Warning over Olympic scams
Olympic legend Tessa Sanderson and prospective Olympian Ben Challenger are backing a nationwide campaign to warn people of potential scams in the run up to the 2012 Olympic Games.
As part of the new ‘Good Sports Don’t Fake It’ campaign being launched by the Trading Standards Institute (TSI) in partnership with Citizens Advice and the UK ECC for National Consumer Week on Monday November 21st, the public is being warned about dodgy websites, counterfeit clothing, fake tickets and misdescribed accommodation.
Javelin champion Tessa Sanderson said: “It’s so important to make sure that the goods we buy online and elsewhere are the real deal. Buying counterfeit goods is like throwing your money down the drain and only serves to fund the illegal activities of the criminals behind the scams.
“It can also lead to huge disappointment in the case of fake tickets to events like the Olympics – or even injury if we buy sporting equipment that hasn’t gone through the correct quality procedures.”
Survey shows scale of the problem
An online survey undertaken by TSI for National Consumer Week highlighted that nearly a third of all respondents would try to buy tickets to an event that had already sold out – even though a quarter said they had previously experienced problems with online purchases.
From this group, 49 per cent said the item they ordered never arrived, 24 per cent said the item turned out to be a fake and, for sporting tickets, the top problem was overcharging (33 per cent) and tickets never materialising (17 per cent).
Three quarters said they had bought sporting merchandise – a quarter online from a website other than the official one, and 11 per cent from car boot sales, street markets or stalls. TSI advises people to check www.brand-i.org and www.imrg.org/isis to find genuine stockists and www.star.org.uk for a list of genuine sellers.
Ron Gainsford, Chief Executive of TSI, said: “Sports are one of the country’s favourite pastimes – and this passion is being exploited by unscrupulous criminals. Trading standards’ officers are working hard with other authorities to stop fraudsters having a field day at the expense of our enjoyment.
“Help us and yourself by using the Trading Standards Institute CHECK list to make sure you don’t end up out of pocket, missing out, or hurt, but also to break the chain to wider crime.
“The key message of our Good Sports Don’t Fake It campaign is that if you are not sure, get advice – if you think it’s dodgy, report it.“
The Trading Standards Institute consumer CHECK list to stay safe:
C Choose your shopping outlets and websites carefully.
H Help yourself. If the deal is too good to be true then it probably is.
E Ensure you look for authentic branding and holograms.
C Contact the authorities if you are concerned.
K Keep a copy of your order and receipts.
Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said: “The Olympics will be a memorable occasion for many – but for anyone ripped off with phoney tickets or fake merchandise it could be a memory they’d rather forget.
“We’re pleased to support the Trading Standards Institute’s campaign to warn people of sporting scams. Anyone who thinks they have been the victim of a scam can get advice from their local Citizens Advice Bureaux and can help stop the scam by telling Action Fraud too.”
Fakes can be reported to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.
Detective Superintendent Nick Downing from the Met's Operation Podium said: "National Consumer Week is a great opportunity to raise public awareness of the best way to protect yourself from getting scammed. Next year there are going to be lots of people coming to London and the rest of the UK to watch the Olympic and Paralympic Games and be a part of the greatest sporting event in the world.
“Unfortunately this also presents opportunities to criminals who will try to sell fraudulent tickets, accommodation or hotel rooms that don't exist, and steal personal details from genuine sports fans and visitors. Don't let this happen to you. Officers from the Met's Operation Podium are working with partners including Trading Standards to disrupt serious and organised criminal networks from targeting the Games."
Minister for Intellectual Property Baroness Wilcox said: “This is an important campaign. The Olympics are an incredibly exciting time for the UK but we do not want counterfeiters and criminals to tarnish that by ripping people off and disadvantaging honest businesses.
“The Government has already worked with the Crown Prosecution Service to develop training which will equip prosecutors to deal effectively with cases involving counterfeit goods. And we will continue to work with Trading Standards, the police and CPS to share information and disrupt criminal activity.”
Ben Challenger: bogus trader could have threatened his Olympic prospects
GB high jumper Ben Challenger’s Olympic prospects could have been seriously damaged after he bought a new bike frame online which turned out to be unsafe. The unscrupulous trader who sold him the frame fled the country, leaving Ben £600 out of pocket.
He said: “I could have had a serious injury if I’d gone on the bike – it’s a scary thought that I could have jeopardised my hopes for the Olympics. Trading Standards were really helpful and did what they could for me, but the trader fled and I’ve now lost the money I spent.
“The website looked completely genuine – I didn’t suspect a thing at the time. What happened to me shows that falling for fakes can happen to anyone and not only it will hurt your bank balance but you could get hurt yourself.”
Rebecca Adlington’s parents: caught by fake ticket website
Among those caught out by a ticket scam are the parents of Olympic gold medallist swimmer Rebecca Adlington. Kay and Steve Adlington from Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, had paid £1,100 to a website for tickets to see her compete in the 800m freestyle at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and were left devastated when their tickets didn't arrive.
It transpired they - and around 10,000 others - had been the victims of an elaborate fraud. With just a fortnight to go, they faced a race against time to find more tickets and only just managed to get there in time to see their champion daughter compete. Three men were jailed in July this year for their part in the £5 million scam.
Supporting National Consumer Week 2011, Kay said: "Please don't find yourself in the position we were in. It was such a devastating experience. Make sure you establish the credentials of whoever you are buying from, then check, double check and check again. Whenever possible, always buy from the official website using a credit card. The best way to genuinely support our athletes is to buy genuine goods, rather than fakes.”
Visitors misled by accommodation descriptions
TSI says people need to be aware that they could be booking a false bargain when it comes to accommodation or worse, a hotel that does not exist.
Many accommodation providers are able to self-assess on major booking sites, which means they are not officially star rated by VisitEngland or the AA but attribute their own star rating according to how they rate themselves, leading to potentially misleading descriptions.
Consumers should also watch out for bogus websites that have been set up by criminals to steal personal details or money from genuine sports fans and visitors.
The lack of reliable, checked accommodation is most acute in London and with big events such as the Olympics putting massive pressure on available hotels and guest houses, there is a real danger that terrible accommodation could leave a bitter taste in the mouth of Olympic visitors.
VisitEngland’s Director of Business Development Jeremy Brinkworth said: “We urge visitors to book accommodation that has been star-rated by either VisitEngland or the AA. There are 30,000 star-rated accommodation businesses across the country and around 700 of these are in and around London. The recognised ratings act as a benchmark for quality and value for money which means visitors can book with the peace of mind that a four star hotel means a four star hotel.”
There are two official star rating schemes operating in England, one is run by the national tourist board, VisitEngland and the other is run by the AA. Both schemes adhere to the same criteria and as such provide a benchmark of quality with inspectors staying overnight as mystery guests.
For more information on official star rated accommodation see www.enjoyengland.com.
Notes to Editors:
Photos from the launch event available here:http://bit.ly/vnlU2E
The ‘Good Sports Don’t Fake It’ launch event is on Monday 21 November at the View Tube near the Olympic Park at 9.45am-11am.
Tessa Sanderson, Ben Challenger and TSI’s Ron Gainsford will be available for interviews. Also present will be representatives from Citizens Advice, Adidas and LOCOG. There will be a photo opportunity with Ben’s bike and a large Good Sports Don’t Fake It prop.
For more informaiton please contact Irja Howie at TSI press office on 08456089430 / 07780675815 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Trading Standards Institute (TSI)
TSI is a training and membership organisation that has represented the interests of the Trading Standards profession since 1881 nationally and internationally. We aim to raise the profile of the profession while working towards fairer, better informed and safer consumer and business communities.
TSI’s members are engaged in delivering frontline trading standards services in local authorities and in businesses. We are also supporting the delivery of initiatives such as the advice services Consumer Direct, UK ECC and ECCS.