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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 COVID-19 outbreak.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has reported a fivefold increase in cyber attacks and scam emails since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The public are urged to be wary of emails claiming to be from the WHO asking for donations to fake charities - read more about charity scams below.

The National Cyber Security Centre's Cyber Aware campaign offers advice to the public on staying safe online - suspicious emails can be forwarded to their Suspicious Email Reporting Service.

Stay safe while online at home and report all scams to Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000.
Ticket Refunds
Consumers across Scotland have been struggling to obtain refunds for cancelled shows and events, with many companies offering rescheduled dates or vouchers instead of full refunds. While some fans will be happy to keep their booking and attend the event at a later date, many others may be in a difficult financial position and will want a monetary refund as soon as possible.
Any companies who are registered with the Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers (STAR) must refund the face value of a ticket if an event is cancelled; however many smaller companies are not registered with STAR and will have their own refund policies.

STAR have asked customers wishing to obtain refunds to limit calls to venues and sellers at the moment, as they are trying to process large numbers of requests. 
Find out more from Advice Direct Scotland's dedicated Coronavirus website and get in touch with them if you feel that your consumer rights have been breached.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) will this week set out further steps on how they intend to tackle issues surrounding cancellations and refunds.
Business Scams
The Highland Council has warned local businesses about scam emails which inform the business that their grant application has been processed and that they will receive a payment soon. The email provides bogus contact details to use if the payment is not received, in the hope that companies will call and provide their financial details.
A number of similar scams have been reported across the UK, with fraudsters contacting businesses by email, text or phone to tell them that they qualify for a particular grant or tax refund. 
The UK Government have published a list of their current messages so that you can recognise genuine contact. The website also includes advice on recognising fraudulent emails and examples of the most common phishing messages which claim to be from HMRC.
Always question unexpected emails which request payment details or changes and report fraudulent emails to Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000 or through their website.

Useful Guidance for Businesses

With more and more people working from home, online security has become a pressing issue, particularly when using video conferencing.

The National Centre for Cyber Security (NCSC) has published security guidance to help organisations choose, configure and safely use video conferencing services.
They also have separate guidance for families and individuals using these services.

The Scottish Business Resilience Centre (SBRC) have a variety of resources to support and protect Scottish businesses, including:

Business Gateway have advice and a range of useful resources to help you keep your business safe online.

Electrical Safety First have published guidance on working safely at home. Remember that 98% of counterfeit chargers do not conform to UK safety standards and could cause a fire or electric shock. Use the Vistalworks checker to make sure that electrical products purchased online are genuine.

Find guidance on accessing support for the newly self-employed and firms suffering hardship from the Scottish Government.

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 doorstep scams are continuing.
We are aware of fraudulent aerial installers who are continuing to visit consumers and overcharge for work. The CAI have guidance for telecommunications engineers who are working during the quarantine period. If you require the services of an installer/engineer, find a trusted local professional through the Get Me Viewing or Get Me Digital websites.
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.

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.
  • Get more advice on our website
Helping Hands Guidelines

On our website we have listed five simple 'helping hands' guidelines, both for those in need of help and for those wishing to provide help to ensure that they stay safe. 

You will also find advice about helping others in your community on the Scottish Government's Ready Scotland website.

Keep an eye on vulnerable neighbours and sign up for Neighbourhood Watch Alerts to stay up to date with what is going on in your local area.
Charity Scams
There have been reports of calls claiming to be from the 'Corona Charity Fund' which make claims about the expected death toll in UK and ask for a donation to charity.

As well as cold calls, there are numerous websites posing as charities who are fundraising to help victims of COVID-19 or to support health services. Consumers are also receiving emails and visits from fraudsters posing as charity workers.
Emails may seem genuine, with official-looking Government or NHS logos and seek to exploit the public's desire to support NHS staff. They may ask for donations to help purchase medical supplies or to fund mental health support initiatives for NHS staff.

Be particularly wary of bogus charity emails which request donations via bank transfer or gift card - genuine charities will not ask for donations in this way.

Find Genuine Information
  • The World Health Organisation have only issued one appeal for donations: to the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund. Any other charity appeals which claim to be related to the WHO may not be genuine.
  • If you're unsure whether a charity is genuine, search for it through the Scottish Charity Register or the Charity Commission
  • Report scam messages to Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000 or through their new website dedicated to COVID-19.
Unapproved Antibody Testing Kits
Fake Testing Kits
The national coordinator of the UK COVID-19 testing programme has warned organisations and individuals against the purchase of unapproved antibody testing kits, used to detect whether people have had the virus and are now immune. There are currently no reliable antibody testing kits available to purchase which have been approved for public use. People are being warned that using unapproved tests could provide inaccurate results, which could put those tested and people around them at risk. As soon as a reliable testing kit becomes available, this will be announced by the Government.
Read the full statement here
The Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (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.

Europol have this week released a report on counterfeit goods, including medical goods, being sold across Europe during the Covid-19 crisis.

What to Do
Supplier Mandate Fraud
Businesses, charities and individuals should be wary of fraudulent emails which appear to be from trusted suppliers or companies advising that their bank account details have changed. The recipient is asked to make future payments to a new bank account, which is often run by fraudsters. 
The UK Government has issued advice for charities to help them avoid cyber crimes and mandate fraud.
What to Do
  • Confirm requests for changes to payment details with the person or company who has supposedly sent them, using contact information that you know to be correct.
  • Always question unexpected emails which request payment details or changes and if in doubt, get a second opinion from a colleague or manager.
  • Report fraudulent emails to Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000 or through their website.
Unfair Business Practices
As of 19 April, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) had received around 21,000 complaints related to COVID-19, mostly focused on price rises for in-demand products and cancellations or refunds.
They are writing to businesses about price rises and will this week set out further steps on how they intend to tackle issues surrounding cancellations and refunds.
Consumers can use their online reporting tool to  report a business they believe is behaving unfairly during the 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
'Clone Firms'
Debt charity Step Change have issued a warning about 'clone firms'. These are fake websites who use altered versions of genuine debt advice charities' names in order to convince people that they are legitimate and trick them into providing personal and financial details.
In their case, fraudsters have used names such as 'Step to Change' or 'Step Changing', have created websites using their colour scheme and branding and have paid to ensure that their bogus websites appear at the top of search engine results pages.
Find advice from Step Change about recognising and avoiding 'clone firms' on their website

What to Do
  • If you're not sure whether a debt charity website is genuine, copy and paste the URL into the FCA's Financial Services Register or search for the charity's name. This will tell you whether the company has been authorised by the FCA.
  • Report clone firms to Advice Direct Scotland
Financial Impact of Covid-19
Recent studies have shown increased levels of anxiety and depression linked to financial worries during the COVID-19 pandemic.

One survey suggested that 21% of British adults have no immediately accessible savings, while another showed that over 16 million adults don’t think they can cope financially for more than 4 weeks.
Illegal money lenders (loan sharks) may look to take advantage of those who are most vulnerable at this time and who feel that they have nowhere else to turn for help. 
If you work with vulnerable people and suspect that they may have borrowed money from a loan shark and are struggling to pay it back, the Scottish Illegal Money Lending Unit can give you advice and support. 
Their 24-hour confidential hotline will remain open 7 days a week throughout the lockdown period: 0800 074 0878. 
Find links to organisations that can help through their webpage.
Travel Cancellations
There remains a great deal of uncertainty around travel and accommodation amendments and refunds - the following official sources of information will reflect the most recent guidance and advice.

Official Advice on Travel/Accommodation
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.
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