The National Trading Standards Scambuster Teams target criminals involved with doorstep crime, counterfeiting, consumer and business fraud and other related crime. They operate across England and Wales through eight regionally based teams, whose interventions last year avoided £139 million worth of consumer detriment:
Scambuster Team Central England
The team in action: Operation Pilot
Consumers were paying large deposits and staged payments for domestic building jobs but very little work was ever carried out. The Scambuster Team Central England investigated and found the trader had no building experience or qualifications and farmed the work out to various sub-contractors, who weren’t paid for their services. The culprit pleaded guilty to s.993 of the Companies Act 2006 as well as s.2 of the Fraud Act and was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment. They were also banned from becoming a company director for five years. Confiscation proceedings are being put in place over the next months. The Scambuster Team Central England is provided by the Central England Trading Standards Authorities Regional Group.
Scambuster Team North East
The team in action: Operation Henry
The Scambuster Team North East has been involved with Operation Henry (a Department of Health funded multi-agency national operation targeting the supply of illicit tobacco). This involves co-ordinated raids with sniffer dogs recently led to a large quantity of illicit tobacco seizures. The Scambuster Team North East is provided by the North East Trading Standards Authorities Regional Group.
Scambuster Team East Midlands
The team in action: Operation Summit
Operation Summit saw the Scambuster Team East Midlands investigate two Nottinghamshire based groups deliberately targeting older and vulnerable adults carrying out unnecessary and sub-standard building and roofing work. Victims were aged between 66 and 90. The trial for the first group of 8 defendants took place in early 2015. The trial for the second group of four defendants commences on 7th September and is listed for six weeks. The detriment across the two groups in relation to the counts of fraud totals £496,000. The Scambuster Team East Midlands is provided by the Trading Standards East Midlands Regional Group.
Scambuster Team North West
The team in action: Operation Drake
The Scambuster Team North West supported Operation Drake that involved offenders who targeted vulnerable victims to take multiple deposits on flats from socially and financially disadvantaged individuals. The Scambuster Team North West is provided by the Trading Standards North West Regional Group.
Scambuster Team Tri Region (covering East of England, London and the South East of England)
The team in action: Operation Neptune
In Operation Neptune the Scambuster Team Tri Region supported Suffolk Trading Standards in a case that involved a contract alteration scam in connection to the supply and maintenance of water coolers and equipment. Four defendants were convicted of 19 counts of fraud by false representation in June 2014. The value of the fraud was approximately £80,000.00 and they each received suspended sentences between 3-17 months, together with 490 hours unpaid work and costs totalling £14,400.00. The Scambuster Team Tri Region is provided by the East of England Trading Standards Association, the Trading Standards South East Regional Group and the London Trading Standards Association.
Scambuster Team South West
The team in action: Operation Sphinx
The Scambuster Team South West led an investigation under Operation Sphinx involving a pyramid selling scheme operating in south west England and south Wales. Nine women were convicted in a scheme that saw more than £20m invested between 2008 and 2009 and identified that some 10,000 members of the public, often vulnerable women, had been drawn into the scheme. Consumers would pay in £3,000 and receive more than £20,000, as more members joined. As new recruits dried up the scheme collapsed, with 90% of investors losing their money. The Office of Fair Trading (now the Competition and Markets Authority) who prosecuted the case worked closely with enforcement partners including the Wales Scambuster Team and Avon & Somerset Constabulary. The scheme was brought to a close between January and April 2009 with the arrest of committee members and other significant promoters from the Bristol area. Financial support was provided by the National Tasking Group to continue with a third trial and to provide the South West Scambusters Team with additional resources. The CMA is continuing with action to confiscate defendants’ criminal assets under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. The Scambuster Team South West is provided by the Trading Standards Partnership South West Regional Group.
Scambuster Team Yorkshire & the Humber
The team in action: Operation Belle
Operation Belle was a country-wide council tax re-banding scam investigation undertaken by the Scambuster Team Yorkshire & the Humber. Scammers set up businesses that claimed they could lower council tax rating and bills (for a fee of between £145-£185) and if re-banding was successful, the business would be entitled to a percentage of the overpayment arrears refunded to the householder. From February 2012, over 1,600 complaints were received by trading standards services throughout England about several businesses. Following a lengthy investigation four defendants were indicted for conspiracy to defraud and money laundering. The total criminal benefit of the fraud is estimated as over £250,000. The Scambuster Team Yorkshire & Humber is provided by the Yorkshire and the Humber Trading Standards Regional Group.
Scambuster Team Wales
The team in action
The Scambuster Team Wales undertook an investigation into Becoming Green (UK) Ltd, exploited the Government’s Green Deal scheme – an initiative to help make homes more energy efficient. The investigation found that the business coordinated visits to consumers in their own homes and duped residents into paying £299 to become participants in the Green Deal scheme. The company’s poor practices and inadequate training potentially cost consumers an estimated £237,690. Working with Newport County Council, the Scambuster Team led an investigation which saw the rogue traders pay fines and compensation to victims. The Scambuster Team Wales is provided by The Wales Heads of Trading Standards.
Scambuster Teams Press Releases
£1.3m in ill-gotten gains seized from Derby-based advertising fraudsters
12th May 2017
Four men sentenced to 11 years and 9 months in building fraud case
3rd April 2017
Hartlepool man convicted of selling illegal media boxes
6th March 2017
Total 40 months jail for Dreamwell couple
3rd March 2017
Leicester sales person has received a 22-month suspended sentence for pressurising and misleading advertising cold calls
9th February 2017
The National Trading Standards Work Areas
National Trading Standards has teams overseeing a range of issues, from illegal money lending to copycat websites and doorstep crime.
National Consumer Week 2-6 Nov 2015
Know your rights - the week long campaign run by Citizens Advice and Trading Standards
2014-15 Consumer Harm Report
The inaugural National Trading Standards ‘Consumer Harm Report’ reveals annual data and predicts biggest threats for 2016 including energy, lottery and telephone preference scams.
Good Neighbours Stop Rogue Traders
National Consumer Week 2014 focused on doorstep crime, which saw the launch of the ‘Good Neighbours Stop Rogue Traders’ campaign.