In September alone Surelock, acting on behalf of TRAP (Trademarks and Rights holders Against Piracy) and other clients, have assisted officers from Camden Trading Standards and ACG members carry out enforcements on a major screen print factory / warehouse, seven retail stores, two large stalls dedicated to music merchandise and a street market in Camden High Street area, cleaning them all of counterfeit goods. Our thanks goes to the hard work and dedication of the team at Camden TS.
A question I was recently asked “Are private investigators only hired by the rich and famous?”
and my answer “Absolutely no, not at all!”
In this day of ever stretching resources, private investigators certainly fill a very important gap in many different areas. We are experts in our field, qualified, accredited and professional but with something a little bit special; we are approachable. I’ve chatted to people who just want to tell someone that something awful has happened to them and get some direction of how to deal with it. Sometimes it’s just that old saying of “a problem shared”.
There are companies that know they are losing money through fraudulent activities but just don’t know where to start unravelling and making sense of what is taking place, how to prevent it happening in the future or putting a package of evidence together to obtain the desired outcome. That’s when we are more valuable than you could have envisaged, and absolutely worth thinking about. Known for tenacity, we have assisted in many a court case where just that extra search provided the evidence that swung the case in the client’s favour, saving the possibility of huge costs awarded against them. There is something quite rewarding in knowing you are right and succeeding in proving it; sometimes you just need the help of someone who knows which direction to channel the investigation to prove that fact for you.
Budgets get cut and the thought of hiring a private investigator may feel hard to justify, but what if “ghost workers” are your scary thought? You’ll be amazed how often it takes place and how easy it is to task us to prove their existence for your company. Ultimately an investigation could save you more than money in the long run; a company’s reputation is often priceless.
Unfortunately, it is a sad fact that sometimes the police just don’t have resources to find the evidence needed to classify a crime as worthy of investigation. That is where we can make a major difference. We can investigate and package the necessary evidence that makes that crime committed against you or your company one which shows there is evidence supporting the crime classification. Moreover, the eventual outcome may be the difference of a prosecution.
Health and safety audits can be put into place to check workers are adhering to company policy, which can make you significant savings in a court case. We have experience of regular checks with various companies where we report back failures and successes. Look at the bigger picture of what can be achieved; sometimes a pat on the back will keep that workforce you have trained, happy and content, sometimes it can save a life. Again, that’s priceless.
Peace of mind is sometimes invaluable. Surveillance can be performed to give you peace of mind, to prove something or to negate something. Our eyes and ears become your eyes and ears. Pictures say a thousand words. That could be a strapline!
So, how long is that piece of string? I’m not saying rich and famous are not welcome, but don’t ever let it think you are not worthy of our services because you are not rich and famous!
The word trap is usually not a nice word. Instantly a device designed to catch and retain an animal springs to mind, or a trick planned to deceive someone or catch them unaware. Okay, so trap music seems to be one form that’s not so awful depending on your music taste (Oh dear – switch if off quick it really isn’t for me!) AND of course there is TRAP (Trademark and Rightsholders Against Piracy) who we know do excellent work to protect the public from purchasing counterfeit products whilst enabling artists, actors, athletes and musicians to provide their fans with official merchandise.
Someone I know recently was caught in a subscription trap and it caused me to look a little deeper into the whole trap area and it does what it says on the tin. It tricks someone into subscribing to a service or goods by offering the person a free trial believing that they will only be paying for the postage of that item by using a debit or credit card (my instinct on giving debit or credit card details makes me question anything first, but as consumers we are all getting a little less cautious using cards online). Once the subscription trap company have those details they set up a continuous payment authority (CPA) and the trap is set.
Trading standards and Citizens Advice Bureau helped my friend who had responded to a pop up advert whilst visiting a respected High Street store’s online shop. The advert offered a sample of face cream and within seconds the trap had been activated. Luckily she realised quickly and managed to cancel her credit card so the loss was minimal. The subscription trap company tried to make her feel that by cancelling the service, she would be put on a consumers black list and her credit worthiness would be challenged on any future purchases elsewhere. Indeed cruel for an honest person who has never been in debt to contemplate.
Citizens Advice state that women aged 50 to 64 are most at risk from subscription traps offering health and beauty related products. Their survey highlights that as many as 2 million consumers in Great Britain have had a request to cancel a CPA for subscription declined by either the company or their bank/card provider. Far too many are getting caught and stuck in the trap and we need to highlight this to stop those numbers increasing.
Check out National Trading Standards eCrime which has been set up by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills to investigate online scams and rip offs of nation significance. http://www.tradingstandardsecrime.org.uk/ and also Get Safe Online, who state they are UK’s leading source of unbiased factual and easy to understand information on online safety, offer free expert advice both personal and business https://www.getsafeonline.org/
I’ve always used the saying “If there is a bargain in one shop, I’m in the shop next door”. Maybe it’s not such a bad place to be.
Surelock is now a member of The Real Deal. The Real Deal campaign is a cross-sector, partnership initiative, bringing together local authority trading standards services, market operators and traders, industry groups, and copyright and trademark owners, all of whom are united with a common commitment to tackling the problem of illicit traders at markets who sell counterfeit and pirated goods.
Through an old friend and former Police colleague, Steve Gaskin, who does so much charitable work for the education of children in Uganda, Surelock have proudly sponsored a school where our small donation will help with school uniforms, book bags, mini white boards and will assist with the cost of supporting a child through an academic year. Below is a picture of Moses whom we sponsored. He lost both mum & dad through AIDS and lives with his sister. We have offered relief, security and a heart for doing good. God Bless and Good luck Moses”
Cifas, the UK’s leading fraud prevention service, has released new figures showing a 52% rise in young identity fraud victims in the UK.
Data to Go is a short film which aims to raise awareness of this identity fraud. Filmed in a London coffee shop in March this year, the film uses hidden cameras to capture baffled reactions from people caught in a stunt where their personal data, all found on public websites, is revealed to them live on a coffee cup.
The trade in fake goods is putting hundreds of jobs at risk, experts have warned, as a BBC investigation shows the extent of the black market in England’s biggest cities.
Trading standards figures showed hotspots in Manchester, Birmingham and Newham in east London.
Commonly copied items included Beats by Dr Dre headphones, branded phone covers and cigarettes.
The Anti-Counterfeiting Group said some fakes were “potentially lethal”.
Our investigation revealed:
The Beats headphones endorsed by rap star Dr Dre appeared as one of the most commonly copied goods across England
Fraudsters are copying brand name food, such as chocolate bars, or illegally selling bottles purporting to be well-known shampoos
There was a 76% rise in the number of confiscations between 2014 and 2015
Manchester’s Cheetham Hill had the biggest issue with counterfeit clothing, which saw it dubbed Counterfeit Street by the Intellectual Property Office
BBC News asked for records from the 10 most populated cities in England under the Freedom of Information Act. We contacted councils in London, Birmingham, Sheffield, Manchester, Liverpool, Bristol, Leicester and West Yorkshire, where a joint trading standards team covers Leeds, Wakefield and Bradford.
Liverpool City Council and Sheffield were unable to provide a full breakdown and Bristol City Council has yet to respond. London boroughs Westminster, Waltham Forest, Richmond and Merton refused to answer.
Clothing and accessories made up almost a third of all goods seized. The next most common category was mobile phone accessories, with covers often depicting either products, such as the Apple iPhone, or other famous brands.
A spokeswoman for the Anti-Counterfeiting Group said it was difficult to get a true picture of the scale of the problem because of differences in the way councils record their figures.
However, she said: “We have seen a reduction in anti-counterfeiting activity because of the serious cutbacks trading standards have and still are facing.
“There is definitely a rise in counterfeit items on the UK market.
“We would like to see a change in strategic priorities by recognition of the link between organised crime and counterfeiting.
And she warned that people buying fake goods are putting themselves at risk.
“The criminal gangs that make these products have no regard for health or safety and as such, products are not being tested to the high UK standards and are therefore potentially lethal to the British consumer,” she explained.
Leon Livermore, Chartered Trading Standards Institute chief executive, said people did not realise the damage they were doing to legitimate businesses.
“Hundreds of jobs are being lost in sectors that encompass many small businesses, vulnerable to collapse,” he said.
“Worryingly, 24% of people have knowingly bought counterfeit goods and a further 21% would consider it to save money.
Since 2013, trading standards in seven of the 10 biggest cities revealed they had seized at least 6,531 sets of headphones or ear buds sold as either Beats or Beats by Dre.
The figure is likely to be even higher as in some cases the headphones were seized among other goods and a breakdown was not available.
Genuine headphones sell for up to £270 a pair.
In one incident alone in the M8 postcode area of Manchester, there were 2,115 fake sets found in May 2014.
Trading standards in Hillingdon in London also found 1,651 sets of counterfeit headphones in February 2013.
Apple, which owns Beats, has been approached for a comment.
Other notable seizures included:
Some 260 phone covers showing Disney’s Frozen and a further 230 depicting the Minions from Despicable Me were seized in Enfield, north London
The biggest individual haul of seized clothing was from Manchester’s Cheetham Hill. Some 25,600 items of fake clothing including brands such as D&G, Hugo Boss and Ice were seized
Birmingham’s team seized 15,693 item of clothing, worth a total of £156,930, in the Lozells area of the city.
The city’s Handsworth area emerged as a hotspot for counterfeit tobacco
Counterfeit tobacco was big business in Newham as well. Trading standards confiscated products from the E6 area 33 times in 2013, 12 in 2014 and 25 in 2015.
The highest value item seized in the largest cities was a counterfeit Rolex women’s gold watch, said by Royal Borough of Greenwich Council to be a copy of one valued at £39,000.
Manchester’s officers found 3,476 packs of counterfeited e-cigarette liquid in Cheetham Hill
Pirated DVDs were also high on the list. Trading standards in West Yorkshire seized 10,000 in one operation in the Lidget Green area of Bradford. Three months later the same quantity was seized in Leicester
Food and drink was also copied. In 2013 631 chocolate bars falsely labelled Wonka were seized in the Ancoats and Northern Quarter area of Manchester and 85 more were confiscated in Croydon the same year
In a report on the counterfeit trade in Cheetham Hill in January 2016, Baroness Neville-Rolfe, minister for intellectual property, said: “This trade, where income tax and consumer safety is simply ignored, undercuts and undermines legitimate businesses and allows other criminality to be funded and flourish.”
The Anti-Counterfeiting Group (ACG) has called on the UK government to set up a national IP enforcement body in order to tackle the threat posed by counterfeits.
In its 2016 manifesto, published today, July 5, the UK-based ACG said an urgent response from the government was needed.
The manifesto said the government should place IP crime as an immediate political priority and work with businesses to promote awareness of counterfeiting.
It recommended implementing an “over-arching” enforcement body that would include trading standards, customs and a central intelligence team.
Alison Statham, director of operations at the ACG, said: “The government must openly recognise counterfeiting as a lucrative and extremely dangerous criminal activity … The sale of illicit counterfeit goods has increased year-on-year, driven primarily by the rise in online marketing activities.
“The UK government and law enforcement agencies need to work collaboratively with ACG and its members to shape a more effective deterrent to counterfeiting,” she added.
The ACG represents businesses and more than 3,000 brands.
Counterfeit goods are sold all over the world, and include items like designer clothing, bags, and accessories, perfumes, computer games, cosmetics, watches, children’s toys, and a host of others. Many of these fake goods are sold at markets and fairs, car boot sales, and even in pubs, making it hard to trace the swindler after you have bought from them. While these fake items are most of the time a lot cheaper than the real thing, the majority of them are substandard, potentially dangerous, and many times, even contain toxic substances. Some examples include:
Children’s toys – Disney toys are extremely popular, and frequently targeted by fraudsters who know that parents will buy them willingly for their children, especially at Christmas time. However, while many parents are excited at getting the current favourite Disney toy for their child, they should avoid buying them at all costs, since they are known to contain high quantities of chemicals called phthalates, which can lead to asthma, cancer, as well as fertility problems such as malformed genitalia in male children, which cause fertility problems later in life. Many counterfeit toys are also made with tiny components, which are a choking hazard for small children.
Fake alcohol – avoid buying fake alcohol, even though it might seem like a real bargain to you. If it’s not the real thing, there’s a good chance that you will suffer nausea, liver or kidney problems, coma, or even death. This is due to the fact that most of the fake items more than likely contain dangerous substances like antifreeze, fuel, and methanol.
Christmas lights – people in the UK spend in excess of 90 million pounds on fake goods every year. Part of one of the biggest hauls ever, that was stopped by border staff from entering the country, were about 3000 Christmas lights. Since they were incorrectly insulated, they would have resulted in people being shocked, fires breaking out, and even explosions occurring.
Cosmetics – countless shoppers are tricked into buying fake cosmetics that are designed to look like top brands, because they imagine these items to be good bargains. Apart from being bamboozled into parting with their hard-earned money, many of the fake products they buy are incredibly dangerous. Even worse, is that some of these replicated products that are available online, at mall kiosks, and flea markets, actually cost in the region of the real thing, which is a ploy to prevent the buyer from becoming suspicious.
It’s not only fake makeup that is sold however, but also hair care products, as well as accessories such as makeup applicator brushes. Many counterfeit products, according to the authorities, are found to contain beryllium, cadmium, and arsenic, all of which are known cancer-causing chemicals. Some of them have been found to be infected with bacteria, as well as exceedingly high levels of metals like aluminium, which are usually not dangerous at all.
Perfumes and colognes – serious skin rashes have been caused by some bogus perfumes and colognes, due to urine being one of their ingredients. According to a dermatologist, the unsavoury ingredients used in the manufacture of fake perfumes can cause scaling, acne, dermatitis, and eczema, especially on facial skin.
There is also indirect danger that results from buying any fake goods. Take counterfeit watches, for example, which are often made in unlicensed and unregulated factories. In these sweatshops, the workers are often working in dangerous conditions e.g. lack of sanitation, extreme heat, rat infestation and a lack of safety equipment such as fire extinguishers and first-aid. And we should not forget the case of the Rana Plaza factory collapse in April 2013 when more than 1,100 workers died. So the act of buying these goods contributes heavily towards the support of these illegal and dangerous practices.
Counterfeit goods are found everywhere, even on well-known online sites like eBay and Amazon. To avoid buying these fake products, and becoming a victim of the dangers they pose, visit our article for some great tips to avoid buying fake goods.
In addition to offering these helpful tips, Surelock also offers a service for their clients, where they carry out surveillance and covert operations to identify offenders, and confiscate their counterfeit goods, including the ones that are dangerous to consumers.
Former Irish High Court president Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns has criticised the State’s loss-making insurers for not seeking the prosecution of people found to have made fraudulent injury claims. When fraud is uncovered in civil cases, typically the claimant withdraws their claim without any further repercussions, he said, with insurers failing to make a complaint to the Garda, who could investigate and refer to the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Ireland’s insurance industry has been in a state of turmoil in recent years for a number of reasons. Motor claims have been rising as more cars take to the roads in a recovering economy. Court awards have been increasing. And insurers have been less able to rely on investment income to cushion the blow, as they grapple with record-low global bond yields.
In an effort to return to profitability, insurers have hiked motor coverage rates by 35 per cent in the year to May, according to the Central Statistics Office, with house insurance rising by almost 10 per cent.
The main reason for rising court costs, according to David Nolan, a senior barrister and mediator, was an increase in jurisdiction of various courts in 2014, when the maximum circuit court personal injuries award rose from €38,000 to €60,000.
But there is some light at the end of the tunnel, according to Mr Nolan.
The Court of Appeal, set up in 2014, has recently begun to slash some of the injury awards that have been granted by the lower courts. A €65,000 High Court award granted by Mr Justice Kevin Cross last year, where the claimant suffered “soft-tissue injuries”, was subsequently cut by more than half on appeal.
This year, the Court of Appeal almost halved a €120,000 general damages award given by Mr Justice Anthony Barr to a woman who had sustained shoulder, hand and thumb injuries in a car crash. In March, it also cut by 50 per cent a combined €220,000 High Court personal injury award given to a couple who had sustained injuries when their car was hit by another vehicle.
“At the moment, the messages are very, very strong,” said Mr Nolan. “Judges of the High Court are being told by the Court of Appeal: ‘Moderate your general damages in these cases.’”