In this edition of Scam Share we'll look at some of the most recent scams which have been reported by consumers across Scotland.
The latest figures from Police Scotland have shown that there was a 60% year-on-year increase in reports of fraud in January and 45% in February as scammers continue to take advantage of uncertainty around the pandemic to target people shopping online and those working from home or on furlough. The Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) estimate that the total amount lost to scams could be above £86m, with at least £5m being lost to Covid scams. Read more.
Stay Scam Aware and please share information about scams with vulnerable relatives or friends. Report all scams to Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000 or via their ScamWatch tool. You can also forward suspicious emails to the National Cyber Security Centre. If you have been the victim of fraud, report it to Police Scotland on 101 or 999 in an emergency.
As more adults receive their Covid-19 vaccine, a new scam email has emerged.
Fraud prevention service Cifas has warned those who have been vaccinated to be wary of emails purporting to be from a ‘Pfizer Vaccine Opinion Panel’. The email asks recipients to take part in a survey and offers 'free rewards' in return for feedback.
This is a scam email - if you receive it, do not click on any links and and don't provide any personal information.
Other scams related to the Covid vaccine continue to be reported - please make sure that vulnerable family and friends are aware that:
The Covid-19 vaccination is free
The NHS will NEVER ask for your bank details or for a payment for the vaccine
The NHS will not ask you to prove your identity by sending copies of personal documents such as passports
The NHS will NEVER arrive unannounced at your home to administer the vaccine
NHS Scotland will contact eligible people by phone or letter to arrange their vaccination appointment - they are not using emails to arrange appointments
If you are unsure about a message you have received in relation to Covid-19, call the NHS Scotland national helpline on 0800 030 8013.
Avoid cyber threats and misleading information about vaccinations or other medical developments related to Covid-19 by checking official sources:
Report email scams to Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000 or via their ScamWatch tool. If you have provided your details in response to this scam, report this to Police Scotland on 101.
Supermarket Scam Calls
Consumers who have been ordering their groceries online during lockdown are being warned about a new scam call. An automated message says that your Tesco order has been placed and your account will be debited £350. You are asked to press 1 to be connected to their 'fraud team' if this is not the correct amount.
If you receive a similar call, hang up and don't press 1 - you will be put through to a scammer who will ask you to provide personal and banking details.
Never give any details to a cold caller and never allow them to access your computer remotely.
If you have recently placed an order with a supermarket and are unsure whether a call about the order is genuine, check your online account or call the supermarket directly using a contact number found on their official website.
Report scam calls to Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000 or via their ScamWatch tool. If you have been the victim of fraud, report it to Police Scotland on 101.
Scam Argos Email
A consumer received an email this week purportedly from Argos saying that Argos had tried to reach them by phone but had been unable to get through, so were 'trying again' via email.
The email said that the consumer's account had been selected to receive a free Dyson product. They were asked to confirm their identity and to click on a link to 'access the customer portal'.
Clicking on the link led to a website with Argos branding (shown below), which named the consumer and included a picture of a Dyson product, saying again that they had been selected to receive a free product.
The consumer was then asked to 'configure their device' by choosing the colour and other extras - the website also stated that by using one of these vacuums they could reduce their chance of "getting corona" by 45%. After choosing various options, they were asked to provide their contact details and bank details in order to pay a 'small fee for secure shipping'.
Although the website had Argos and Dyson branding and looked professional, it included a number of spelling and grammatical errors and the URL was not linked to either company's official website.
What To Do
If you receive unsolicited emails or texts offering discounts or deals, do not click on any links or open any attachments and never enter any personal or banking details;
Check the spelling and grammar in the message. Scam offers or giveaways often contain small mistakes and unusual wording;
Read the terms and conditions before taking part in any giveaway – many fraudulent prize draws or offers do not list basic terms and conditions such as deadline dates or details on how winners will receive their prize;
Before taking part in an offer or competition which is supposedly being run by a big brand, look at their official website or social media channels to see if it is genuine.
Last week we published the first in a new series of Scam Share Spotlights. New PDFs will be published every fortnight and each will shine a spotlight on a particular scam that is frequently reported by Scottish consumers.
PDFs can be viewed online or downloaded and printed off for those who are not online.
The first PDF shines a spotlight on scam emails and texts related to shipping or deliveries, which have been frequently reported throughout the pandemic as more consumers turn to online shopping. It asks:
What do delivery scams look like?
How can you tell if a message about a delivery is a scam?
As more hospitality and event venues in Scotland are set to open over the next few weeks, demand for limited tickets and reservations could be high. Scammers may take advantage of this by advertising tickets which do not exist.
Action Fraud have reported that £272,300 was lost to ticketing scams in February 2021 - the highest amount since lockdown began in March 2020. They are warning consumers to take extra care if buying tickets online - the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau have already had reports of non-existent tickets being advertised for sale online, some at inflated prices.
What to do
Only buy tickets from the venue’s box office, official promoter or agent, or a well-known and reputable ticket site;
If possible, pay for tickets by card; preferably credit rather than debit. Be suspicious if you are asked to make a bank transfer as this may be a scam;
Check that the seller is registered with the Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers (STAR): Take a note of the seller’s name and, if they are a business, their address in case you need to contact them at a later date;
Be aware of the information which ticket sellers are required to provide. Sellers may be committing an offence if they fail to disclose relevant information. Find out more at consumeradvice.scot.
Report scams to Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000 or via their ScamWatch tool. If you have been the victim of fraud, report it to Police Scotland on 101.
Counterfeit Goods Online
The Anti-Counterfeiting Group (ACG) has launched a campaign to take down online traders of counterfeit products, as consumers look to purchase Easter gifts online. According to research from the Intellectual Property Office (IPO), 30% of UK consumers would knowingly buy a counterfeit product if they saw it for a fraction of the genuine price.
You might know that it’s a fake, but you don’t know what conditions it’s stored in, what materials it contains or how safe it is.
You can use the Vistalworks checker to check the legitimacy of products on Ebay and Amazon before you buy them. It is also available as a Chrome browser plugin, which will trigger a warning on any suspicious Ebay products or sellers.
Throughout the pandemic, there has also been a huge increase in the number of Scottish consumers who have fallen victim to online scammers who set up fake websites or stores on online marketplaces in an attempt to steal their personal and financial details.
Find more information about online shopping scams and links to trusted guidance on our website.
Report counterfeit goods and online shopping scams to Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000 or via their ScamWatch tool. If you have been the victim of fraud, report this to Police Scotland on 101.
As lockdown eases, rogue traders may step up their operations. North Ayrshire Trading Standards last week warned local residents that fraudsters have been posing as council staff in order to gain entry into private homes and businesses.
They advise that council staff will always show their ID when attending a property or business and will be happy to make an appointment to return if you are unsure of their identity.
If you need to call a trader for emergency work during lockdown don't deal with cold callers. Find local traders who have been vetted by Trading Standards on the Approved Traders website and find guidance on the planned easing of restrictions at trustedtrader.scot.
We have 5 signposts to help you avoid doorstep scammers:
Close the door on uninvited callers
Take time to think before making a decision
Research - get at least 3 quotes and check 3 review sites
Verify that the caller is genuine
Report suspicious behaviour to Police Scotland on 101 and report scams to Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000 or via their ScamWatch tool.
Sign up for Neighbourhood Watch Alerts to stay up to date with what is going on in your community. Keep an eye on vulnerable neighbours.
A new survey by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has shown that 81% of consumers are worried about having their money or personal details stolen online and about having their devices infected with malware and viruses.
As part of the Cyber Aware campaign, the NCSC has developed a new tool to help consumers understand their cyber security risk. The Cyber Aware Action Plan aims to show individuals and sole traders how to protect themselves, their families and their businesses online by providing a free personalised list of actions that will help improve their cyber security. Find out more about how to create your own action plan on their website.
Business Scams - HSE
As lockdown restrictions ease, Scottish businesses have received scam emails which appear to be from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). The messages say that the HSE are carrying out spot checks and inspections on all types of businesses to ensure they are COVID-secure.
A date is given on which an inspector will supposedly visit the recipient's business premises to carry out a spot check - the recipient is asked to click on a link to read 'guidance documents' before the visit, being warned that this is a legal requirement.
The link leads to a website where you are asked to download a ZIP file - this contains malware which will infect your device.
HSE have confirmed that these emails are not genuine and advise that, if you receive a similar email, you should not click on any links or download any attachments.
If you think that your organisation has fallen victim to a cyber attack, you can call the SBRC's free and confidential Cyber Incident Response number, 01786 437 472, for advice and support.
Find more information about common business scams and how to avoid them, as well as links to official guidance on our website.
The Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) has launched a new magnet safety campaign to raise awareness of the potential dangers of small high-powered magnets to children and the steps you can take to make them safer.
The OPSS receive notifications from market surveillance authorities about unsafe and noncompliant products to the Product Safety Database. They publish a weekly report to provide an overview of products found to pose a risk to the health and safety of consumers.
The most recent report (26th March) includes electric space heaters, hair clippers, toy cameras, benches, ladders, home batteries and baby walkers. You can also check an up-to-date list of recalled products here.
Scottish Illegal Money Lending Unit
Tackling illegal money lending is challenging because of the secrecy and shame which surrounds it. The Improvement Service has evaluated three projects funded by Trading Standards Scotland through their Illegal Money Lending Prevention Programme. Each of the projects sought to tackle illegal money ending by using different approaches.
These included: raising awareness through staff training; establishing reporting mechanisms; improving financial capability, and increasing household incomes – particularly for those who are most vulnerable. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, all three projects successfully delivered activities that contributed towards reducing the risk of using illegal money lenders. Read the evaluation report.
If you're worried that a friend or relative has borrowed money from an illegal lender and is struggling with repayments, please get in touch to find out how we can help them move away from using loan sharks.
Call our free 24-hour hotline 7 days a week on 0800 074 0878 or fill out our online reporting form. You can also find out more about the work we do and how we can support people in our podcast.
Anyone struggling to repay a loan can also reach out and talk to one of the many organisations who can help:
The Scottish Welfare Fund helps families and people in Scotland who are on low incomes by making Crisis Grants and Community Care Grants available to those in immediate need.
StepChange Debt Charityhave compiled a useful six-step guide to help those who are feeling anxious about their finances during the pandemic.
The Money Advice Service's Money Navigator Tool provides money guidance to those financially affected by the pandemic
Citizens Advice Scotland'sMoney Map tool provides clear self-help options on improving your income and cutting your living costs.
Official Advice for Consumers If you are unsure about an email or phone call relating to Brexit, check the following trusted sources of information. Be particularly wary of emails or calls which threaten you or ask you to take urgent action.
Find information on how Brexit may affect people and businesses in Scotland on the Scottish Government website
The UK Government website has a Brexit checkerto give you a personalised list of actions for you and your family if you are travelling or doing business in the EU
Report any Brexit-related scams to Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000 or via their ScamWatch tool. You can also forward scam emails to the National Cyber Security Centre. If you have been the victim of fraud, report this to Police Scotland on 101.
If you feel threatened or unsafe, contact Police Scotland on 101 or 999 in an emergency.