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SALLY SORTS IT: Crooks cloned my registration and left me on the hook for £312 of charges

I have a van that I use for my small children’s entertainment business, which I drive a few times a month.

As I live in the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) zone in London I have to pay £12.50 each time I use the vehicle.

For this reason, I’ve set up an autopay scheme so I don’t forget.

When I recently checked my statement, I was surprised to see that a total of £362.50 had been debited from my account.

Our reader has submitted evidence to TfL to dispute the charges, which are now being refunded

Our reader has submitted evidence to TfL to dispute the charges, which are now being refunded

I’m sure someone cloned my license plates. I have a smart doorbell and photographic evidence to show my vehicle is outside my home – even at the exact times the cloned vehicle was photographed.

The photos of the vehicle Transport for London sent me show a similar vehicle, but it has distinguishing features including a red sticker on the rear driver’s door and notches on the rear passenger door.

I have submitted all this evidence to TfL to dispute the allegations but only get a generic response saying ‘not enough evidence’.

I’m desperate. This takes up so much of my time, but the bill rings every day.

NB, London.

Sally Hamilton replies: It certainly hasn’t been child’s play trying to unravel the charges piled up by a crook posing as you in a comparable motorcycle.

You were cornered by TfL, who kept denying your evidence, even if this included photos taken by its own cameras that revealed the impostor driver, who is white, stocky and male. You told me you are Asian, small and feminine. It would be funny if it wasn’t such a serious problem.

I’m sorry to say you’re not alone.

SCAM WATCH

Beware of scammers posing as delivery giant UPS. Action Fraud has received nearly 1,700 reports in one week of fake emails claiming that the recipient has missed a delivery and that a package is waiting for them.

They contain a link that takes anyone who clicks on them to a fraudulent website designed to steal their personal information.

Banks and organizations like UPS will never ask you to share this kind of information via email or text message.

If you receive a suspicious email, please forward it to report@phishing.gov.uk.

Auto copycats are on the rise as criminals try to evade charges and refuel without paying, using disguised motorcycles to mislead authorities.

The cheats tend to steal original plates or order copies online from unauthorized suppliers and attach them to the same model and color of the car. They then merrily drive around and park where they please without fear of punishment – unless on the rare occasion that the police catch them in the act.

This leaves innocent drivers like you wasting time and energy fighting to challenge fees and fines or clear their names.

I intervened and asked TfL to investigate your case. A few days later you were contacted directly by the organization and told that it now accepts that your vehicle has been cloned. Hurrah!

It also called me to say that your disputed charges will be refunded. I estimate this will be at least £312, but could not immediately confirm the amount.

Anyone who is in the same situation should always report it to the police and register the reference number provided with the DVLA.

Drivers are required to take photos of their cars so that differences can be compared to counterfeit vehicles.

It is important not to pay erroneous charges and to contact the issuers directly.

Simon Williams, at car company RAC, says car cloning is a modern threat and fears it will only get worse as the ULEZ area expands.

He says: ‘This means that cameras will undoubtedly detect more license plates from non-compliant cloned vehicles. And with new clean air zones appearing in other cities in England, even more drivers will be in for the nasty surprise of discovering that their license plates are being illegally used on another vehicle.”

Why can’t I exchange my vouchers at Buyagift?

Last December I spent £160 on two Time Together vouchers from the Buyagift website as Christmas presents for my husband and my son and his wife.

We tried to redeem them on more than ten experiences, but without success as there was no availability.

Some of the following reasons were given: ‘This experience is no longer available’ (despite it being in the schedule booklet) and ‘the restaurant had a fire and is closed’.

Three hotels said they would accept them, but only after December this year. The most recent one we tried explained that post-Covid demand was so high that she had plenty of bookings from full-price customers. Where does this leave us?

I have tried to contact Buyagift, but to no avail. There is no phone number or email address for contact. There’s just a chat line that keeps logging out.

SC, Lincoln.

Our reader tried to redeem some Buyagift vouchers on more than ten experiences

Our reader tried to redeem some Buyagift vouchers on more than ten experiences

Our reader tried to redeem some Buyagift vouchers on more than ten experiences

Vouchers are the ideal gift for that ‘hard-to-buy’ person or where the recipient needs to set the date of a trip or outing.

You have chosen the Time Together option so that you and your husband, together with your son and daughter-in-law, can enjoy a hotel experience at a time and place of your choice from the menu in the booklet.

Unsurprisingly you have had a sense of humor after repeated attempts to book.

Online complaints service Resolver says it has been inundated with complaints about these types of voucher schemes, with nearly 2,000 in the first quarter of 2022.

Consumer expert Martyn James says: ‘Complaints tend to be about not redeeming the vouchers or getting refunds from them – and issues with the restrictions with the deals themselves.’

Fortunately, I managed to get hold of a helpful Buyagift employee who has tracked down a colleague who can investigate your complaint.

The company responded a day later. The post-Covid booking bounce seems to be adding to the pressure. The Buyagift spokesperson explained: ‘Due to demand after the pandemic and customers using their vouchers now, we have a wave of booking activity with a backlog of unused vouchers all trying to book an experience.

‘We are working with our suppliers to arrange more availability for our customers.’

He confirmed that some of the booklets in the boxes sent to buyers contained outdated information about the partners involved, and said this was rectified by referring customers online for more accurate listings.

You have now received your money back and by goodwill you have been given £100 worth of vouchers to spend on a future booking.

  • Write to Sally Hamilton at Sally Sorts It, Money Mail, Northcliffe House, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT or email sally@dailymail.co.uk — provide phone number, address and a note addressed to the offending organization giving them permission to talk to Sally Hamilton. Please do not send original documents as we cannot take any responsibility for them. The Daily Mail cannot accept any legal responsibility for answers given.

RIGHT TO THE POINT

I asked BT to add a new iPhone to our account but our landline stopped working. My husband and I are elderly and our doctor only has this number. Despite complaining, the problem has not been resolved.

SS, County Durham.

BT apologizes for the disruption to your home phone service. It is working to recover your number and has a dedicated point of contact for assistance in the future.

MY husband and I have reached an impasse with More Than’s home insurance team over a broken electronic gate at our property. I first submitted a claim in January, but it is not yet known whether the insurer will pay out.

VD, Oxford

The insurer sent an inspector to your home two days after I contacted them, but says the damage is not covered because it was caused by wear and tear. A spokesperson apologizes for the delay and has paid you £200 compensation.

After returning two hearing aids to Hearmore UK in April, I am still waiting for a refund of £3,200. Whenever I call, employees tell me to email me, but as I’m visually impaired, this isn’t ideal.

NA, Atherton

Hearmore says it instructed its finance team, which was outsourced to a third party, to reimburse you, but admits the staff has been following this request. Since then, the company has brought in its finance department. The money has now been refunded to your account.

I moved my current account from NatWest to HSBC as it offered a £175 switching bonus. But I was told that I would not receive the money because I did not make the change in time. A few days later, the bank launched a new £170 switch offer. I feel let down and cheated.

RN, Nantwich.

HSBC says it’s a shame you missed the deadline, but insists it was clearly advertised. A spokesperson says it cannot make an exception because it must be fair to all customers.

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