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 COVID-19 outbreak.
Our Shut out Scammers campaign continues this week, in partnership with Police Scotland, Advice Direct Scotland, Neighbourhood Watch and SCOTSS. Find out more in our new Doorstep Scammers Signpost Factsheet or on our website and follow us on social media to see videos of top tips on avoiding rogue traders from partners.
It's more important than ever to make sure that you stay Scam Aware and that you share information about scams with vulnerable relatives or friends. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for information about the latest scams reported by Scottish consumers. You'll also find information about new and emerging scams related to Covid-19 on the Cifas website - the UK's leading fraud prevention service.
As part of the Shut out Scammers campaign, Trading Standards Scotland is launching the roll-out of free call blocking devices to vulnerable individuals who are most at risk from scammers and rogue traders.
The Scottish Government has provided £15,000 in match funding to Trading Standards Scotland to procure 280 trueCall call blocking devices which are available free of charge.
Unsolicited calls are one of the most popular methods used by scammers and unscrupulous businesses to reach people. Although we are all susceptible to being scammed, people with cognitive impairment such as dementia are most at risk. Not only does it cause financial detriment; it erodes their self-esteem and self-belief. Shutting out scam calls can give vulnerable people confidence and peace of mind and help them to continue to live independently for as long as possible.
The Life Changes Trust has published an evaluation report on their Scams Protection and Prevention Project, a three-year pilot project to protect people affected by dementia from financial scams which was delivered in Angus, South Ayrshire and East Renfrewshire.
There is also an informative film accompanying the report which features some families who have benefited from having call blocking devices installed.
As we launch the roll out of call blocking devices, we have listed some of the phone scams most commonly reported by Scottish consumers. Find more detail about these scams on our webite (links included below).
Misleading energy marketing calls advertising grants for energy saving devices, trying to sell warranties for solar panels or carrying out surveys about double glazing
General Advice for Avoiding Phone Scams
Do not press 1 or follow any other instructions given in an automated message
If you are speaking to a person, don’t give them any personal information, don’t agree to make any payments and never allow them to access your computer remotely
Contact your bank immediately if you think you may have made a payment to a scammer or if you are worried that a fraudulent transaction has been made from your account. Use the phone number on your bank statement or a publicly listed number (don’t use a number given to you by a cold caller). To ensure that you are disconnected from the cold caller, phone another number such as 123 before phoning your bank or call them from another phone.
Never agree to make a payment for goods or services on the spot – get at least two other quotes from trusted companies.
Report scam calls to Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000 or through their website
Contact Tracing Scams
The CTSI has this week reported a scam text which was sent to a Scottish consumer, saying that a ‘COVID Home Testing Team’ will visit your homes at a specified date and time.
It goes on to say that the team will enter your property and that you will need to wait in a separate room while they put on protective clothing. This is an attempt by fraudsters to gain entry to your home.
Scottish consumers also continue to report scam calls linked to NHS Scotland's Test and Protect service, including cold callers claiming to be from the NHS who try to obtain bank details and payment for testing kits. If you are suspicious about the identity of a caller, hang up and call your local NHS switchboard. They will be able to verify whether a call is genuine.
Remember that genuine contact tracers will NEVER ask for financial details or payment for goods or services.
Find out more about recognising a contact tracing scam and a list of the official NHS contact numbers which you can phone to verify a caller's identity on our website. Get information about contact tracing in Scotland from official sources: NHS Scotland, the Scottish Government or Public Health Scotland.
Report contact tracing scams to Advice Direct Scotland. If you have been the victim of a fraud, report it to Police Scotland on 101.
With millions of football fans across the country expected to log in to streaming services to view matches being played behind closed doors, the National Cyber Security Centre is warning fans to be careful to secure their accounts and devices.
They have published advice on choosing strong passwords and keeping streaming apps updated on their website.
A Scottish consumer was sent a survey this week on social media saying that if they shared the link, they would have a chance of winning a house. When they clicked on the link, they were taken to a form which asked them to input their details, including bank details and security code.
We have previously featured similar scams in the bulletin, where consumers are asked to fill in surveys on social media to win chocolate or shopping vouchers.
What to Do
Be wary of surveys or competitions on social media which ask for personal details - 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.
Check the spelling and grammar in the post. Fake surveys often contain small mistakes and unusual wording.
Before taking part in a survey/competition which is supposedly being run by a well-known company, look at their official website or social media channels to see if it is genuine.
Some of our colleagues have received scam emails this week (below) purporting to be from the UK Government, saying that they have established a 'new tax refund programme for dealing with the coronavirus pandemic'.
The official-looking email (with Government logos) goes on to say that, based on your National Insurance contributions, you are eligible for a tax refund.
You are asked to click on a link to access your refund.
In April alone, HMRC received over 43,000 complaints about phishing emails.
A recent survey commissioned by Advice Direct Scotland has shown that one in six Scottish consumers who had their holidays cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic have still not received a refund.
Concerns related to travel and accommodation are still among the most frequently reported issues by Scottish consumers - Advice Direct Scotland are regularly updating the information on their COVID-19 consumer website with advice and guidance on travel restrictions, flight and holiday cancellations and refunds.
Remember that your consumer rights have not changed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. If you have been affected by any travel/accommodation cancellations and are unsure about your consumer rights, contact Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000.
With face masks now mandatory on public transport in Scotland, consumers should remain wary of masks or face coverings being sold through online marketplaces or from unknown sellers which claim to be PPE or to offer medical-grade protection. Counterfeit or poorly made masks may offer a false sense of security and may not provide the advertised level of protection.
Find official sources of information reflecting the most recent guidance and advice on PPE, medical products and testing kits on our website.
With more retail outlets due to open in the next few weeks, the CTSI, the CMA and other organisations have called for a stop to unscrupulous price gouging.
They are urging businesses not to engage in unfair pricing practices amid concern that price gouging will increase once shops open, particularly where products are in high demand.
Since March, the CMA has written to 264 traders about unjustifiable price rises, following over 3,000 complaints from consumers. If you see a business behaving unfairly, you can use their online reporting tool.
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
Illegal Money Lending Unit
Loan sharks continue to target the most vulnerable people, particularly those who have been financially affected by the Covid-19 outbreak.
StepChange debt charity have advice on dealing with a reduced income due to the pandemic.
If you feel that you have nowhere to turn, please remember that you are not alone.
The Scottish Illegal Money Lending Unit's free and confidential 24-hour hotline will remain open 7 days a week throughout the lockdown period - call 0800 074 0878 or fill out our online reporting form.
Find links to more organisations that can help through our webpage.
If you feel threatened or unsafe, contact Police Scotland on 101 or 999 in an emergency.