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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.

According to the Media Trust, there has been a 15% rise in scam adverts related to Covid-19, which use false or misleading claims in order to encourage consumers to part with their money. Some larger media publishers are now blocking any advertising mentioning the Coronavirus or medical cures and Facebook have said that they will remove or add a warning label to misinformation about the pandemic.

The UK Government have a SHARE checklist to help users recognise and avoid sharing misleading information on social media. Find trusted sources of information at the end of this bulletin or on our website.

Stay safe while online at home and report all scams to Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000. Report scam emails to the National Cyber Security Centre.
Fake Online Stores
Online Shopping
With consumers having to purchase more products online due to the lockdown, scam online stores are becoming more common. These websites offer high-demand items at cheap prices and go to great lengths to look like legitimate businesses. There have been several complaints recently from Scottish consumers who have bought sportswear, gardening equipment, clothing and electrical goods from online stores which may be fake.
A consumer reported this week that they had bought a Playstation 4 from a website where they were on sale for £149 (around £100 cheaper than from official retailers). They paid for the console, but received no confirmation and have still not received their order.

Other consumers ordered football tops, t-shirts and gardening equipment from companies online which appeared to be based in the UK and which had professional-looking websites.  Again, they did not receive any confirmation of their orders and have still not received the products they paid for.

In all cases, the companies are not replying to emails or phone calls - in one case, the company has removed their phone number from their website.

Which? have published guidance on recognising suspicious websites.

The CMA have launched an investigation into fake and misleading reviews online - find out more on their website


What to Do
  • Be wary when buying products from unknown websites or sellers, particularly if they are advertised at a price that is significantly cheaper than on official websites.
  • Be wary when purchasing from websites that are only a few months old. Do some research into the company - do they have social media accounts? Have other consumers left negative reviews about them on independent review sites? Is the company registered with Companies House?
  • Report scam websites to Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000 or through their website.
  • If you have been the victim of online fraud, report this to Police Scotland on 101
Fake Electrical Products
Electric Fire
With hairdressers and barbers still closed, Electrical Safety First have this week warned of the dangers of buying hair clippers and other electrical beauty products through online marketplaces such as Amazon and Ebay. An investigation discovered several salon products such as hair clippers which did not meet UK safety standards and which could have posed a risk of fire or electric shock.
Some of the items were being sold with travel adaptors rather than UK plugs, while others had plugs which were dangerously small and which are illegal in the UK.

What to Do
  • Be wary when buying electrical products from unknown websites or sellers, particularly if they are advertised at a price that is significantly cheaper than on official websites.
  • Electrical Safety First recommends that consumers only buy electrical products from reputable retailers rather than from third-party sellers. They have published guidance on buying electrical products safely online and avoiding counterfeits.
  • Use the Vistalworks checker to check the legitimacy of products on Ebay 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. 
  • Report fake goods to Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000 or through their website.
  • If you have been the victim of online fraud, report this to Police Scotland on 101
Read more about avoiding counterfeit goods online in our 'Avoid a Glam Scam' PDF
Covid-19 Phone Scams
Phone Scams
There were reports from Scottish consumers this week about fraudsters posing as police officers who had phoned them to tell them that they had breached Covid-19 restrictions and would have to pay a fine. 
Police Scotland have advised that "only criminals will try to rush or panic you" and have urged the public to be wary of phone scams related to Covid-19.

In another recently reported phone scam, an unsolicited caller quotes misleading statistics about Covid-19 deaths in an attempt to sell overpriced face masks, gloves and hand sanitiser.

A user of the Neighbourhood Watch Alert system this week reported an automated call which told them that they had committed tax fraud and that they would be arrested unless they pressed 1 to speak to an adviser. Find out more about common HMRC scams on our website.


What to Do
  • Don't give any personal details to a cold caller and don't agree to make any payments. 
  • Do not press 1 or follow any other instructions given in an automated message.
  • If you are in doubt about an unsolicited call, hang up. If the caller says they are from a particular organisation or company, find the company's official number on a bill or website and call them back.
  • Report Covid-19 phone scams to Advice Direct Scotland
Warranty Scams
Warranty Scams
Scottish consumers have recently reported unsolicited calls saying that the warranty for their washing machine needs renewed.
One woman was called and told that the warranty for her washing machine had expired. She told the caller that she did not own a washing machine as she washes her clothes by hand. The caller hung up, but a supervisor then phoned the woman back to try to convince her that she did in fact own a washing machine. After the woman explained that her hands did not require a warranty, the second caller eventually hung up.
Similar complaints are regularly received throughout the year, with cold callers telling consumers that they need to update their warranty or insurance for white goods or appliances.

If you receive a similar cold call and are not sure whether it is legitimate, hang up and contact the original supplier to check whether you need a new warranty.

Find out more about warranty and insurance scams on our website.



What to Do
  • Don’t give a cold caller any personal information or bank details, even if they seem to know some of your details already.
  • Don’t agree to make any payments on the spot. Take time to think about your decision and, if in doubt, contact the original supplier of the appliance to check whether you need a new warranty.
  • Report warranty scams to Advice Direct Scotland
Working From Home
Phishing Emails
It was reported this week that there has been a significant rise in the number of cyber attacks targeting people working from home. The increasingly sophisticated attacks include fake invitations to Zoom meetings, 'spoofing' attacks where emails appear to come from trusted colleagues or IT departments and scam emails telling business employees that they can choose to be furloughed by signing up to a particular website. 
According to a survey published by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), only 9% of employees working from home had checked whether their anti-virus software had been updated and that only 23% had received guidance on using video conferencing tools safely.

The NCSC has released new guidance for businesses who have had to move from physical premises to online working. They also have guidance on preparing your business and staff for home working.

Last week, we discussed scam emails offering grants to businesses - businesses can find trusted advice and guidance on staying secure while working digitally from the following sources: 


Useful Guidance for Businesses

The latest advice for businesses in Scotland can be found through the Scottish Government's Find Business Support website. Scottish businesses can also get advice from their Local Authority Trading Standards and Environmental Health team.

Business Gateway are regularly updating their Covid-19 web pages with a variety of resources, webinars and online tutorials and links to virtual support for businesses.

The NCSC has published security guidance to help organisations choose, configure and safely use video conferencing services.

The Scottish Business Resilience Centre (SBRC) have a variety of resources to support and protect Scottish businesses, including:
The CTSI have published business guidance for travel and tour operators, food businesses and the housing and home improvement sector during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Find guidance on accessing support for the newly self-employed and firms suffering hardship from the Scottish Government.
Collapse of Specialist Leisure Group
Travel
Following the collapse of Specialist Leisure Group, seven Scottish hotels have stopped trading this week, leading to 64,000 cancellations. The majority of these bookings were protected by ATOL or another scheme and will be refunded. However, some individual bookings may not be financially protected. The Specialist Leisure Group operated several businesses - find all of the companies affected here.
Advice Direct Scotland have advised that, if the booking was made by credit card, consumers should contact their card provider to see if they can obtain a refund. If you have been affected by these or any other travel/accommodation cancellations and are unsure about your consumer rights, contact Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000 or visit their website.

The UK Government has announced that travellers arriving in the UK from 8th June will have to self-isolate for 14 days. Which? have published guidance for holidaymakers who may want to cancel their travel plans due to the new quarantine guidelines.

Consumers who are waiting to receive refunds for travel or accommodation should be wary of emails or phone calls supposedly from their travel provider which ask for banking or personal details. If in doubt, contact your provider directly using details from their official website.

The following official sources of information will reflect the most recent guidance and advice on travel/accommodation:


Official Advice on Travel/Accommodation
False Medical Claims
This week, the Advertising Standards Agency has banned social media adverts by a former Apprentice contestant's company, which suggested that their Vitamin C sachets could help to cure Covid-19.
Similar adverts can be reported to the ASA using their online form.
As home testing kits for Covid-19 become more widely available, it is vital that consumers understand what they are buying.
One Scottish consumer reported this week that they had paid for a Covid-19 immunity test, believing that it had been medically approved. However, they then discovered that the test was not in fact approved due to the blood collection method used.

Which? have published an in-depth article examining the different types of tests and providing guidance to consumers on what to consider when purchasing antibody tests from high street suppliers or private companies.

The situation with testing kits is constantly changing and consumers should get information related to testing or medical developments from official sources: the MHRANHS Scotland or Public Health Scotland.

The Anti-Counterfeiting Group (ACG) have warned that more people are buying medicines online as they are reluctant to seek medical advice during the Covid-19 pandemic. This raises the risk of buying fake medicines, which could contain dangerous ingredients, from websites which are often run by organised crime groups. The NHS has stated that GP surgeries remain open for business and that the public should continue to seek medical advice from their local health service. Find out more about the dangers of buying fake medicines online from the MHRA

Remember: 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. 


PPE: Resources for Consumers and Businesses

The BSI has released guidance on masks and face coverings for use in the UK. The guidance explains the different types of masks which are available and how they should be used.

The Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) also has guidance for small-scale manufacturers of Covid-19 PPE and guidance for businesses about placing hand cleaning and sanitising products on the market and about PPE regulations.

In response to the problem of fake PPE and hand sanitisers entering the market, OPSS along with the CTSI have launched a series of webinars to train consumer protection professionals on how to spot fake PPE equipment.


Report suspicious products, such as treatment kits or homemade hand sanitiser, to Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000
Supermarket Voucher Scam
Groceries
Last week, we discussed a Lidl voucher scam, where consumers were asked to fill out a survey on social media in order to win a £175 voucher.

This week, there have been complaints about scam emails which seem to be from Tesco, saying that they are having a prize draw to win vouchers and asking you to click on a link to enter.
On their website, Tesco state that they do not run competitions to win free vouchers, they do not have a separate 'offers' page and they do not offer rewards for sharing or clicking on social media posts.

Clicking on the link in the above email could take you to a site trying to steal your personal and financial details.


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 supermarket or big brand, look at their official website or social media channels to see if it is genuine.
  • Report scams to Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000
Illegal Puppy Trade
Puppy
It was reported this week that demand for puppies in the UK is soaring, as more people are furloughed or working from home. This has led to price increases and long waiting lists for several in-demand breeds. The Dogs Trust charity has warned that this high demand could lead to an increase in illegal puppy farming - a business often run by criminal gangs.
Consumers are being urged to be particularly careful when considering buying a puppy online and to look out for the signs of illegal puppy farming. Download our PDF with top tips on buying a puppy safely online or visit our website for further guidance and links to trusted sources.

We have previously reported that consumers have lost hundreds of thousands of pounds since March after putting down deposits for pets they had seen advertised on social media and online marketplaces.


What To Do
  • Do plenty of research into the seller before buying a puppy online. If their email address of phone number is linked to several different accounts or if they are advertising several different breeds of dog, they may be involved in illegal puppy farming.
  • Even if you are not able to view a puppy in person during the lockdown, you can still request to view it via videocall in the home in which it has been raised, along with its mother.
  • Ask plenty of questions - if the seller is unable or unwilling to answer questions or to provide the correct paperwork, walk away from the sale. Find out which questions to ask on the Buy a Puppy Safely website.
  • If you decide to pay a deposit for a puppy, use a credit card or secure payment method rather than a bank transfer. This will make it easier to get your money back if you have any issues.
  • If you have concerns about a puppy you have seen advertised online or if you believe that you have been the victim of a scam, contact Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000 or through their website.
  • Contact your local vet or the SSPCA with concerns about a puppy's health or welfare. Don't worry - the puppy won't be taken away from you.
Doorstep Scams
No Cold Calling Leaflet
Police Scotland have reported a 10% rise in fraud-related crime since 24th March, with many criminals exploiting anxieties and uncertainty around the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown.

Download our 'No Cold Calling' leaflet for advice on shutting out scammers and remember that you are not being rude if you shut the door on unsolicited callers.
If you need to call a trader for emergency repair work during the quarantine, find someone who has been vetted through a national or local authority approved 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.
  • Get more advice on our website
Unfair Business Practices
CMA
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has reported that they received more than 60,000 consumer complaints about issues related to Covid-19 between 10 March and 17 May.
The majority of complaints have been about unfair practices in relation to cancellations and refunds and unfair price increases. Read more in the latest CMA Taskforce Update.

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
Fire Safety
Fire Safety
The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) are running a nationwide 'Make The Call' campaign - if you know someone over 50 who smokes and lives alone, has mobility issues or uses medical oxygen, call 0800 0731 999 or text 'Fire' to 80800 to arrange a free home fire safety.
In this article from UK FIRE magazine, Gary Wood,  SBRC seconded SFRS officer, outlines simple, effective measures which businesses can put in place to ensure their property is less at risk of fire during the pandemic lockdown (see p.24). 
Illegal Money Lending
Loan Shark Poster
If you have been impacted financially by Covid-19, Money Advice Scotland are regularly updating their advice on dealing with your debt and money worries. They have also developed a programme of Financial Capability webinars to provide information on a range of different financial topics - find out how to take part on their website.
MoneySavingExpert.com (MSE) and the Open University have also launched a free, independent academic financial education online course to help people master their finances: MSE’s Academy of Money.

If you’re working with vulnerable people during the Covid-19 outbreak and suspect that they may have borrowed money from a loan shark and are struggling to pay it back, SIMLU can give you advice and support. 
Their free and confidential 24-hour hotline will remain open 7 days a week throughout the lockdown period - call 0800 074 0878 or fill out their online reporting form.
 
Find links to organisations that can help through their webpage.
Ongoing Advice
Deliveries

Scottish consumers are still regularly reporting issues with deliveries during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Remember: your consumer rights have not changed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Find out more information from the Delivery Law UK website or from Which? and if you have experienced problems with deliveries, contact Advice Direct Scotland, who have detailed information about your consumer rights on their website.


Useful Guidance for Staying Safe Online

Get Safe Online have launched a Safe Email campaign, with top tips for using email securely.

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.

The NCSC has also published guidance to help families and individuals safely use video conferencing services.


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.

Interpol have launched a new #WashYourCyberHands international awareness campaign to highlight the top Covid-19 cyber threats and have examined the global landscape of Covid-19 online scams.
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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