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January Newsletter

Welcome to our January newsletter. In this issue some advice from money saving expert Martin Lewis, making sure you have the correct travel insurance, some shopping scams to avoid and information on diesel and petrol cars.

Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis issues passport warning on This Morning


Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis issues passport warning on This Morning

Martin, from Withington, spoke out on This Morning to say people shouldn’t neglect to check whether their passport have enough expiry time on them for travelling.

Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis has warned travellers to renew their passports if they have less than six months validity left on them.


He recalled one case when parents had to return home from their planned trip because their child only had two months left on their passport.

Most countries require that passports should have at least six months of validity when traveling internationally and will not permit a traveller to enter the country unless their passport is set to expire at least six months after the final day of travel.


Martin said: “Check the expiry date and if it’s less than six months you need to go about renewing it.” 

The new navy passports introduced after Brexit will be phased in slowly, but current British passport holders will able to continue using their burgundy passports until they expire.


Martin also urged people to check the expiry on their European Health Insurance Card, which gives travellers the right to access state-provided healthcare during a temporary stay in another European Economic Area country or Switzerland.


The EHIC covers treatment that is medically necessary and covers the treatment of pre-existing medical conditions and routine maternity care.

Travellers can apply for or renew an EHIC online free of charge at ehic.org.uk

Travel insurance: make sure you have proper cover, or face a hefty bill


Travel insurance: make sure you have proper cover, or face a hefty bill Ahead of the peak holiday booking season, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is mounting a campaign to encourage holidaymakers to make sure they are properly insured. It comes amid claims that those who declare previous medical conditions are struggling to find affordable cover, and that cancer sufferers can be asked for as much as &2,300 to insure a week-long trip to France.

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Quoting some frightening prices for receiving emergency treatment abroad, the FCO is hoping that the Costa del Insurance will be the first destination for British travellers during 2018.


The FCO said it can cost from &4,000 for medical repatriation aftercare following a heart attack in France to &80,000 for an air ambulance due to a fractured hip in Thailand.


Comparison website GoCompare makes similar warnings, citing the example of a woman who had a fall while skiing in Austria, tearing her anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments and needing surgery to repair them. Her bill for treatment was &9,439.

Travel insurance is by no means mandatory, and policies are often riddled with so many get-out clauses that plenty of consumers have been left wondering why they bothered. Many frequent travellers on short-hop trips to Europe will argue that insurance is barely worth the cost, and that the European Health Insurance Card (Ehic) provides a basic level of health protection.


But Julia Longbottom, consular director at the Foreign Office, says arranging travel insurance should be at the top of your holiday essentials before heading overseas. “Travellers are losing thousands of pounds in medical bills and their families are having to find the money to help cover the cost or even repatriate them, Having the appropriate travel insurance in place will help ensure that you get the support you need, should something go wrong overseas.” she adds.


She warns against relying on the Ehic as it does not cover some costs such as repatriation. Travellers should also remember that the level of free public healthcare can vary between countries, so British nationals may not have access to the same specialist treatment that they would at home, the FCO warns. There is also no clarity as to what happens to the Ehic after Brexit.


But while basic travel policies are cheap and easy to buy for anyone who has not suffered serious medical problems, getting reasonably priced cover for those who have suffered serious medical problems can be a nightmare.


Research by MoneySuperMarket.com this week found that premiums typically double or treble if the insured declares a significant previous problem such as a heart attack or angina. Last June, the Financial Conduct Authority asked for evidence of the challenges faced by consumers who have, or have had, cancer, in accessing affordable travel insurance.


“The golden rule when arranging cover is to be scrupulously honest when asked about your medical history, even if you have fully recovered, are not taking medication or receiving treatment, and have been given the all-clear by your doctor. If you leave something out, the insurer might challenge your claim and ask to see your medical records, says MSM’s Kevin Pratt.

Later this month, a new insurer is set to launch promising a fairer deal for those with previous conditions. Bought By Many says its customers won’t face a 30-minute interrogation into every aspect of their medical history. Instead, the company will ask whether their doctor has passed them fit to travel.


Bought By Many’s boss, Steven Mendel, says cancer suffers are regularly charged more than &2,000 to cover a week in Europe.

“Getting a quote is a frustratingly slow process, with insurers asking intrusive medical questions. And prices are often high for people with the most serious conditions, meaning they may make the risky decision to travel without insurance and potentially face huge medical bills if they need treatment. Some decide not to travel at all,” he says. The company will formally launch on 22 January. Another company that claims to offer affordable cover for the over-65s with existing conditions is EhicPlus.

Feeling lucky?

If you choose not to declare a previous condition – accepting that you won’t be covered if it reoccurs – can the insurer turn down a medical claim for an unrelated matter? The Association of British Insurers says a failure to declare medical conditions could invalidate your policy if the withheld information would have led to the refusal of cover.


In practice, it says, insurers will assess if any non-disclosure that has subsequently come to light was the cause of or a contributory factor to the claim. Non-disclosure of a heart condition may well not be connected to say, tripping over a paving stone and injuring your ankle. “In making this judgment insurers will seek expert medical guidance and will be mindful of the view that the financial ombudsman may take,” says a spokesman.


These three shopping scams are doing the rounds – don't fall for them


These three shopping scams are doing the rounds – don't fall for them

Scams purporting to be from Asos, Aldi and Argos are all aggravating shoppers. Shoppers love a good bargain - but a many are being caught out by scams daily.


When a deal seems too good to be true, it often is – but that doesn't stop many from falling for the cruel scams.

They one thing they all have in common is that they play on the trusted nature of shops and friends. Many usually spread through social media, with friends making it seem more legit. But they are scams and shoppers should be aware. Even the shoppers who want clothes from ASOS can find themselves at risk.


In only the past week there have been a string of scams that have surfaced with all trying to trick shoppers, the Cambridge News reports.

These unwitting customers could find themselves a victim of the scams. These can cause disappointment to those with vouchers or gift cards.


To help make you aware of the scams out there, and to help you avoid them, we have listed some of the ones you need to know.


A scam from popular catalogue retailer Argos is one of the latest hoaxes to emerge.


The Mirror Online reports members of its Money team have recently been sent a message, which reads: "Dear shopper, There is (1) package waiting for you! Check here >>," followed by the URL to their scam site.

The messages look like they are being sent by the retailer, so it is understandable people are falling for them.


By clicking through the link though, you end up be directed to a URL, which tries to encourage you to enter your details, by pretending to offer cheap iPhones.


One of the main dangers comes when shoppers who have brought something from Argos, as it will appear in a message thread along with genuine messages - perhaps from Christmas presents you bought from the shop.


Worse, once you click fraudsters might be able to collect personal information from your device by installing cookies on your phone that track you, or add browser extensions that can be used to show you advertisements.


This is a different type of a shopping scam – because it's based on a website that isn't normally used by the hoaxers.

It uses an advertisement on the website UK Mystery Shopper, and claims Aldi want mystery shoppers to visit local stores, and if selected they will get a &100 gift card to spend - totally free.


In the description for the advert it says: "We're looking for mystery shoppers to visit their local Aldi supermarket and if selected, you could receive a FREE &100 gift card to spend on anything you want in store." Sound too good to be true? That's because it is.


A spokeswoman for Aldi confirmed to the MirrorOnline it is not a legit advert. In a statement they said: "Aldi has confirmed that this opportunity isn’t genuine and is in no way connected to the business. "Please alert readers to the fact that this is not an Aldi opportunity."


For reference, Aldi does not send gift cards in such a way and never requests customers submit personal information via third party websites.


The website itself has also commented on the warning and insisted it has never claimed to be associated with the retailer.

A spokesperson, again speaking to our sister title Mirror Online said: "UK Mystery Shopper has never claimed that we are associated with or commissioned by Aldi and this is clearly specified on our site.


"Over many years we have distributed thousands of valuable mystery shopping opportunities to our members in exchange for their insightful reviews.

"These are published on our site. We offer a genuine opportunity for shoppers to be rewarded at their favourite stores through our review service."


This is one scam, which spread through Instagram, and while it doesn't involve users potentially losing money, it is a sneaky one which people need to be aware of.


Yesterday, accounts with names like @asosoffers appeared, offering free &100 ASOS giftcards to their first 50,000 followers.

All the followers supposedly then had to do to claim their voucher was to tag the respective 'offer account' in their Instagram stories. And more than 300,000 people fell for it.


The online retailer has now confirmed it was a scam and they had nothing to do with the accounts - which have since had their names changed.


An ASOS spokesperson tweeted: "We can confirm we have no connection to any ASOS offer accounts and are working to get rid of these. Our ASOS accounts have a blue verified tick next to them"

The reason why these type of accounts are made in the first place is believed to be so they can gain thousands of followers in a really short space of time and then when they've hit their target number they'll change the name to come more general.


Diesel cars more likely to break down than petrol


Diesel cars are more than three times as likely to break down than petrol - and they're 20% more expensive to fix

  • Alfa Romeo, Land Rover and Mitsubishi diesels found to be most problematic
  • MotorEasy reviewed 30,000 faults reported by drivers of used cars last year
  • It found the average repair bill for a diesel car was &517 and &433 for petrols
  • Diesels are higher pressure engines that put stress on parts, MotorEasy said


Diesel cars have been getting a drubbing in recent months.

Tax surcharges on their purchase, use in inner-city areas contributing to pollution and parking costs have seen them rapidly fall out of favour with car buyers, with sales slipping by 17 per cent in 2017.

And new research is unlikely to help matters for the under-fire fuel type, with a new study finding them to be more than three times as likely to break down than petrol models - and &84 more expensive on average to fix when they do.


Diesel under the microscope again: A new study by MotorEasy found that used diesel cars are more than three times as likely to suffer a fault than a comparable petrol, and are &84 more expensive to repair on average each year

Car ownership and maintenance firm MotorEasy said it had reviewed 30,000 faults registered by owners of used vehicles that were three to eight years old across the last 12 months.

The data showed the average repair bill of &517 for a diesel car last year was 20 per cent higher than those for petrol vehicles.

Models fuelled with unleaded had repair receipts of &433 on average.


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MotorEasy said the higher rate of diesel engine failures was mostly down to the fact that diesel engines are under more pressure than petrol motors. 

'Diesel units rely on self-compression, meaning that fuel is compressed to a much greater extent, putting more pressure on internal engine parts,' it said in its report. Some faults involving engine parts can be extremely expensive, the study revealed.


The most substantial diesel engine repair bill one owner received last year was a staggering &4,030.80.

Duncan McClure Fisher, founder of MotorEasy, said: 'Diesels experience many more small problems than petrol cars. They are less reliable and, when a big item goes wrong, it costs a lot more to put right.'If you're still considering a used diesel car, our advice is to avoid high-mileage examples, particularly if you are only driving low mileage or doing city driving.'


Diesel cars were hauled back into the limelight this weekend after a Federal Motor Transport Agency (KBA) investigation in Germany found that Audi models fitted with Euro 6 diesel V6 engines had emissions cheating 'shut-off devices' fitted.

Diesel units rely on self-compression, meaning that fuel is compressed to a much greater extent, putting more pressure on internal engine parts.

Some 127,000 models produced since the end of 2015 are affected, the report in Audi's home nation said, though it is still unknown how many of these are owned by UK drivers.


MotorEasy's study looked only at used cars, with the majority likely to be powered by older, Euro 5-compliant engines - those found to be fitted with diesel-emissions cheating devices by Audi's parent group VW in September 2015.

With millions of cars impacted by the industry's biggest scandal in modern history - which revealed some cars were coughing out up to 40 times the legal emissions limit - fears have grown over the harmful pollutants emitted by diesel cars.

In response, the government announced in the November 2017 Budget that, from April, all new diesels will face higher taxation unless they adhere to a standard called Real Driving Emissions, Step 2 – a certification that will not exist until 2020.

Drivers of older models in the capital have also been having to pay London's new T-charge since January, while some boroughs have increased the cost to park diesel models in their areas.

Which brands have the least reliable diesel cars?


MotorEasy found that diesel models were less reliable than petrol for 71 per cent of car manufacturers.

However, it wasn't Volkswagen or one of the other VW-owned brands that topped the chart.

That unwanted title went to Italian car maker Alfa Romeo, with data showing that its diesels were more than four times as likely to have a fault than its petrol-powered vehicles.


Of all the Alfa Romeos analysed in the data, almost half (47%) of diesel-powered models suffered a breakdown in the last 12 months


Least reliable diesel cars by make 

1. Alfa Romeo - 47% failure rate

2. Land Rover - 41% failure rate

3. Mitsubishi - 36% failure rate

4. Saab -  33% failure rate

5. Mazda - 33% failure rate

6. Kia - 29% failure rate

7. Mercedes-Benz - 27% failure rate

8. Vauxhall - 26% failure rate

9. Mini - 26% failure rate

10. Audi - 26% failure rate


Source: MotorEasy 

In fact, it was a VW Group manufacturer that was found to have the most reliable diesel engines.

Skoda, the Czech brand that now comes under the VW banner with others such as Seat, Porsche, Bentley and Lamborghini, had a failure rate of just nine per cent for its diesel vehicles. 

Only seven of 25 car makers analysed showed fewer breakdowns for diesel models. 

Petrol-powered BMWs experienced faults 60 per cent more often than its oil burners, while Audi, Skoda, Mini (also BMW) and Peugeot also bucked the trend. 

Alfa Romeo, Land Rover, Kia and Mazda diesels had the highest average diesel engine repair cost versus petrol counterparts. 


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