Since 2016, the Insolvency Service has wound up nine health supplement companies in the public interest after they scammed people, often the elderly and vulnerable, into unnecessarily buying their products.
The Insolvency Service estimates that there have been close to 36,000 victims who have been duped by these nine health supplement businesses, cheating them out of around £10.6 million, and during Scams Awareness Month is warning members of the public there could many more examples of these schemes in operation.
Consumer Minister Andrew Griffiths MP said:
These shocking supplement scams are targeting thousands of the most vulnerable people in our society. The Insolvency Service is playing a vital role in protecting consumers and cracking down on these cowboy firms.
During Scams Awareness Month I am encouraging anyone who has fallen foul of these scams to speak up and report it, so we can stamp them out for good.
In one case, Newbury-based Healthspring Wellness Product Limited contracted a call centre based in Mumbai to sale health supplements on their behalf. Specifically targeting people 55 and over, who were either housebound or had difficulty in getting to the shops, the call centre deployed aggressive sales tactics, as well as giving out false medical advice.
Following an Insolvency Service investigation, Healthspring Wellness was wound up in the public interest in the high court in November 2017. The activities of the registered director, Vidjan Wasta, were also investigated and as of 18 April 2018, he has been disqualified from running companies for 11 years.
And in another example, Nitesh Prakash Dhawan and Virendra Singh Thakur were the bosses of two linked companies – Greenlife Wellness Limited and Naturecare Wellness Limited. The two companies would purchase data lists containing details of people over the age of 65 with health concerns for arthritis and joint pain before using offshore call centres to make unsolicited calls to sell their target victims a range of health supplements.
Investigators found that call centre staff deployed a range of unscrupulous tactics, such as claiming to be ringing on behalf of doctors or other qualified health professionals while offering unregulated health advice, as well as phoning people registered with the Telephone Preference Service.
The two companies were put into compulsory liquidation in October 2017 following a petition presented by the Secretary of State and the two bosses have since been banned from acting as directors in the UK for 14 years each – effective from 19 March 2018.
Since 2016, the Insolvency Service has secured directorship bans totalling 53 years for rogue health supplement bosses and to prevent you or a loved one from being targeted by a similar scam, the Insolvency Service recommends:
- Don’t stop taking prescribed medicine in favour of health supplements without speaking to your GP or pharmacist first
- If you or a loved one think they have been a victim of a health supplements scam report it immediately to Action Fraud UK or get advice from Citizens Advice Consumer Service
- Don’t rush into buying health supplements just because the seller is offering a good deal and if you’ve already made a payment, contact your credit card company and/or bank and tell them that you may have fallen victim to a fraud
Notes to editors
Statistics date from 2016 onwards and figures based on information gathered during investigations
Further examples of companies being shut down and victims’ testimonies can be found on the Health Supplements Scam microsite.
The Insolvency Service administers the insolvency regime, investigating all compulsory liquidations and individual insolvencies (bankruptcies) through the Official Receiver to establish why they became insolvent. It may also use powers under the Companies Act 1985 to conduct confidential fact-finding investigations into the activities of live limited companies in the UK. In addition, the agency authorises and regulates the insolvency profession, deals with disqualification of directors in corporate failures, assesses and pays statutory entitlement to redundancy payments when an employer cannot or will not pay employees, provides banking and investment services for bankruptcy and liquidation estate funds and advises ministers and other government departments on insolvency law and practice.
Further information about the work of the Insolvency Service, and how to complain about financial misconduct, is available.
Media enquiries for this press release – 020 7637 6498
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