Monday, April 16, 2018

Fraudsters stepping up their game

By GERRY LOUGHRAN

On June 14 last year, a terrible fire broke out in the 24-storey Grenfell Tower block in West London and 71 people died.

Joyce Msokeri said her husband was one of them and that she had only just escaped with her life. She received £19,000 (Sh55 million) compensation in cash and goods.

In fact, Msokeri, a Zimbabwean, was single and lived in London miles away from the tower block.

Branded a despicable con woman, she was jailed last week for four and a half years.

It seems you cannot pick up a newspaper these days without reading about fraudsters.

Jane Thurston of Gateshead went to a register office to report the birth of her son, Harry James Sidney Thurston.

In fact, no such baby had been born and prosecutors at Newcastle Crown Court said Thurston made the claim in order to get government child benefits.

Recorder John Thackray told Thurston, “Your motive was greed”, and handed her a suspended prison sentence of four months.

It is probably unnecessary to state that where the con artists thrive is on the Internet, in particular holiday accommodation websites.

Georgia Brown, planning a vacation in Amsterdam for herself, her partner and some friends, responded to an online advertisement offering an apartment for a deposit of £915.

She corresponded with the advertiser by email and sent the money by bank transfer.

That was the last she ever heard from the so-called owner. “I was petrified,” she said. “I thought someone had hacked into my bank account.”

She eventually got her money back through her bank but she was critical of the booking site.

“I don’t understand how this person was allowed to advertise on the website,” she said.

Police said 4,700 British travellers were conned last year, losing an average of £1,500 each.

Holidaymakers are advised to check holiday companies’ credentials, including the legitimacy of the email address, ensuring it has not been altered, for example, from co.uk to .org.

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A common grouse among British xenophobes is that the National Health Service is being overwhelmed by “health tourists”, that is, foreigners who travel to Britain to get free medical treatment.

What these racists don’t seem to have noticed is that foreigners involved with the NHS are mostly the doctors and nurses, not patients.

The General Medical Council released figures recently showing that just 62 per cent of doctors (six in every 10) are British, in total 107,620.

Another 13 per cent come from the European Union and 24 per cent from the rest of the world.

Of the foreign doctors, Indians make up the biggest group with 14,350, followed by Pakistanis 6,226, Irish 5,066, Greeks 3,198, Nigerians 2,967, Malaysians 2,404, Germans 2,166, Italians 2,053 and Egyptians 1,715.

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In the middle of the Pacific Ocean there is an island of floating garbage, which is two-and-a-half times the size of Kenya.

It is composed of 79,000 tonnes of mostly plastic waste, the sort of stuff that kills fish and other sea creatures who try to eat it.

The vast patch of gunk was filmed for television and released ahead of a government announcement that it is taking steps to end this threat to the environment.

Noting that a five pence charge had cut use of plastic bags by 83 per cent, Environment Secretary Michael Gove announced that shoppers will in future have to pay a deposit when they buy plastic drinks bottles and metal cans.

They will get their deposit back if they return the containers.

UK consumers use about 13 billion drinks bottles a year but more than three billion are not recycled.

Gove said plastic was “wreaking havoc” on the marine environment because bottles and cans “end up dumped on pavements and lobbed into rivers, lakes and the sea”.

Full details are subject to consultation, including how big the deposit will be.

Ministers have visited deposit return schemes in several European countries that have led to a big increase in the amount of plastic recycled.

They were impressed by a Norwegian scheme that claims a 94 per cent recycling rate for bottles made from clear plastic used for bottles of water and fizzy drinks.

The government’s announcement was welcomed by environmental campaigners.

Scotland has already announced plans for a deposit return scheme and Wales is studying the problem.

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