:32:270:32:32

And what did they say? I've never had a reply from the e-mail.

0:32:320:32:36

Simon, I know you're itching to sort this out,

0:32:360:32:40

but that is horrific, isn't it? Well, yeah.

0:32:400:32:43

I mean, this hotel wasn't, dare I say it, up to scratch.

0:32:430:32:46

However, the hotel is in Turkey, it's outside the EU,

0:32:460:32:50

so a lot of the consumer rights that you would normally get do not apply.

0:32:500:32:55

If you had applied... If you'd bought the holiday

0:32:560:32:59

from a tour operator, you might be a bit luckier.

0:32:590:33:01

It is unsettling, but I'm afraid it's one of those things

0:33:010:33:04

where there is no legal recourse for being unsettled.

0:33:040:33:07

I'm afraid I can't see any way through this.

0:33:070:33:10

It is a horrible story,

0:33:100:33:13

and I'm really sorry you have all had to go through it. How awful!

0:33:130:33:16

We've been meeting consumers face-to-face

0:33:170:33:20

and hearing about their concerns all weekend.

0:33:200:33:23

I've been a victim of card fraud. Oh!

0:33:230:33:26

Come with me. Let's go for it. I know. I won't lead you astray, I tell you.

0:33:260:33:29

So nice meeting you.

0:33:290:33:31

Sometimes, when you feel ripped off,

0:33:350:33:37

it could be YOU that's made a mistake.

0:33:370:33:40

Perhaps you didn't read the small print or realise

0:33:400:33:42

the consequences of what you signed up to.

0:33:420:33:45

Well, whoever is at fault, when things go wrong,

0:33:450:33:48

you need to know what to do about it.

0:33:480:33:50

So we've put together a booklet of tips and advice.

0:33:500:33:53

Now, you can find a link to the free guide on our website...

0:33:530:33:56

Or, to receive a copy in the post,

0:34:010:34:02

send a stamped, self-addressed A5 envelope to the address which

0:34:020:34:06

we'll give you right at the end of the programme.

0:34:060:34:08

And now something that millions of people in the UK would say

0:34:120:34:15

has revolutionised their lives.

0:34:150:34:18

Over half of adults now own a smartphone of some sort -

0:34:180:34:23

hi-tech gadgets that don't just make calls, they'll book your holiday,

0:34:230:34:27

operate your TV, they'll even take money out of the cashpoint for you.

0:34:270:34:31

So it surely can't be too long before someone finds a way

0:34:310:34:34

to get them to make you a cup of tea.

0:34:340:34:36

But beware, because wherever there's a clever new technology,

0:34:360:34:40

there's someone equally clever thinking of ways that they

0:34:400:34:44

can use it to trick you out of your cash.

0:34:440:34:47

They're designed to make life easier,

0:34:510:34:54

so is it any wonder that we love them so much?

0:34:540:34:58

I'm so reliant on my smartphone

0:34:580:35:01

and couldn't imagine my life without it.

0:35:010:35:04

The thing I like most is how it has so many different ways

0:35:040:35:06

of connecting with other people.

0:35:060:35:08

It's a minicomputer, so I can just carry it around wherever I want.

0:35:080:35:12

And what smartphone owners love most of all

0:35:120:35:15

is the apps -

0:35:150:35:17

software applications that you can download to do,

0:35:170:35:20

well, just about anything.

0:35:200:35:22

There are apps to tell you

0:35:220:35:24

when to get on the next bus and games to play

0:35:240:35:26

when you're on it - all at the swipe of a finger.

0:35:260:35:28

The cinema app on my phone's great. I can check what time films are on at

0:35:280:35:32

and what cinema I can go to.

0:35:320:35:34

When it comes to games on the phone,

0:35:340:35:36

I've got Cut The Rope and Angry Birds, which a lot of people have.

0:35:360:35:39

Indeed, they have.

0:35:390:35:42

The Angry Birds game has been downloaded 1.7 billion times.

0:35:420:35:47

Even David Cameron says he's a fan.

0:35:470:35:49

I downloaded it and my children got interested in it

0:35:490:35:52

and it is quite addictive.

0:35:520:35:53

An app like Angry Birds might typically cost around 69p,

0:35:530:35:57

but with so many people buying them, this is big business -

0:35:570:36:02

a fact that hasn't gone unnoticed by fraudsters.

0:36:020:36:05

They are now creating rogue smartphone apps,

0:36:050:36:08

copying the original games and designed to steal money from you

0:36:080:36:12

without you realising it,

0:36:120:36:14

as John Gladstone discovered. What they've spotted

0:36:140:36:16

is that the phone itself is actually

0:36:160:36:19

a direct link to people's bank accounts.

0:36:190:36:21

They can charge you and they can get to your money, through your phone.

0:36:210:36:26

John is an engineer from Southampton and loves gadgets. I like my toys.

0:36:300:36:35

I like to play with things, fiddle with new technologies.

0:36:350:36:37

When John got his very first smartphone, he couldn't wait to

0:36:370:36:41

start downloading his apps. I was very excited,

0:36:410:36:44

started to download lots and lots of applications

0:36:440:36:49

and, before I knew where I was, I'd already filled the phone memory up.

0:36:490:36:53

The shiny new phone was an Android handset,

0:36:530:36:56

developed by online giant Google.

0:36:560:36:58

They also run the site for downloading Android apps,

0:36:580:37:02

Google Play.

0:37:020:37:03

I found a website recommended - Top Ten Apps.

0:37:030:37:06

I downloaded the prerequisite Angry Birds and other apps

0:37:060:37:10

that pretty much everyone has had on their phone at some point.

0:37:100:37:13

A lot of them were free and so I thought, "Why not? If it's free,

0:37:130:37:17

"then what's the harm?" John had no reason to worry about anything

0:37:170:37:21

that he'd downloaded, but he did notice that, when he tried

0:37:210:37:24

to use the apps, some of them wouldn't work properly.

0:37:240:37:28

A few of them maybe didn't open properly.

0:37:280:37:30

The screen went black, the phone crashed.

0:37:300:37:33

Because they'd been free, John didn't worry too much about the apps

0:37:330:37:37

that weren't working.

0:37:370:37:39

Or, at least, he didn't until a few weeks later,

0:37:390:37:41

when his phone bill arrived, with some unexpected costs.

0:37:410:37:45

I was quite shocked that I had £15 worth

0:37:450:37:47

of text messages. My normal phone bill is only £5 a month,

0:37:470:37:50

so I knew something was wrong.

0:37:500:37:52

John contacted his phone company, who explained that

0:37:520:37:55

the £15 was down to three premium-rate text messages,

0:37:550:38:00

which had cost £5 each. John was baffled.

0:38:000:38:05

I had never sent, nor do I ever intend to send,

0:38:050:38:08

a premium-rate text message. I've got far better things

0:38:080:38:11

to spend my money on than spending £5 on a message like that.

0:38:110:38:16

Though John insisted he hadn't sent them, his phone company

0:38:160:38:20

was adamant that the messages had come from his phone.

0:38:200:38:23

They recommended that he contact PhonepayPlus,

0:38:230:38:27

the body that regulates the UK's premium-rate services.

0:38:270:38:30

When I spoke to PhonepayPlus, it was pretty clear that I wasn't

0:38:300:38:33

the only person in the country to have the same

0:38:330:38:36

suspicious text messages on their...on their mobile phone.

0:38:360:38:40

In fact, they were already looking into

0:38:400:38:43

34 similar complaints from people who had been charged for messages

0:38:430:38:47

that they knew nothing about. It turns out there had been something

0:38:470:38:51

very sneaky lurking inside a few of those apps that John downloaded.

0:38:510:38:56

Nitin Lanchani was involved in the investigation.

0:38:560:38:59

Malicious applications

0:38:590:39:01

were uploaded to the official Android marketplace

0:39:010:39:04

and they were made

0:39:040:39:06

to look like free games, which otherwise you would need to pay for -

0:39:060:39:11

popular games, such as Angry Birds, Assassin's Creed, Cut The Rope.

0:39:110:39:15

By hooking up a computer to a phone, he can demonstrate exactly

0:39:150:39:19

what happened to John and hundreds of others around the world

0:39:190:39:23

who downloaded those free games.

0:39:230:39:25

It's going to shed light on any background processes which the user

0:39:250:39:29

doesn't normally see.

0:39:290:39:30

When the apps are installed, the phone is blank,

0:39:300:39:33

as if nothing is going on, but the computer screen shows that,

0:39:330:39:37

hidden away in the background, is all sorts of secret activity.

0:39:370:39:41

Nitin can work out what that means.

0:39:410:39:44

We grab that and we can decode that. It states you have been billed £5

0:39:440:39:49

for this message. So if we have a look at the phone itself

0:39:490:39:52

and go to the inbox...

0:39:520:39:54

none of that activity can be seen.

0:39:540:39:58

So these fake versions of games like Angry Birds had caused a lot

0:39:580:40:02

of angry customers, including John. It's not clear exactly which of

0:40:020:40:06

the apps he'd downloaded was the culprit, but whichever it was,

0:40:060:40:11

when he thought it had simply crashed, it had secretly

0:40:110:40:16

been triggering those premium-rate texts - and racking up charges

0:40:160:40:20

to his bill.

0:40:200:40:21

It looks like a clever scam...

0:40:210:40:24

but not clever enough.

0:40:240:40:26

PhonepayPlus were able to take action and stop it,

0:40:260:40:29

but only after whoever was responsible had earned themselves

0:40:290:40:34

tens of thousands of pounds. And although this smartphone scam

0:40:340:40:39

has been foiled, more are sure to follow,

0:40:390:40:41

as PhonepayPlus chief executive Paul Whiteing explains.

0:40:410:40:45

As more people are getting smartphones, which are computers

0:40:450:40:48

of a form, then the risk

0:40:480:40:50

of this malicious type of activity is growing.

0:40:500:40:53

We expect it to grow further

0:40:530:40:55

and consumers will need to be aware of this problem

0:40:550:40:57

and take action to watch out for it.

0:40:570:40:59

So, John is going to be

0:40:590:41:01

keeping a close eye on his smartphone in the future.

0:41:010:41:05

Certainly, these days, I'm a little more cautious

0:41:050:41:07

before pushing the button to download the app that I'm really sure

0:41:070:41:11

I know what I'm downloading and I'm confident that it's not

0:41:110:41:15

anything malicious.

0:41:150:41:16

Here at Rip-Off Britain, we're always ready to investigate

0:41:200:41:24

more of your stories.

0:41:240:41:25

You can write to us at...

0:41:270:41:36

Or send us an e-mail, to...

0:41:370:41:43

The Rip-Off team is ready and waiting to investigate YOUR stories.

0:41:430:41:48

I think it's fair to say that very few companies deliberately set out

0:41:500:41:54

to mislead, but on the whole, we're a trusting lot and,

0:41:540:41:58

not unreasonably, most of us do tend to believe what we're told,

0:41:580:42:02

whether it's in an advertisement or because we hear it on the phone.

0:42:020:42:06

In the end, the priority for even the most honest company

0:42:060:42:09

is trying to get your custom, so before you agree to anything,

0:42:090:42:13

let alone handing over money,

0:42:130:42:14

make sure you have time to see if it's all as it seems.

0:42:140:42:18

Couldn't agree more. I think the best advice is,

0:42:180:42:21

don't take anything at face value,

0:42:210:42:23

especially if somebody's trying to get you to make a decision

0:42:230:42:27

in a hurry or, indeed, if they've contacted you right out of the blue.

0:42:270:42:31

With that advice, that's where we've got to leave it for today.

0:42:310:42:34

Thanks for being with us and, hopefully, we'll see you again soon.

0:42:340:42:38

Until then, from us, bye-bye. Bye. Bye.

0:42:380:42:40

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:43:010:43:04

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.


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