Protect your Computer from Viruses, Malware and other Phishing Scams

A new computer costs hundreds of pounds and so users should take consideration when surfing the internet. It is vital to be mindful of harmful websites or downloads, that may be linked with viruses and malware.

Computer viruses are software programs that are created to be transmitted from one computer to another and to impede or affect the performance of a computer. Viruses are capable of deleting everything on a hard drive or corrupting single files and can embed themselves into emails or instant messages, to infect further computers. They have also been found contained within  image attachments, e-cards and video and audio files. Unofficial downloads are often a huge source of the majority of viruses contracted.

Emails Scams

Emails Scams


A macro is designed to control frequently used tasks. They are written by software developers but some can be potentially harmful. Some are able to monitor keys that are pressed or when a mouse is clicked. More sophisticated macro’s known as VBA’s are written as code and can essentially hijack the functioning of multiple programs on a computer. As a result this can facilitate the spread of a virus throughout a system. This could be brought about through a destructive document, which is why Microsoft Office has a feature known as the ‘Trust Center’ to protect against viruses of this kind.

The Trust Center will check the following details before enabling a macro, embedded in a document:

  • It will primarily check that the digital signature provided by the computer programmer is valid and up to date.
  • Also it will ensure that the digital signature has been authorised by a respected Certificate Authority.
  • Finally, it will make sure that the developer who entered the signature is a recognised publisher.
  • A security warning will appear if there is an issue with any of the former information, stating that the macro has been disabled.
  • If a security message appears requesting authorisation to enable a macro and it is from a trusted source, then you can click ‘ok’ to enable it.

Protecting your Computer from Malware

Malware is an abbreviation of ‘malicious software’ and is any software that becomes installed on a computer system without being authorised by the user. They come in many forms such as viruses, worms and Trojan horses. Determined internet crooks, are hyper aware that people will attempt to download protection software for their computer and will also take advantage of this fact. It has been known for individuals to pay for bogus software or to be in fact downloading malware in the process or have their identity stolen. Users should try to avoid offers of free antivirus software as it could be a potential scam.

Fake virus alerts or ‘scareware,’ are programs that intentionally mislead the owner of a computer to believe that downloading software will be beneficial for security. Often,it will provide partial or no security advantages and will attempt to convince users to provide card details with frequent pop-ups. The windows that appear will claim that software is currently out of date or that there is spyware or malicious software present on the PC. Once the link is clicked, then the rogue program is installed on the system. In some instances, it may not detect viruses or it will display that a virus is present, even if it is not.Or sometimes, it will purposefully install a virus onto the system, so that recognition looks legitimate. It may even prevent access to official antivirus sites.

The following protective procedures are recommended against malware and are free and safe for users:

  • Make certain that automatic updating is activated and regularly check the computer is up to date.
  • Keep the firewall switched on.
  • Do not open any dubious emails or click links on unreliable websites.
  • Regularly scan the system with Microsoft Safety Scanner, which is frequently updated and available online.

There have been reports of scammers calling people and falsely stating that the victim has a virus on their computer, or offering to fix computer troubles. They have either been known to con victims into installing malware on their system or hijack its operation from distance. In extreme cases they have obtained financial information and charged for harmful, free or non-existing services. Some of these cyber-criminals have also been claiming to be from Microsoft themselves.

In April 2014, a man from Luton received a 4 month prison sentence and was forced to provide £5,665 pounds in compensation, for the organisation of a Microsoft support scam. Victims in the UK, US and Australia were contacted from an Indian call centre and asked to use a program that keeps a record of activities on a user’s computer. They claimed that there was an issue with the system and offered antivirus software that is available to download for free through Microsoft. The agentsthen remotely installed the program and charged £35 to £150.

The chairman of the National Trading Standards Board said it was, “a stark warning to anyone else doing it that they can be caught and will be prosecuted.”

The US Federal Trade Commission also seized the accounts of 6 tech support scams back in 2012 but this did not include the former. Anyone who receives calls of this nature should disconnect the line and contact Action Fraud, as Microsoft will never contact customers by telephone.

Avoiding Scams whilst browsing

  • In Internet explorer 8, the URL is highlighted in bold and the rest is displayed in lighter font to identify a web addresses identity. There is also a Smart Screen filter that will present warning about websites that may be harmful or could lead to identity theft. It acts by checking a live reference list of known phishing and malware sites in order to protect the user from detrimental websites or software downloads.
  • The tool must be turned on through the safety button and by clicking ‘turn on SmartScreen Filter’. Internet Explorer will then present warning screens that will advise not to proceed in accessing websites or downloads that are potentially unsafe.
  • If you choose to register for a Hotmail email account, this also has adopted Smart Screen technology to decipher any phishing attempts and other spam emails.
  • Microsoft Office Outlook employs a Junk Email Filter in versions 2010 and 2007, that assesses individual inbound emails for features that are often found in phishing scams.
  • Outlook also has another anti-spam feature. In some emails presented in HTML format, pictures of audio can be included. However, spammers can use this method to obtain your email address. Once opened this verifies that an email address is operational. Email addresses are then sold on to other junk email distributors, which in turn generates a greater volume of spam into an inbox. Outlook will automatically prevent instant picture downloads and the user is able to unblock at their own digression.
  • Phishing is an internet criminal’s methodology of obtaining sensitive or bank account details belonging to an individual. Emails are known to contain links that redirect to offending websites that may request personal or financial information. This could lead to identity theft.
  • Emails that are deemed suspicious are instantly sent to the junk email folder and the reply button and any links are subsequently disabled.
  • To open attachments safely, Outlook will prevent the functioning of malicious scripts during a preview. But only attachments which are from reliable sources should be opened. Outlook will prevent any attachments that are able to run programs and could possibly contain viruses. These will include any file names that end with .exe, .bat,.com,.vbs and .js. If sending attachments that end with these characters, then a warning message is displayed stating that other users may not be able to view the attachments as it is potentially harmful. Other file types are not automatically blocked but will present the user with a cautionary message to encourage them to consider the content they are about to download.
  • A full list of blocked files can be found at and these can be changed at the users will.

Reporting a Scam

  • When using Internet Explorer, clicking the safety button and selecting the Smart Screen Filter an option exists as ‘Report Unsafe Website.’
  • As a Hotmail user, emails can be marked as ‘Phishing scam.’
  • However, in Outlook, the email must be attached to a brand new email and sent to or an add-on to report junk email can also be downloaded.

Microsoft advises to minimise the threat of infection by downloading the most recent software updates and using antivirus programs. Being aware of the latest threats is also suggested, whilst always accessing a PC as a standard user, rather than an administrator profile. Microsoft also offers the following free software downloads, available online through its website to protect users from both viruses and malware;

  1. Microsoft Security Essentials (those using Windows 8 or Windows RT need not download this software.)
  2. Malicious Software Removal Tool (MSRT)
  3. Windows Defender
  4. Windows Live Safety Scanner.


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Ticketing Scams

It is always exciting buying tickets to see favourite comedians, artists, acts, sporting events or even to travel. With so many sites to choose from, picking the most reliable is a must to ensure that the tickets are received in time and the day runs smoothly. For the majority of people, this is the case. But for some, plans can be ruined in a flash.

The most hassle free way to purchase tickets is from the primary ticket market. Tickets are either sold from the box office itself or they are assigned to reputable merchants such as Ticketmaster, who will apply a booking fee before selling them to customers. If tickets are sold out, then consumers can consult the secondary ticket market, which involves the resale of tickets, bought from the primary market. The main contenders of this market are websites such as viagogo, Stub Hub and Seatwave, who also take commission on ticket sales. Often the price of the ticket will have been inflated and has even been known to double in these circumstances. This endeavour has been coined as ‘touting.’

Secondary ticket prices are not regulated by the sites they are advertised with. One example included a Wimbledon Final ticket advertised on Seatwave, originally sold at £232 with a second hand pricetag of £12,000.  In order for cheap tickets to go on sale for some events, organisers must apply for government funding to make the event more affordable to the public.  The secondary sale means that these efforts are effectively shadowed.

Lisa Burger from the National Theatre told the BBC, “It’s incredibly frustrating that it’s those tickets that are often the ones which are being sold at multiples of their face value. Crucially pricing out the people who we really want to come and take advantage of those tickets.”
It is against the law for secondary ticketing sites to conceal the original ticket price from consumers during their sale. Even so, some individuals are willing to pay extortionate prices for the opportunity to attend a previously sold out event. Those considered particularly at risk, are young people who fall into the 18-24 age brackets.


Ticket Scams

Ticket Scams

Ticketing fraud usually means that no tickets are received or counterfeit tickets are distributed. In 2013 alone, around 3.7 million pounds slipped through the hands of hopeful consumers, into the back pockets of conceited conmen.  Out of 4,555 people targeted, 50% were buying concert, festival or flight tickets. A significantly increasing number of attacks were noted within the summer festival period and when there was high demand for winter flight tickets.22% of reports were comprised of flight ticket fraud and commonly, consumers were told that the flight had increased in cost, attempting to squeeze further cash from the victim. Chronic cancellation fees would be issued if the consumer tried to back out of a dubious deal. In a high percentage of cases, a flight was never even booked. Incidents are said to be becoming more frequent.

The fraud can arise in several formats. On some occasions websites will offer tickets to events that are either sold out or are yet to go on sale. Or consumers may be informed that a steward will be present at the event on the day to deliver the tickets in person. Calling the company supplying the tickets may be futile as there is no answer or it does not connect.  URL’s that are similar to official websites may be used in order to be perceived as a genuine firm. Fraudsters brave enough to show up at festivals, would possess a certificate of authentication or ID to convince optimistic ticket hunters. All of these examples along with fake and missing tickets are methods that criminals have used in the past.

A concert featuring the rapper Drake denied entry to 170 fake ticket holders in March at London’s 02 Arena. Tickets were sourced from a secondary ticketing site known as Seatwave and Gumtree or Social networks like Twitter. Beyoncé’s Manchester show was also targeted with over 140 disappointed fans refused in February.

Other ticket tricks have included ‘speculative ticketing,’ where a merchant will offer tickets before they actually possess them. A consumer who fell foul to this bought tickets from viagogo for £387.55, originally valued at £187.55, for the Arctic Monkeys. A week before the event the company contacted Mrs Edge to tell her that they were unable to supply the tickets. Fortunately, the consumer was fully refunded but was shocked that the website had no policies in place to check merchants actually have genuine tickets available.

In most cases when attending a ticketed event, ID or the credit card in the name of the ticket holder, must be presented to gain admittance. When tickets are bought second hand, some websites such as Seatwave will send a man along with identification to escort the new ticketholders into the venue.  The individuals are known as ‘walkers’ and repeat the process numerous times at the event to make sure no one is denied entry.

In order to avoid falling victim to these scams there are a few easy steps that can be followed;

1. Look at feedback online from previous users on forums for hints on a company’s reliability.

2. Check the terms and conditions before buying any tickets, even genuine websites may not supply refunds.

3. Check with the event promotion team or venue for information on when or how the tickets will go on sale.

4. Check company details –do they have a landline telephone number based within the UK? Do they have a valid UK address, rather than a PO Box?

5. Find out the date when the tickets will be sent.

6. Pay for tickets with a credit card as this will offer a purchase protection policy. However, it does require the transaction value to be over £100 and up to £30,000. Different card providers will have a different eligibility period for this service, contact them to enquire.

7. During the transaction check that the website is secured. A padlock should appear next to the URL.

8. The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act states that the resale of football tickets in the majority of instances is illegal. Do not knowledgably buy second hand tickets of this nature.

“Taking a punt on an unofficial seller, be it over the internet or face-to-face, is just not worth the risk” said Commander Stephen Head, from the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO.)

ACPO have urged for the ticketing sector to revise sales methods and distribution, to make sure that they are resistant to fraudulent activity.

Earlier this year in April 2014, several MP’s acknowledged concerns and pushed for greater protection, reinforced with compensation, for those who choose to purchase second hand tickets over the internet.  They appealed for inquiries to be conducted identifying merchants and investigating those who sell twenty plus tickets as second time around.

The focus is on counterfeit tickets, along with tickets that are prohibited from resale and are therefore, cancelled and void when the buyer attends the event.  Subsequently, MP’s are calling for travel costs of those who have lost out to be reimbursed, a cap on resale pricesand greater corporative responsibility in general.

“As the Metropolitan Police have said, the complete lack of transparency in the secondary ticketing market contributes to consumers getting ripped off – whether that’s through artificially high prices or buying fake or cancelled tickets, as lots of Drake fans have unfortunately done recently.There’s no excuse for inaction from either the secondary market or the government, and I hope ministers will use the Consumer Rights Bill to put fans first,” said Sharon Hodgson, an MP for the cross-party committee.

Currently these are just propositions and a change in legislation and industry direction, would need to be actioned before the consumer population can benefit. Although it is clear that the government will also benefit from cutting the losses as the ticketing industry is said to be worth over 1 billion pounds within Britain.
Despite police comments on the lack of transparency present in the industry, there has been a general lack of public faith in the powers of police investigation.

A spokesman for The Iridium Consultancy, a ticket security firm said,“Our team dealt with 3,600 people who had presented invalid and counterfeit tickets for shows at one major venue in 2013.To date, not one victim has had justice or even the semblance of an investigation by police as ticket fraud is not viewed as a priority crime”

Collaboration of Police and Government successfully banned the resale of any London 2012 Olympic Games tickets with a one off law. Itprevented the generation of profit from the event, as part of Operation Podium. Following this, the Rugby World Cup in England requested the same privileges and was refused.

Sure enough hundreds of Rugby tickets were sold on after this decision. Secondary ticketing site Viagogo, fell under heavy public criticism when it relocated its head office from London to Geneva. It had received a Supreme Court ruling demanding the company to supply names and addresses of merchants who resold the tickets through the website. The company claimed the move was due to business expansion and reassured the incident would not reoccur.

In summary, buying tickets in advance for any event should be simple. But it does not come without its risks, if consumers insist on buying tickets from unreliable sources. Secondary ticket websites have no control over the extortionate prices tickets are sold for. However, by law the original cost must be displayed. Those who choose to buy tickets by this method, at best will receive tickets but have to be escorted into the event with a ‘walker’ to present their ID and grant admission. At worst, people never receive tickets or find out that the merchant was never in possession of the tickets in the first place. The government and the police are considering enforcing further measures to prevent ticket fraud but no official regulations presently exist.  Essentially, it’s currently up to the consumer to safeguard themselves from ticket fraud.

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Don’t be mistaken by Graphene Innovation

A new material discovered in 2004 known as graphene, is causing controversy amongst scientists, investors and the general public. Since it was found by 2010 Physics Nobel Prize winners Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov at the University of Manchester, Chancellor George Osborne has facilitated successive research by issuing funding of 61 million pounds to projects. Globally, around 1 billion pounds has been invested so far in Graphene, despite uncertainties of its technological applications.

The concentrated funding provided in this area has been criticised by scientists as too narrowly focused and a “waste of money.” Other areas of research will also require equal attention and with greater consideration of the distribution of funding, greater benefits may emergeover time.

Graphene consists of a single layer of carbon atoms arranged into a two dimensional, hexagonal structure. The material is formed by separating out layers of atoms present in graphite (along with clay, the material commonly used in pencil lead.) Separation of the extremely thin layers, are possible either by high powered blades, such as those in common kitchen blenders or using cellophane sticky tape. A less time consuming production method was later developed using a process known as chemical vapour deposition, where carbon atoms are added individually to the structure. However, this larger scale production regularly results in imperfections that can decrease overall functionality and will require refinement before it can be used on an industrial scale. UK company Thomas Swan, has been working alongside scientists and have talked of building a pilot plant able to create a kilogram of graphene, per day by the end of 2014.

In the scientific journal Nature in 2012, the possible applications of graphene were summarised debating whether it may be, “the next disruptive technology, replacing some of the currently used materials and leading to new markets?”

Graphene has been suggested as an alternative to silicon for electrical components, although silicon’s reputability within the market (particularly used for computer processors,) may not phase out until 2021. Graphene’sstrength is much greater than steel, it has greater electrical conductivity than copper, it is highly thermally conductive but fire- resistant and also possesses light sensitive qualities.

Graphene’s versatility could result in the development of flexible display screens, high functioning solar panels, rapid charging batteries and cars made from stronger, lighter materials.Beside electronics, its functionality may extend to novel methods of water purification, oil spill recovery services, the production of thinner condoms, rust resistant paints. It could also act as a sensor capable of measuring gases, pressure and tension. In medicine, it could be used for the administration of drugs or tissue rebuilding procedures. Many of the former technologies are not expected to be a practicality until post 2030, with a great deal of research needed before this can happen.

E-paper will be the first flexible electronic screen composed of graphene and a prototype is anticipated next year in 2015. However, the cost of production is far too great for releasing it as a saleable item anytime soon.

Geim and Novoselov understand that,“established benchmark materials will only be replaced if the properties of graphene, however appealing, can be translated into applications that are sufficiently competitive to justify the cost and disruption of changing.

Therefore, adopting this new material as a replacement for conventional resources needs to be primarily more financially profitable. But its true potential will lie in new inventions that are designed fundamentally to take advantage of graphene’s unique properties. Even so, hoping that the benefits will outweigh the costs, it seems that many corporations and governments are taking a chance.

However, in mid-August 2014, scientific research involving the use of hemp crops producedhigh energy batteries for a tiny fraction of the price, in comparison to graphene. The cannabis bark was heated and formed into carbon nanosheets and performed just as efficiently if not better than graphene. Furthermore, the process may even be sustainable as it uses waste inner bark. Hemp is grown on vast scales in the UK and the US for clothing and building purposes, the inner bark is usually sent to landfill.

“It’s a waste product looking for a value-added application. People are almost paying you to take it away.Obviously hemp can’t do all the things graphene can, but for energy storage, it works just as well. And it costs a fraction of the price -$500-1,000 a tonne,” said Dr David Milton of Clarkson University, New York.

On the other hand, in 2012 alone 10,000 patents were filed and around 10,000 scientific papers published concerning graphene, coined the ‘miracle material.’ In November 2013, firms authorised in development and implementation of graphene first became listed on the junior market AIM. Companies include Graphene NanoChem, Cientifica and Applied Graphene Materials (of Durham University.) Within one month of entering the market, Applied Graphene Materials originally valued at 34.6 million pounds, experienced a tripling in share prices from 155% to 450%. Nonetheless, grand scale investments on upcoming technologies always have the possibility of ending as a fruitless endeavour. Companies that are concerned with the products development could well experience losses in the near future.

It’s not about getting rich quick. It’s being ahead of the curve and holding on for a long time, if you are investing due to excitement about the potential of a technology, that is going to be a rocky ride in terms of looking at the valuation of your portfolio every month,” according to Adam Hughes, head of portfolio services at Ashcourt Rowan.

Although, currently it seems commercial investors are experiencing some advancements, the Financial Conduct Authority estimates that the sale of the resource will not be instigated until around 2020. Boiler Room scammers were discovered to have taken advantage of public anticipation or lack of knowledge surrounding graphene, during a UK police investigation.

Tracey McDermott, the FCA’s director of enforcement and financial crime said, “Graphene is just the latest wonder material to be targeted. The scam relies on the fact that although many people will have heard of graphene they may be unaware it will be some time before graphene-based products hit the market. What’s more, finding an accurate price for graphene is very hard, and its value is expected to fall over the coming years.”

It is thought that the perpetrators of this scheme have also previously sold other bogus investments such as carbon credits, rare earth metals and overseas land and crops.

The FCA does not currently regulate investments in graphene and believes that there is no supporting evidencethat there is a viable market for this resource with small time investors. Additionally, there is no way to check the legitimacy of the investment opportunity. Bigger investors such as investment banks may only successfully buy into the industry, with huge quantities of the material.

“Fraudsters are cashing in on a new wonder material which could revolutionise technology and is stronger than diamonds by convincing vulnerable consumers to sign up to fake “investment opportunities”, said the financial watchdog.

Forceful sales techniques are employed by cold callers to sell the innovative resource to members of public, over the phone. Police are urging those who are contacted to terminate the call immediately and ignore any pressure to invest and provide personal or bank account details. Companies that have advertised the investment opportunity have not displayed company addresses or have refused to provide this information upon contact. Any genuine company or investment broker would be obliged to do so straight away.

The FCA advises for consumers to buy only registered investment products. In the event that an investment should turn sour, unauthorised investments will not be protected by the FinanicalOmbusdman Service or the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. Although, the names of illegitimate firms are likely to be subject to regular change, there is a list of those who are not authorised to trade in graphene investments, available on the FCA website.

Scams such as these undermine confidence and trust in the market, and they can result in ordinary people losing thousands of pounds in savings,” said FCA’s Tracey McDermott.

Graphene’s physical characteristics and versatile applications could have countless benefits for society in general. But currently graphene is in its early stages of research and because of this fact it is difficult to value or predict its value in the future. At the moment it is only possible to produce it in small quantities at a high cost. Much more research is required before it can be produced on an industrial scale and it will only be chosen as an alternative resource if it is profitable.

The more that larger corporations and governments invest in graphene, means that in turn, more research can be conducted and the material can be used and applied in a more effective manner. This will increase the likelihood that there may be a market in the future that can encompass small time investors, such as small businesses and the general public. If the man-made material does have a role to play in a new technological revolution, then the general population will certainly benefit in many forms in the future.

If you think you may have been contacted by a company attempting to sell a graphene investment, please contact Action Fraud on:

0300 123 2040

You could help prevent others from falling victim to this crime.

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Watching the dog

Our pets are something that many of us hold close to our hearts. Some people may invest thousands of pounds in a pet for many different reasons such as; Buying a pet; medical care;insurance and taking a pet on holiday -all requiring a fair sum of cash. In an attempt to protect our little critters from the unexpected, it is essential to be cautious with our cash.

Internet shopping is the current craze, not only can the household shop be delivered straight to your door the day after your order is placed but items can be imported globally at the touch of a button. Now you can also buy your chosen pet online. There have been reports of pet selling scams over the internet; it is likely that they will use websites such as Facebook and Twitter or free domain names. Upon occasion, they have even been caught advertising within local newspapers. Usually, the scammer will be offering a pedigreed or rare breed for an extremely low price or will only request shipping charges. If an offer presents itself as too good to be true, it is almost certain that the animal does not exist. The extents a scammer will go to is unsettling, official logos have been stolen from organisations to fabricate a professional operation that upon first glance seems legitimate.When in contact with a scam merchant, they will often seem pushier than usual and will lie and attempt to manipulate their potential victim.

A recent incident within East Sussex involved a family paying £250 for a British Bulldog, intended for a Christmas present. The scammer claimed that the animal would be sent from a missionary within Belfast. The animal was never obtained and the family’s hard earned cash was irretrievable. Upon further investigation from trading standards, it was later found that the operation was based in Cameroon. “This scam is sadly a common one, with the scammers taking animal lovers for a ride both financially and emotionally,” stated a council member.”Always insist on seeing an animal for sale in its home environment before parting with any money,” he advised.

IPATA (International Pet and Transport Association) are an international trade association for pets and offer the following advice on purchasing pets online;

  1. Perform a search online for the merchants email address and check for duplicate advertisements, scammers will often create multiple advertisements to maximise their potential “customer base.”
  2. Attempt to arrange personal collection of the animal, if the seller refuses this is most certainly grounds for suspicion.
  3. Search for partially, or entirely, the introductory offer or any text you have received relating to the sale of the animal through an online search engine.
  4. If payment is requested by Western Union bank transfer or any other unofficial banking services, never comply. These services will offer no payment protection and once sent it cannot be recovered.
  5. Some more established pet suppliers are members of trade associations. Do not hesitate to ask a merchant if this is the case. You can check with the relevant association that this claim is genuine.
  6. You can report potential scammers online by forwarding emails to, or alternatively you can report them to the website the advertisement was placed with.
  7. Check that the merchant has a valid telephone number and ask to speak directly with them. If the telephone number begins 237 then this is a scam.
  8. You can look at a full list of reported telephone numbers, websites and email addresses of known pet scammers online at;

Unlucky victims of pet fraud have in some cases only discovered after payment has been sent. It is common that the merchant will claim there is an issue with shipping or the animal needs insurance and express that they cannot fulfil the purchase until extra payment is sent. Some even insist care and medical costs will be incurred within the meantime.

It is distressing for both pets and owners when a pet is in need of medical care. Immediately, people will rush into arranging veterinary care without a thought of the costs that may be incurred in the process. Ideally, at a young age, pets should be registered with a veterinary practice and it is always a good idea to attend a general check-up no matter how healthy your animal seems. Choosing the right practice will depend on the species or specific requirements your pet may have. It may be beneficial to talk to other practice users or speak with friends and family for their recommendations.

Opening hours and emergency care services are vital elements to take into consideration. Some practices will work alongside another to provide this for your animal and researching the reliability of the partner company is also a must. The Royal College for Veterinary Surgeons (RCVA) has a list available online of accredited practices across the UK. To qualify, the practice’s standard of service is assessed every four years and occasionally subjected to on the spot inspection.

There will always be a standard charge for initial assessment when you bring in an animal for examination, additional costs will apply for any medication dispensed during the appointment. According to the RCVA, all veterinary services by law must have a price list displayed of the most commonly prescribed medications in the waiting room. Studying the price list before-hand will ensure that you know exactly what to expect.

For minor ailments, veterinary surgeries are obliged to give free advice over the telephone, take advantage of this benefit foremost. It is essential to consider the quality of the response will reflect the accuracy of your enquiry. Be specific and detailed when explaining the issue.

When it comes to the purchasing of flea and worm treatments, 55% and 63% of people respectively buy their products from a vet and 22% say the cost is more than they were expecting. However, it is possible to buy these products on the high street but their effectiveness is questionable. Where the health of your animal is concerned, it is worth spending extra for treatment that works.

Akin to humans, there are many diseases that can affect household pets such as catflu, distemper and the parva virus -all of which can be prevented by a single vaccine. A vaccine will protect your pet from contracting a disease but also prevent transmission to other animals in the process. In the recent past there have been concerns over how frequently these vaccines are issued. Over 30 vets signed a document which stated that annually dispensed vaccines could last a longer duration than expected and included accusations of fraud by misrepresentation. The pharmaceutical companies responded by clarifying that they are bound by the licencing bodies to provide a minimal immunity period for legal purposes.

David Sutton, from Intervet, a leading veterinary drug manufacturer, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We base our recommendations on the science and the science we have tells us that we don’t know how long immunity lasts in any individual animal.” The problem is too complex to resolve, it is notpossible to provide long term research to supply accurate immunity durations. Animal testing is currently only possible for up to 2 years. Even so, each individual animal may respond differently to the vaccine, despite being of the same species and breed.

There are currently around 30 million cats and dogs in the UK alone, just 18% of canines and 28% of felines are not vaccinated, a single vaccinecosts only £20-£40. Owners have been concerned that administering vaccinations more regularly than necessary may induce side effects. However spending a small sum of money on an annual basis will not only provide an owner with piece of mind but also avoids a trip to the vets that could demand a hefty price tag.

The PDSA advises that puppies are initially vaccinated from 6 weeks onwards; with a subsequent needle 2-4 weeks later; boosters are then issued each year following this. Similarly, for kittens, 9 weeks is recommended for the primary vaccination and then 3-4 weeks to follow up, with boosters supplied on a yearly basis afterwards. Interaction with other animals is strongly discouraged before vaccination.

Vacation Vaccinations and Insurance

Travelling abroad with your pet will require further vaccinations, for further information you can visit;

Many owners take out insurance for additional reassurance and in preparation for unexpected costs. Recent studies have shown that policy holders are more likely to claim on behalf of their pets than with regards to any other insurance they have taken out. Illustrating this, insurance provider Saga, expressed that its customers are three times more likely to claim on their pet insurance as they are on their car cover. Pet insurers pay out £1.2m in claims every day according to the Association of British Insurers.

The average vet bill can total hundreds of pounds, with even some long term illness costing in the region of tens of thousands of pounds. The arrival of new technology and medicines has catalysed the inflation of vet’s bills more recently and in turn boosted revenue for insurance companies. Following this, there was a corresponding rise in complaints by 50% to the financial Ombudsman Service (FOS,) in relation to pet insurance claims. Martyn James from the FOS, said: “Pet insurance is one of the most hard fought and sensitive areas of complaint that the Ombudsman sees.” He alleged “a number of these complaints concerned the decision by a number of insurers (including Lloyds TSB, Halifax and Petguard) to pull out of this market, despite previously selling so-called “lifetime” cover.” In other cases, insurers have refused to pay out for some bills, convinced that it must be cheaper to find care elsewhere.

Available Policies

  • Accident only, provides basic cover for emergency situations such as road accidents. It is the most inexpensive and will not include if your animal has an illness. When committing to this type of insurance, be sure you are clear on what constitutes an “accident.”
  • Annual cover ensures cover for both accident and illness for up to 12 months. In the case of a long term illness the treatment is only covered for the 1 year period and after this will be considered “pre-existing.”Costs will not be covered regardless of policy renewal. When signing with an insurance firm it is recommended to check the terms and conditions for a maximum pay out value. If your bill exceeds this, the company is able to refuse settlement.
  • Individual condition cover will mean that the insurance will pay for on-going treatment that will continue upon renewal. Each provider will have a specific limit allocated to different ailments, so it is definitely worth comparing the market. If this limit is exceeded, it may be that the policy cannot be renewed. Excess may be charged for each individual condition or per year, sometimes resulting in customers being charged twice if the illness lasts the duration of 2 policy periods.
  • Life time cover is always the most expensive policy to opt for. The advertising of these policies is perceived as unfavourable due to many companies recently pulling out of the market. The maximum pay-out is reset annually and will cover continuous illness providing that the customer actively renews the policy. Unfortunately, it does not mean that the cost of cover is fixed, it will be prone to inflation and tend to increase with the volume of claims a customer makes.

Getting a new pet is almost like getting a new family member, adopting online can prove a risky business. Always buy from a reputable website and thoroughly research the legitimacy of the advertisement, before going ahead with any transactions. Alternatively, why not adopt from a rescue centre such as the RSPCA and help out a charity? Regarding medical care, cutting corners may not necessarily save you money in the long run. It is always better to be safe than sorry, remember some diseases/illnesses/injuries are fatal to animals without vaccination or medical attention. Finally, when considering pet insurance the benefits of claiming are obvious buet check that you understand renewal conditions and limits before you sign up. If you are still not convinced after speaking with an advisor, then you can also read reviews online from previous and present customers. Overall, adopting an animal can be a pricey affair but the enjoyment of owning a pet itself is priceless.

StaySafe Magazine and its on-line journal contains an outsized quantity of key information and stories regarding current criminal behavior. StaySafe is additionally a helpful purpose of reference for the authorities, they’re unbroken abreast of current criminal activity.

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Smoke screen or smoker’s dream?

Since their introduction in 2010, electronic cigarettes have been growing in popularity but the Health department warns that they are not risk free. Incredibly, the number of users has tripled since 2010 equating to more than 700,000 users within the UK. The use of these devices commonly known as ‘vaping,’ has been heralded as a possible alternative to conventional cigarettes. There is great debate concerning their capabilities to reduce instances of cancer in which one in four cases is currently caused by smoking, totalling around 100,000 deaths per year.

Electronic cigarettes, primarily marketed as ‘E-cigs’, contain an atomiser that is either engaged by inhalation or by being switched on by hand. Once initiated, a heating coil within the atomiser begins to heat up a detachable cartridge containing water, propylene glycol or glycerine and liquid nicotine that is often flavoured and available in various strengths. This notion produces a mist that can be inhaled largely consisting of water vapour. They have been designed to mimic regular cigarettes by featuring an LED light that illuminates upon inhalation.

There could be a chance that in the near future the NHS will support the use of electronic cigarettes as quitting aids forNicotine Replacement Therapy, if they prove more useful than existing methods such as, nicotine gum and patches. Studies have shown that the use of E-cigs is 60% more effective in helping smokers to quit than other Nicotine Replacement Therapies. But contrasting evidence suggests that people may carry on using these devices after quitting and there is little knowledge of what effect this could have on health in the long-term. Clare Knight from Cancer Research UK, who is now funding further research expressed, “we know little about the safety of the propylene glycol in many E-cigarettes. And nicotine itself can be toxic in very high doses. So there are questions about the safety of leakage from cartridges and refill bottles.”

The theory is that fewer toxins are inhaled using these devices and therefore less carcinogens with cancer causing properties. Conventional cigarettes have been found to contain up to 4000 toxins that can include arsenic and even substances with radioactive qualities. Nonetheless, of various electronic products tested, some were found to contain toxins such as nitrosamines, acetahyde, acrolein and formaldehyde -a well known carcinogen.Furthermore, there is no limit on how long an electronic cigarette can be smoked for. The battery can be recharged as frequently as desired and the smoking duration is to suit. E-cigs are purposefully marketed at cheaper prices in order to target present smokers. But could this fact encourage individuals to smoke for longer periodsor more frequently, thanwith traditional cigarettesthat have limited burn duration? In this respect, users could still inhale toxins greater or proportional to standard cigarettes.

A study was conducted toinvestigate the short-term effects of the use of electronic cigarettes on the function of the respiratory system. It consisted of 32 participants encompassing smokers, non-smokers and those with respiratory diseases such as asthma. They were instructed to use a single electronic cigarette for the duration of 10 minutes. It was found that there was an increase in airway resistance directly following the use of the device, preventing air flow in and out of the lungs. The increase in airway resistance was found to be significant in both smokers and non-smokers, however for those with respiratory diseases there was no immediate effect observed. More in-depth research is required in this area to fully understand the risks.

The World Health Organisation (WHO,) advise against the use of these contraptions until further research has been conducted. Products are currently unregulated and there appears to be an infinite number of varieties available on the market. The rate at which new products are introduced means that it is impossible to verify what is in them. Although, from a small proportion of those tested, it is clear that there is lack of consistency in their ingredients. For these reasons, electronic cigarette companies are not currently able to market their products as quitting aids. On the contrary, they are not subject to the same advertising bans enforced on tobacco companies.

“Given reports of malfunctions, we’d like to see these products regulated to help ensure that the mechanical components in the device are safe and reliable and deliver consistent doses of controlled chemical contents,” Said Clare Knight from Cancer UK.

There have been reports of safety issues with the use of E-cigs. In one severe incident, the usage has led to the death of a Merseyside man. A spokesman from the local fire service explained, “The subsequent fire investigation identified that an e-cigarette that had been charging in the bedroom exploded, caught fire and ignited the oxygen tube of an oxygen concentrator, which may have been in use by the occupier.” Although this was an extreme case, other fires have been reported due to the devices. 9 fires have been found to have ignited in Merseyside alone since January 2014 in relation to electronic cigarettes.

A common pattern seems to have emerged from these incidences. Kim Taylor, from the Aylestone area who left an E-cig charging in her car and came back minutes later to discover the rear seat alight, believes the fire started because she used a different make of adaptor. There was a lack of instructions included upon purchasing the device and hence no warning that using a different charger can pose as a danger.

Myles Platt an area manager from within the fire services urges people to, “always use electrical equipment in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions and guidance, always ensure that no electrical items are left charging overnight or left unattended for a long period when being charged, and do not mix parts from different e-cigarettes.” The official charger may feature a cut off point for when the battery is fully charged and power will no longer be supplied but using alternative chargers may cause the battery to overheat, due to continuous power supply.

The unknown dangers of these devices are worrying and there are currently concerns that children may use them as a gateway product to traditional tobacco usage. Though, there is little evidence available to support this.

What is being done?

From 2016, electronic cigarettes will be licenced as medicine in the UK. On 13th November 2014, an E-Cigarette summit will be held within London. The event will be attended by a variety of actors such as health professionals, regulators and policy providers, stakeholders, local authorities and also members of the scientific community. It is an opportunity for debate about recent scientific findings regarding health impacts and their applications to regulate the industry.

The key topics to be included at the conference are;

  • How will implementation of the Tobacco Products Directive affect the current market and products available?
  • Product diversity including flavours as an incentive for continued use. What should be considered?
  • ow safe are e-cigarettes -current clinical trials– what do we know and what do we still need to find out?
  • Will e-cigarettes re-normalise smoking and act as a gateway into tobacco use or normalise “vaping” and lead people away from smoking.
  • Use of electronic cigarettes in public places, what should be considered before making a decision either on a national or local authority basis or as private enterprise.
  • Advertising and promotion, what are the issues and how will these be addressed both pre and post Tobacco Products Directive implementation.
  • Conflicting interests that arise from the dual corporate ownership of tobacco products and harm reduction products – Is the problem ideological or a public health threat?
  • How does use of e-cigarettes compare with existing nicotine replacement therapies – what should the medical community be saying to current smokers?
  • Tobacco on the NHS payroll – electronic cigarettes on prescription that are developed and manufactured by the tobacco industry. Is this important or irrelevant?

Other products available to help you quit smoking;

Nicotine replacement therapies can be purchased over the counter or can be prescribed by a local GP. They mainly consist of skin patches, chewing gum, inhalators that mimic cigarettes and administer nicotine, tablets, strips, lozenges, nasal sprays and mouth sprays. It is important to consider that no single treatment will be suitable for every smoker. The effectiveness depends completely on individual preferences. As quitting smoking requires behavioural changes and a great deal of willpower, it may be a case of trial and error and could even involve a combination of treatments.

There are currently 2 stop smoking medications available via prescription from a local GP known as Zybin and Champix. Although these medications have been found to reduce addictive tendencies and also mood swings that may result from quitting, in some cases they can produce side effects.

The NHS quit service has been found to triple the likelihood of successfully stubbing out altogether rather than quitting alone or using other Nicotine Replacement Therapies. You can order a free quit kit online at you can download an app that offers advice, keeps track of how many days you have been smoke free and how much money you have saved as a result.

To sum up, there is a distinct lack of long term research into the risks posed by electronic cigarettes. It is no wonder there is conflicting views regarding health implications and their effectiveness in helping smokers stop. E-cigs are thought to contain fewer toxins than standard cigarettes. However, their lack of regulation means that it’s a mystery as to what is contained within different varieties. Additionally the quality of the electrical components is not being moderated and in some cases this has posed as a fire hazard.

It is unclear whether this is just the tobacco industry’s response to the decline in social acceptability of smoking in public and hence reduction in tobacco sales. Similarly, there are no laws prohibiting the use of electronic cigarettes in public places such as pubs which has led to the rise in popularity. Quitting smoking is not easy; there are many other regulated treatments available. But if you do opt to use an electronic cigarette, ensure you purchase from a reputable supplier and only ever use the original adaptor supplied with the device.

Lose Pounds without Losing £’s

Obesity is a worldwide epidemic,so it’s no surprise that there is a huge market for weight loss aids and health products, all claiming that they will help you look good and feel great at minimal cost.It is easier for some individuals to lose weight than others. In frustration and haste, some individuals are willing to pay large sums of cash for a quick fix. Top trending scams from the fat busting world include pills that promise to boost your metabolism, or block carbs or fat, diet patches, weight loss herbal teas andslimming wear.

Many websites offering these goods will use language such as “hurry now” or “limited offer” in an attempt to disillusion the reader that signing up is an opportunity not to be missed. Look out for conflicting information and be wary of websites that have already ticked in agreement to terms and conditions on your behalf. Often these websites have something to hide within their conditions, preferring them not to be viewed.

Raspberry Ketones is the latest online diet pill scam, pulling out all the stops to take advantage of the insecurities of the overweight population. The company proposal is around £5 in order to “trial” their product which claims to “melt away the fat,” or so the slogan claims. Revelations from the company spokesman of Beach Inc. have enlightened the consumer world “most of the studies are done on mice and rodent but you can find one study that has been done on humans.” Whilst the drug may have supporting scientific evidence to aidfat reduction in mice, there is no evidence that this is the case in humans. Buy this product and you could end up being the lab rat. More worryingly, the FSA or Food Standard Agency has never approved the drug for sale relative to weight loss. It has been authorised only to be used to perfume and flavour foodstuffs. Upon occasion, fad dieting pills have been found to contain harmful ingredients not intended for human consumption.

BBC watchdog interviewed a victim of the Raspberry Ketone scam and discovered that the company’s manipulative capabilities were far beyond initial impressions. Debra Cutter explains “When I received a second lot of pills, I didn’t expect them, which I thought was a mistake in case they thought I didn’t receive the first lot, and then my daughter was going through my bank statements and realised that roughly around £100 a month was coming out of my bank.” There was no mention during the registration of any subsequent payments required,anywhere on the website.

The entrapment was instead hidden within the Terms and Conditions. Stating that unless the order was cancelled within 14 days with the original pills returned, then customers will have signed up to pay £95 for the original bottle and following this the same price will be charged monthly with an additional charge for postage. Essentially, entering into this agreement results in a contract called a Continuous Payment Authority.

Registered dietician Althea Zanecosky states “There have always been quick weight loss schemes out there because nobody ever believes that you can’t lose weight faster than you gained it,

A more realistic timetable for lasting weight loss is to lose about a pound or two a week.” In a hurry to achieve the bikini body, consumers chose to ignore the overriding behavioural element involved in controlling diet that no quantity of products can overcome.

In similar news a product that markets itself as “Slimzene” adopted an advertising strategy that certainly caught the eye. Using celebrities such as Victoria Beckham, Adele and even the Duchess of Cambridge to manipulate their target audience, knowing that media pressure is a prime factor in instigating weight insecurity amongst many women. The legitimacy of the advertisement was further supported by websites such as Facebook and Twitter, displaying them as sponsored advertisements.Fuelled by public outrage the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned all Slimzene ads from the internet.The watchdog said “Slimzene failed to show that Adele had used or endorsed the product, failed to prove that it could contribute to weight loss and failed to make clear what appeared to be an article about the singer was actually an advertisement.” As a result there are many celebrities that are taking legal action against diet product companies that have not requested permission prior to advertising.

Weight loss is usually a gradual process and requires a combination of a healthy balanced diet, alongside plentiful exercise and a lot of willpower.This can be a daunting prospect. There is a great variety of support available from dieting books, dieting clubs. Now it is even possible to order all of your meals and snacks ready-made toguarantee that you crunch down on the calories or cut down on the carbs.

Free Support

You don’t necessarily have to spend extra money to shed the pounds. You can sign up online for a free Weight watchers newsletter with recipes and advice to help you stay on track at Some newsletters will contain vouchers to use in conjunction with weight watcher products. There are plenty of online forums and message boards where you can share ideas, recipes and chat to other people for moral support.

If you don’t fancy scrupulously counting the calories or following a strict diet plan, there are many other things that you can do instead to aid weight loss such as;

  • Setting aside longer for meal times.Allocating 20 minutes to each meal, eat slowly and concentrate on flavours and textures. Your body will feel more satisfied from smaller portions. Eating quickly can prevent release of hormones that produces the full feeling, leading to over indulgence.
  • Catching up on much needed slumber is definitely not over rated. An additional one hour of sleep could help an average person drop up to 14 pounds per year. Concurrently, research shows that fatigue is a main contender in increasing appetite.
  • Simply serving more fruit and vegetables is a great way to lose weight. With high fibre and water content, it’sa low calorie cheat to help you feel fuller.
  • The addition of whole grains in a diet is especially beneficial. Generous helpings of brown rice, barley, oats, buckwheat and whole wheat are low calorie stomach fillers. It has even been suggested that they may play a role in cholesterol reduction too.
  • Try replacing meaty pizza toppings with vegetable alternatives; this could minus up to 100 calories off your favourite takeaway meal.
  • A major contributor to piling on the pounds is high sugar content in food and drinks. By choosing water instead of a sugary, fizzy drink you could avoid putting on unwanted weight. When serving your drinks, choose a tall, thin glass rather than a short tumbler. People are prone to consuming more in tumblers, whilst in taller glasses you could consume 25-30% less.
  • Alcohol has a high calorific content;more so than crabs and also protein.Instead, opt for non-alcoholic beverages in between your chosen tipple. Although drinking in any quantity may increase the temptation for naughty nibbles.
  • A great deal of self-awareness and mindfulness is required to lose weight. A relaxing way to improve these elements is to practice yoga, which encourages awareness of both the mind and the body. Studies have found that women who practice yoga weigh less than women who don’t.
  • Avoid snacking by chewing sugar free gum.
  • Reducing the size of your plate can have a beneficial psychological response. Recent scientific research has shown that people will automatically eat more with larger plates. Selecting a smaller plate means potentially cutting out 100-200 calories per day.
  • Be consistent with smaller portion.
  • When dining out, share a starter with a friend or order as a main. If the starter is a smaller dish, why not add extra salad to fill up.
  • Choose vegetarian alternatives to aid slimming. It has been found that vegetarians weigh 15% less than the average meat consumer. Try beans and lentils for fibre rich foods that fill you up with fewer calories.
  • It is possible to lose up to 10 pounds in a year by simply burning an extra 100 calories per day. You can do this by; walking a mile which should take approximately 20 minutes; gardening for 20 minutes; cleaning the house for 30 minutes or jogging for 10 minutes.

“Having support from other people in your situation can really motivate you to lose weight,” says Dr Campbell. Your GP can also provide free information. By first assessing your BMI or Body Mass Index they can advise of a healthy weight for your height and suggest simple lifestyle changes to help you achieve this. It is only as a last resort that doctors will recommend medication or surgery.

On a final note,  for many is a challenging endeavor. There are many weight loss aids out there that can be beneficial and will not weigh too heavy on the handbag. Making positive steps to lose weight is largely supported by behavioral changes. Patience is the key to healthy weight loss. When considering buying any product online, take time and care to research both the effectiveness and reputation of the product. It is always advisable to study the terms and conditions before signing up.You don’t have to be out of pocket to achieve your goal, tricking yourself into eating less may even save you money in the long run.