Online dating scams cheat Brits out of £37bn

Love-sick Brits hunting for romance online are being cheated out of around £37 billion through sating sites, research has revealed.

Fraudsters are targeting emotionally vulnerable Britons looking for love, by grooming them in a similar way to methods used by paedophiles grooming children.

The increase in the number of online dating sites is likely to result the number being scammed increasing, researchers predict.

Fraudsters lead those looking for love to believe that they are beginning a romantic relationship and then swindle them out of large sums of money over periods of a few months.

Professor Monica Whitty of Leicester University said: ‘Scammers create a fake profile on dating sites and build up an intense relationship with their victim, grooming them before testing the waters to see of they can make some money out of the “relationship”.

‘It’s almost paedophilic. They get into a close relationship, getting emotionally close to them and, like paedophiles do when grooming their victims, gain their trust before pouncing. The victims become reliant on this closeness and are often infatuated by scammers who create attractive profiles.

‘The criminals tell them they love them and victims often haven’t had that experience before so they rely on them for happiness entirely.

Professor Whitty said they test to see if the besotted victim will hand over money by suggesting they would like a small gift.

‘This small gesture grows, with some asking for more expensive gifts like airplane tickets, with victims agreeing because online relationships are more intense and online daters often more strategic in what they say.

‘We’ve heard a lot from people at airports saying they see these victims waiting for their lover to turn up, only to realise they are not coming.

‘They will then make up an excuse for why they didn’t show up – car trouble getting to the airport for example – then still continue asking for money so they can try and visit again.’

This fraudulent activity does not just relate to money, some victims are sexually abused or convinced to strip on webcams in order to keep the relationship going.

The figures were gained from a YouGov survey of 2,028 Brits who were questioned about their experiences with online dating fraud.

Petrol sales soar 85 per cent as motorists panic buy

Yesterday saw petrol up 85 per cent and diesel up 43 per cent as drivers rushed out to the pumps after a minister recommended stockpiling petrol at home.

The Petrol Retailers Association reported the dramatic increase in sales after Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude suggested motorists stock up on petrol filling any spare jerry cans.

Petrol prices also hit a new high yesterday reaching 140.70p per litre, diesel is also at a record 146.98 per litre.

Petrol stations are in danger of running dry, and the government has called in the military to prepare for a strike by tank drivers.

Strike dates have still not be announced by Unite and motoring groups have said ministers are creating a ‘self-fulfilling’ fuel shortage.

A spokesman for the Petrol Retailers Association said government advice was causing the problem.

He said: ‘This is exactly what we didn’t want – people panic buying. Deliveries are still being made to garages and we are advising people to continue with their normal buying habits.’

The AA said current fuel shortages were the result of bad advice and rumours leading to panic buying.

AA president Edmund King said: ‘There is no fuel tanker strike and therefore if drivers followed normal fuel buying patterns there would be no fuel shortage whatsoever. We now have self-inflicted shortages due to poor advice about topping up the tank and hoarding in jerry cans. This in turn has led to localised shortages, queues and some profiteering at the pumps.

‘Theoretically if 30million cars with half full tanks are advised to fill up over 24 hours, this means that 750million litres of fuel would be sold, whereas average sales over 24 hours would be 90million litres. So it is no surprise that the “top-up” advice has lead to shortages.’


Unique Senna F1 car up for auction

A truly unique piece of motorsport history, a Toleman TG184-2 Formula One car driven by Ayrton Senna in his debut F1 season, is up for auction at The Spring Sale to be hosted by Silverstone Auctions on 16th May.

This particular car has become the stuff of legends and is perhaps best known for Senna’s remarkable second place drive in the rain-soaked 1984 Monaco GP, arguably the race which first demonstrated his extraordinary talents to the world.

Nick Whale, managing director, Silverstone Auctions, said: “We are thrilled to bring this iconic race car to auction as it’s undoubtedly one of the most important lots we’ve ever offered under the hammer.

“Senna mania is reaching fever pitch and rightly so as he’s considered by many as the greatest F1 driver we’ve ever seen. It goes without saying that this will be one of the star attractions at the sale as it’s a very rare chance to own a much sought after piece of motorsport and Ayrton Senna history.”

Indeed, the Toleman, which Senna also raced to 3rd in the British and 7th in the Canadian Grand Prix’s, has been in private ownership for the past 16 years, so its sale at open market really is an opportunity not to be missed.

However, Silverstone Auctions is no stranger to success with Senna related lots. At its first auction of the year, a helmet and race suit used by the driver fetched £74,750 and £35,650, respectively, both considerably more than their pre-sale estimates.

And while the race car is undoubtedly one of the key lots at the forthcoming Spring Sale to be held at Silverstone, it will be joined by an impressive range of other race cars, modern sports cars, motorcycles and automobilia.

“Excitement is building for the auction which promises to be a must attend sale for any serious collector or motorsport enthusiast. Apart from the Senna F1 car, another notable early entry is a stunning 1973 Porsche 911 Carrera RS 2.7, estimated at between £190,000 to £210,000. If these are examples of what’s to follow, then it promises to be quite an event,” added Nick.

Those interested in submitting an entry into The Spring Sale, or any of Silverstone Auctions forthcoming events, are invited to call the team on 01926 691 141 or email

Bank of England order sale of £50 note tissues to stop

The Bank of England has banned a gift stop selling novelty tissues which look like £10 and £50 notes – in case people try to pass them off as real money.

The floppy pocket tissues featuring the designs of £10, £20 and £50, notes are being sold on eBay in packs of ten for 99p.

But stuffy bosses at the Bank of England have ordered gift shop Bright Ideas to remove them after claiming they breach forgery laws.

Sarah Neale, who runs the shop in Melton Mowbray, Leics., started flogging the fun tissue notes online at the beginning of this month but was ordered to scrap them last week.

Sarah, 50, said: “It’s just ridiculous. I was gobsmacked.

“I couldn’t believe it when I got the email.

“We said in the title that they were novelty bank note tissues and stated they were not real currency.

“It’s obvious that they’re novelty tissues.

“It’s just so stupid. They don’t look real at all – they are not even the right size. They are very thin paper tissues. It is such a big surprise to us.

“I was told our listing wasn’t against eBay’s policy but they told us they had been instructed by the Bank of England to remove them.

“Surely the Bank of England has better things to do than this.”

The online auction site was contacted by the Bank of England and the product was removed from sale as it breached its policy on counterfeit money and stamps.

Sarah, who has been running the shop with her husband for five years, added: “Quite a few of our customers have commented on it.

“We’ve even had one regular customer who sent us an email asking if he could pay for a little figurine with the paper tissue money.

“Other companies sell beach towels in the same design and serviettes – they don’t look real at all. They are so small.

“They are three ply, single-sided tissues. There’s no way someone could get away with passing them off as real.”

The tissue bank notes measure the same as the originals but are only printed on one side.

The shop only started stocking them at the start of March and have only got five packets left out of 36.

They are still on sale in the shop as the Bank of England has not directed them to be removed from sale.

A Bank of England spokesman said: “Under section 18(1) of the Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981 it is a criminal offence for any person, without the prior consent in writing of the Bank of England, to reproduce on any substance whatsoever, and whether or not on the correct scale, any Bank of England banknote or any part of a Bank of England banknote.

“The images on the tissue products in question fall within the Act, and because we have not given permission for our copyrighted images to be used in this way we have asked eBay to remove them from their site.”

Women bear the brunt of unemployment

Out of 28,000 people that lost their jobs between November and January, 22,000 were women.

That means a staggering eight out of ten workers to lose their jobs were female.

The latest employment statistics show a worrying trend where women are the hardest hit by unemployment.

The number of women accepting part-time work because they could not secure full-time employment is at its highest level for twenty years.

The amount of women claiming job seekers allowance is also at its highest for 17 years, reaching 531,000.

The number of women on jobseekers allowance has more than doubled since the credit crunch in August 2007 when the number stood at 228,000.

Liam Byrne, Labour’s work and pensions spokesman, said: ‘The surge in women’s unemployment is reaching shocking levels.’

Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, said: ‘Women are still being hit hardest by job losses.

‘It is shameful to see that not only are women bearing the brunt of the recession, they are unemployed in record numbers and are hardest hit by the cuts to public services and jobs.’

The figures published by the Office for National Statistics this week show that older females are suffering more so than younger women.

The number of women between the ages of 50 and 64 are at record levels, with 148,000 women job hunting.

Bankrupt chart toppers UB40 sell off hits

BANKRUPT chart toppers UB40 have been forced to sell off their hits to pay their debts, it has been revealed.

The reggae superstars have quietly sold the rights to their back catalogue recordings to music giant EMI for an undisclosed amount in a bid to pay off their £750,000 debts.

The news comes as a sixth member of the band, Robin Campbell, has just been declared bankrupt after a hearing at Birmingham County Court.

Brother Ali Campbell, sax player Brian Travers, drummer Jim my Brown, trumpeter Astro and percussionist Norman Hassan were made bankrupt by the courts last year.

A music business insider said: “It’s a bad day for UB40. They wouldn’t have got as much for their hits as you might think.

“It may not be enough to clear their debts.“

EMI are believed to be planning the release of a UB40 greatest hits album later this year.

It means that, although they still hold the publishing rights to the songs they have written, the band has effectively handed over control of what happens to their past hit records.

The deal to sell the recording rights was struck in the last two months. The amount the band received has not been disclosed, but it is thought the cash may not be enough to cover the debts.

If that were to be the case, it would mean that UB40 will not see a penny from their biggest hit singles and albums.

A senior EMI insider confirmed: “We have purchased complete rights of UB40’s recordings, but not the equivalent publishing rights.

“We had some rights previously under a licence, but this means we own the rights to release or sell the songs in future.

“The deal was signed this year for an undisclosed fee.“

The sale means that EMI can release albums featuring UB40 singing their hits without the permission of the band, and could even put out CDs in rivalry to future recordings by the group.

But former lead singer Ali Campbell, who quit the group after a row about financial management, claims he was told nothing about the sale of the UB40 hits on which he featured to EMI.

Ali and keyboard player Mickey Virtue stormed out in 2008, sparking a bitter war of words with brother Robin, who brought in kid brother Duncan Campbell to replace the singer. Virtue, 54, has never been part of the bankruptcy case.

Ali Campbell’s spokesman Chris Harrison said it was the first they had heard of the deal.

“If they resell the whole catalogue then the assumption would have to be that both Ali and Mickey would receive a share,“ he said.

“Neither one has currently been consulted on the sale and neither has received a percentage of any advances gained for any of the albums that have subsequently been released that both Ali and Mickey were part of creating.“

The cash raised from the rights sale will help reduce the money the band owes but a music industry source said it would probably not be enough to clear their debts.

“They would have got a decent amount for it but not as much as you might think,“ he said.

“We’re in the middle of a recession and there aren’t many big players left in the music business. “I doubt if it would be enough to sort out their debts.“

UB40’s defunct record company, DEP International, was liquidated in 2008, the same year that Ali and Mickey quit. DEP International still owned the band’s hits when the firm was wound up, so they were auctioned off by liquidators PKF.

The rights to the recordings were bought by Reflex Recordings, a business started in 2006 whose directors included Astro, James Brown, Brian Travers, Robin Campbell and a David Parker. Mr Parker is sole director of a separate firm called Reflex Recordings & Music Limited, a name which also appears on the band’s official website.

A PKF spokesman confirmed that they had sold off the band’s rights as part of the liquidation process.

“We sold the back catalogue back to a company which represents a number of band members,“ he said.

“As such we have no involvement with what happens to the back catalogue after the sale.

“It was sold to Reflex Recordings. What may have happened to the rights since then is not a matter we would deal with.“

At bankruptcy firm RSM Tenon, which is handling the current UB40 case, spokesman Mark Sands said it was common for penniless artists to do deals for their rights.

“The band has not got many assets but their back catalogue is one thing they did own,“ he explained.

“Sometimes bands hold on to them and the money is paid over as it comes in. Other times a group will simply sell them for a lump sum, which is what I assume they have done now.

“It is pretty common in this sort of industry for this to happen. Absolutely nothing – not a song, film, or anything  – gets made without someone, somewhere owning the rights to it.“

Despite the leading members of the band being declared bankrupt, UB40 are understood to be recording a new album at a studio in Redditch, Worcestershire and plan tour dates this year.

Derelict toilet block sells for £50,000

A SHABBY disused public toilet block has been sold at auction for a staggering £50,000.

The successful mystery bidder was left feeling flush after bagging the small derelict lavatory based in a run down suburb of Birmingham, which fetched £20,000 over its guide price.

The buyer stumped up the eye-watering fee  for the former Birmingham City Council owned building in the Hockley area of the city.

Many bidders had been willing to spend their pennies on the former toilet which, according to the buyer guide, had had “all sanitary fittings removed”.

The new owners were wooed by the building’s potential which included, according to the sale particulars, “a number of alternative uses including retail or office use”.

Council finance chief councillor Randal Brew said: “We take a responsible approach to the management of our assets and only want to keep sites which will be of benefit to taxpayers.

“Receipts from sales are ploughed back into new projects and it is always pleasing to see buildings that are in disrepair or no longer of use to the council being turned into hubs of activity under new ownership.

“We have some very interesting properties for sale, which offer developers a host of options, and I expect there will be strong interest in all of our sites.

Cllr Randal Brew, Cabinet Member for Finance at Birmingham City Council, said: “When a property has no chain, it’s always more desirable – we had no problem in flushing out potential buyers, who were clearly interested in spending more than a penny on this site.”

Along with the former public convenience, nine other city council lots were also offered up by the authority in a move to rake in cash from unwanted assets.

A total of £1.5 million was made from the auction despite a 1960s school building in Sycamore Road, Aston, failing to reach the reserve price of £350,000 and remaining on the shelf.

The surprise sale of the day came after a furious bidding battle for a single-storey office building on Regent Park Road, Small Heath.

Described as a modern 1980s purpose-built office, it raked in £351,000 from a guide price of just £140,000.

A former Lloyds TSB branch in Villa Road, Handsworth, also attracted a bank-breaking £410,000 from a guide price of £150,000.

Benefit claimants offered cheap stamps

Royal Mail came under fire yesterday after they made the announcement to offer more than five million benefit claimants the chance to buy stamps at discounted prices.

The company have delivered letters across the UK for a uniform price since 1840 when the Penny Black was introduced.

However chief executive Moya Greene said that Royal Mail plan to break the tradition and introduce cheaper stamps which will be available to ‘the most vulnerable members of society’ this Christmas.

These stamps will be sold at 2011 prices – first class stamps costing 46p and second class 36p – whereas from April everyone else will be hit by increased prices.

Angry MP’s have labelled the move as ‘means-testing’, after the revelation that chaos will be caused by creating two-tier stamp prices. Around five million people will be eligible for the discount.

Details about the scheme are limited, however Royal Mail did say that anyone who received Pension Credit, Incapacity Benefit or its replacement, Employment and Support Allowance will be able to get the discount.

The latest announcement follows a controversial move by Royal Mail, which will see a huge increase in the price of stamps.

Ofcom – the postal regulator – want to remove a cap that limits the amount Royal mail can charge for sending a letter or parcel.

Nadhim Zahawi, A Tory MP who sits on the innovation and skills committee argued against the plan to offer claimants cheaper stamps.

He said: “How are they going to do it? How are they going to police it? If you go into a Post Office wearing a scruffy coat, will you get cheaper stamps?

Do you just send out your granny, who gets Pension Credit, to buy all the stamps? Is there a cap of ten on how many stamps you can buy? This is means-testing of stamps”.

During Tuesday’s hearing, Miss Greene – who receives a bonus equal to the Primer Minister’s salary of £142,000 – insisted that the current stamp prices are ‘incredible value’.

Article by Charlotte Greenhalgh

The decline of the family saloon

How ‘Fiesta Dad’ and ‘MPV Mum’ have changed Britain’s driveways since the 1980s.
The demise of the family saloon, once the bastion of Britain’s family cars, has been driven by the rise of small-car dad and MPV mum, according to research released today by the UK’s largest insurer Aviva.

In the 1980s the stereotypical two-car family had a large saloon, like a Ford Cortina or Vauxhall Cavalier, and a small ‘runaround’ second car such as a Fiesta or a Datsun Cherry on the driveway1. The women in the family almost always drove the smaller car.

Fast-forward to today and the shape and size of the cars on our driveways and who is driving them have changed significantly.

Aviva asked 2,500 UK adults about their family car history stretching back 30 years and found that, while more families than ever own a second car2, there has been a significant shift towards a more equal size and value split between the cars driven by mum and dad in Britain’s multi-car households.

The death of the saloon
High spec smaller family cars, such as the Volkswagen Golf, the Mini and the Peugeot 207, driven equally by men and women, now dominate the top 10 most popular cars, replacing traditional family saloons like the Vauxhall Vectra, Volkswagen Passat and Ford Mondeo. The traditional family saloon no longer features anywhere in the top 10 list of most popular car models with UK drivers.
The rise of ‘Fiesta dad’ and ‘MPV mum’
As the size and shape of Britain’s family cars have changed so have the people driving them. In the 1980s, large saloons like the Ford Cortina and the Vauxhall Cavalier were popular with men but driven by very few women, who drove mainly small cars such as Fiestas, Minis, and the Sunny and Cherry made by Datsun/Nissan.

Since 2010 the big car/small car gender divide had changed completely. Two thirds of Fiesta drivers are now men. Women are increasingly opting for large, modern alternatives, and are more likely than men to drive big SUV and 4×4 hybrids such as the Citroen Picasso and the Toyota RAV4.

The evolution of the family car
In the 1980s Britain’s family cars looked very similar, with just four big and small car combinations dominating our driveways. Vauxhall and Ford were the most popular saloons of choice. The four pairings most commonly seen in streets across Britain were: the Vauxhall Cavalier/Mini Rover; the Vauxhall Cavalier/Ford Fiesta; the Ford Cortina/Mini Rover and the Ford Escort/Vauxhall Nova4.

In 2011 the picture is more complicated because of the huge rise in the number of different models available. Our driveways may have become more diverse but the type of car parked on them tells a common story. As motoring costs increase and with greater demand for fuel efficiency, families are increasingly opting for two small cars or a small car and an MPV hybrid. The most common car type combinations in 2011 were Small Family Cars (VW Golf, Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra) with Mini/Compact cars (Ford Fiesta, Renault Clio, Vauxhall Corsa) and SUVs/4x4s/MPV (Nissan Qashqai, Citreon Picasso, Ford Galaxy) with Mini/Compact cars (Ford Fiesta, Renault Clio, Vauxhall Corsa)5.

Commenting on the research, Heather Smith, director of car insurance at Aviva, said: “Thirty years ago the big saloon and the small ‘runaround’ sitting side by side outside Britain’s family homes was a ubiquitous sight. Now you’re more likely to see two VW Golfs or newer SUV/4×4 hybrids like the Nissan Qashqai and the Suzuki Grand Vitara sharing driveway space.

“As families’ lives become more busy and complex, with two working parents and children to be dropped off at school, it appears multi-tasking mums need a vehicle fit for both work and family life while cost and fuel efficiency are increasingly important to dad”.

Network Rail staff face the sack if they live 75mins away from headquarters

A union has claimed that Network Rail staff are being threatened with redundancy if they live further than 75 minutes travelling time from the new Milton Keynes headquarters.

According to the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association, rail managers have been told they must get to the new multi-million pound site within 90 minutes – which is located next to Milton Keynes railway station.

The TSSA announced that 850 members of staff could face redundancy if failed to reach the Buckinghamshire base on time.

However Network Rail revealed that they only expected 150 members of staff to face problems meeting the latest regulation.

Rail offices from around the country will be brought together into the new Milton Keynes site, housing around 3,000 staff. Whereas Network Rails’ head office will remain in London.

Manuel Cortes, the TSSA general secretary said: “This is an unfair and arbitrary decision which we believe to be unlawful. They are telling their staff they cannot follow their jobs in the worst recession in 70 years.

“With unemployment heading towards three million, where else are they going to find work in these hard times?”

Mr Cortes has warned Network Rail of legal action in order to defend its members right to move to Milton Keynes. “We are hoping that Network Rail will start to see sense on this issue”.

A spokesman for Network Rail said: “We are pulling together dozens of offices from around the country into one national centre at Milton Keynes that will deliver a better, more efficient way or working and save the taxpayers tens of millions of pounds a year.

“Around 150 people are affected by the travel limits, but we hope they will choose to stay with the company and be a part of our plans to deliver a bigger, better railway in the years ahead”.

Article by Charlotte Greenhalgh