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Trading Standards Scotland
In this edition of Scam Share we'll look at some of the most recent scams which have been reported by consumers across Scotland, including those related to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

This week a new national helpline was established in Scotland to provide essential assistance to those who don’t have a network of family or community support but who are at high risk of contracting COVID-19. If you need support you can call 0800 111 4000. Read more on the COSLA website.

Stay safe while online at home and report all scams to Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000.
Online Shopping
Online Shopping
When shopping online, carry out some research before purchasing from sellers or companies you are not familiar with. Rather than relying on reviews hosted on the website you are purchasing from, look for independent reviews on official websites.
Be wary of pop-up adverts which appear while you are shopping online. These may ask you to enter personal details in return for a discount code or special offer; however, they are often simply harvesting data, which can be used to develop a target profile for fraudsters. Think carefully about information you are being asked to share - would a legitimate retailer need to know your mother's maiden name or names of your pets?
Unsolicited emails or texts offering special deals for online stores should also be treated with caution. They may contain links to fake shopping sites which could steal your financial information.

The National Cyber Security Centre has detailed advice to help consumers shop safely online.
Solicitors Austin Lafferty have published an article this week offering practical advice on how to shop safely online and avoid scams.

What to Do
  • If you receive unsolicited emails or texts offering discounts or deals, do not click on any links or open any attachments.
  • When buying goods or services online, pay by PayPal or credit card if possible rather than bank transfer. This will offer you more protection if you are a victim of fraud.
  • Report online shopping scams to Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000 or through their website.
Online Quizzes
Online Quiz Scam
Consumers are being urged by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) to be wary of online quizzes related to the Coronavirus. These quizzes may appear to be testing your knowledge about the spread of the pandemic, but ask for a range of personal details which could be used to commit financial fraud or identity theft.
The questions asked often include details such as addresses, phone numbers, dates of birth, pet names and other family information which can be used by data harvesters to create a full target profile.

What to Do
  • Be wary of quizzes on social media which ask for personal details, particularly those related to COVID-19 - think carefully about what information you are putting online. You don't know who is accessing the information you enter and what they could use it for.
  • Get advice about staying safe online from the National Cyber Security Centre
Misleading Information
Social media companies and page administrators are being forced to take action to combat an increasing number of misleading stories about the COVID-19 outbreak. Many of these stories can cause panic and distress, particularly to vulnerable people, and can make people more susceptible to being scammed.
BBC article this week examined the way in which some online community groups are becoming overwhelmed by misleading stories, conspiracy theories and scaremongering. As the information on local Facebook groups is posted by those within the community, it may be automatically deemed to be trustworthy. However, posts related to Coronavirus often contain inaccurate or false information which does not reflect official guidelines or advice.
The UK Government have a SHARE checklist to help users recognise and avoid sharing misleading information on social media.

One of the most prominent conspiracy theories at the moment concerns 5G and the spread of COVID-19. Following vandalism of mobile phone masts across the country, Ofcom has issued a statement emphasising that there is NO relationship between 5G mobile signals and COVID-19.
What to Do

Sign up to the Neighbourhood Watch Alert system to receive trusted and accurate localised information and updates from official service providers including Police Scotland.
Find genuine information and updates about the COVID-19 pandemic on official websites: Find a full list of community links and trusted information sources on our website.
Doorstep Scams
Despite the lockdown, doorstep scammers are still active in communities across Scotland. In addition to scams related to COVID-19 such as offering to disinfect driveways or posing as charity workers and NHS staff, more traditional scams are continuing.
This week, there have been complaints about bogus gardeners in the Perthshire area and the Police have received several reports about fraudsters targeting people who have neighbours suffering from COVID-19 and asking for donations.
If you need to call a trader for emergency repair work during the quarantine, find someone who has been vetted and approved through a national or local authority trusted trader scheme. All cold callers should follow official Government doorstep selling regulations.

General Advice for Avoiding Doorstep Scams
  • Remember - you are not being rude if you shut the door on unsolicited callers.
  • Don't agree to make any payments for goods or services offered by cold callers. 
  • If you feel feel uncomfortable or suspicious, call Police Scotland on 101. If you feel threatened or unsafe at any time, call 999.
  • Report rogue traders to Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000 or through their website
  • 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 and follow our Helping Hands guidelines.
  • Download our No Cold Calling leaflet for more advice on avoiding doorstep scammers
Misleading Advertising
ASA Logo
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) want to stop businesses and advertisers from using the COVID-19 pandemic to profit from people's fears and anxieties. Adverts which have potentially harmful, misleading, or irresponsible information about COVID-19 can be reported to the ASA using their new form. Find out more on their website.
Unfair Business Practices
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has  launched an online reporting tool to make it easier for consumers to report a business they believe is behaving unfairly during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. You can report:
  • Unfair prices for goods or services
  • Unfair prices for business-to-business sales
  • Misleading claims made by a business about goods or services
  • Problems with the cancellation, refund or exchange of products or services
  • Other unfair behaviour
IPTV (Illicit Streaming)
If you're stuck at home with nothing to do, it may be tempting to buy a cheap illegal streaming service or device.
These illegal devices and platforms are one of the main sources of malicious software and those who sell them are unlikely to protect your personal and financial data.
By downloading software which allows you to access content that would normally require a subscription, you risk:
  • Allowing viruses or spyware on to your computer which can allow criminals to access personal and financial information 
  • Making it easy for hackers to access  information stored on your device
  • Allowing your computer to be used to mine cryptocurrency without your knowledge
  • Funding organised crime
Get advice on staying safe while gaming and streaming online from the National Cyber Security Centre and Get Safe Online.
Fake Medical Products
A pharmacist and a surveyor were arrested this week on suspicion of illegally selling testing kits for COVID-19. In a seperate case, a website which was sending phishing emails to try to sell non-existent PPE has been taken down by the National Crime Agency.
The Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has stated that there are currently no CE-marked testing kits available for home use. Once an approved test becomes available, this will be announced by the Government. Any testing kits advertised for sale online could be fake and could provide you with a false positive, risking your own health and that of others.

The MHRA has also investigated an increasing number of bogus medical products being sold through unauthorised websites claiming to treat or prevent COVID-19.
At this time, there are currently no medicines licensed specifically for the treatment or prevention of COVID-19. Any products or cures advertised may be fake and potentially dangerous.

The Office for Product Safety and Standards has released guidance for businesses about placing hand cleaning and sanitising products on the market and about PPE regulations.

What to Do
Scottish Citizens Stranded Abroad
Advice Direct Scotland
Advice Direct Scotland have updated the information on their COVID-19 consumer website with advice and recommendations for Scottish citizens who are stranded abroad.
The website also includes advice for passengers from the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA). The EU Commission has released interpretive guidelines on passenger rights.
Temporary Financial Support
On 14 April, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) introduced new temporary measures to quickly support users of credit products such as loans, credit cards and overdrafts who are facing changing financial circumstances due to COVID-19. Find out more on their website.
It is important to note that these measures are designed to help in the short term and may result in increased costs in the longer term. If you can still afford to make repayments on loans, you should continue to do so. Before getting in touch with a provider, consider if your contact is essential.
FCA Measures
If you've been offered a personal loan via an online advert or unsolicited email, you should check whether the lender has been authorised by the FCA on their register.
The Scottish Illegal Money Lending Unit's 24-hour confidential hotline will remain open 7 days a week throughout the lockdown period. If you are worried about a loan shark or feel that you have nowhere to turn in a financial crisis, call them for advice and support on 0800 074 0878. 
Find links to organisations that can help through their webpage and remember that you are not alone.
Fire Safety
Scottish Fire & Rescue
The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service has this week published a COVID-19 Home Fire Safety Checklist. The checklist includes steps to help people stay safe while working from home, including advice on using devices such as laptops, tablets and phones. 

Be careful when buying electrical devices online: counterfeit products may not conform to EU or UK electrical safety regulations and research by Electrical Safety First shows that 1 in 10 Britons have experienced a fire or electric shock after using fake electrical products purchased online.
Ongoing Email/Text Scams
  • Texts supposedly from your phone provider saying that a payment has been declined and asking you to click on a link to update your payment details.
  • Emails or texts supposedly from HMRC or your local council offering a tax refund or financial help during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Government has an up-to-date list of common HMRC scams on their website and all similar scams should be reported to them directly.
  • A text supposedly from the Government claiming that your movements have been monitored and that you are being fined for leaving your house too frequently during the lockdown. You are asked to click on a link to pay a fine. The Government has so far only sent one text to UK citizens and all others are fake.
  • HMRC has also warned that returning NHS workers are being targeted by promoters of tax avoidance. Read more on their website.
  • An email supposedly from the World Health Organisation (WHO) asking you to click on a link or download information about COVID-19. The WHO has issued a statement warning against these scams and have said that they will not contact you in this way.

What to Do
If you receive any of these emails or texts, do not click on any links or open any attachments. If you do, your details could be harvested by scammers. Ofcom has published advice for consumers on dealing with phone and text scams related to COVID-19.

Report scam messages to Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000 or through their new website dedicated to COVID-19.
Official Contacts
Get genuine information and updates about the COVID-19 pandemic from official websites: Find a full list of community links and trusted information sources on our website.
Copyright © 2020 Trading Standards Scotland, All rights reserved.

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