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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.

Action Fraud have reported that, as of 29th May, over £4.6million had been lost to Coronavirus-related scams.
Research by TransUnion credit reference agency has also found that 23% of UK consumers have been targeted by digital fraud over the past two months alone.
Make sure that you and any vulnerable relatives or friends stay wary of Covid-19 scams - follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for information about scams reported by Scottish consumers.

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.
Community Signposts
Helping Hands
As communities deal with uncertainty and isolation during the COVID-19 outbreak, there are many who require help from others and many who wish to volunteer their time and services.  Find out more about Scotland's voluntary sector from SCVO.
During Volunteer Week Scotland, we have developed 'Community Signpost' guidelines in relation to doorstep scams and community safety, both for those who want to help others in their community and for those who require assistance:
Advice for Those Requiring Help
  • Stop uninvited callers on your doorstep
  • Check who you are dealing with
  • Wait to make a payment 
  • Avoid cyber and phone scams
  • Report suspicious callers or activities
Community Signposts Isolating
Advice for Those Providing Help
  • Join an existing community group or organisation
  • Carry verifiable ID
  • Wait to receive payment 
  • Protect others in your community
  • Distance yourself from others
Community Signposts Volunteers
This information is available as an A5 leaflet which can be downloaded by Local Authorities or community groups and handed out to vulnerable individuals.

Find out more on our website, where we have also listed links to trusted sources of information and guidance for communities.

If you feel feel uncomfortable or suspicious, call Police Scotland on 101. If you feel threatened or unsafe at any time, call 999.
Report doorstep scams 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.
Freshers Week Scams
Group Phones
There have been warnings about scammers targeting young people preparing to start at universities in September. With many student unions still to confirm Freshers Week events due to uncertainty about the lockdown, the National Union of Students (NUS) is warning young people to be wary about buying tickets for events online.
Fraudsters are creating fake events which appear to have been organised by student unions and selling tickets to unsuspecting students.

What to Do
  • Check the student union's official webpage to confirm that an event is genuine before purchasing a ticket.
  • Report ticketing scams to Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000 or through their website.
  • If you have been the victim of fraud, report it to Police Scotland on 101
Contact Tracing Scams
Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, scammers have been keeping up to date with the latest developments. Now, with the launch of the Scottish Government's Test and Protect service last week, consumers are being warned to be wary of fraudsters posing as contact tracers. 
There have been reports from around the world of contact tracing scams, including fake texts highlighted by the CTSI in May. These texts say that you have come into contact with someone who has tested positive or has shown symptoms for Covid-19. You are asked to click on a link to find out more information - this link leads to a fake website which will ask for your personal or bank information.

The Scottish Health Secretary has advised that genuine contact tracers will:
  • Introduce themselves and state the reason for their call
  • Address you by your name
  • Ask you for details of your movements and who you have come into contact with
They will NOT:
  • Ask you for personal information such as bank details or medical records
  • Try to sell you anything
  • Tell you the identity of the person who is infected
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.
Scams Related to 5G Conspiracies
Amidst widespread 5G conspiracy theories, Trading Standards officers have examined a USB stick being marketed as a '5G BioShield' offering a 'wearable holographic nano-layer catalyser'. The device, which was being sold for over £300, was in fact no different to any other USB stick with 128mb of storage.
According to the latest Ofcom survey, a third of respondents have seen theories linking the origins or causes of the Coronavirus to 5G technology in the past week.
39% of those surveyed have come across false or misleading information about Covid-19 in the past week and 38% find it hard to know what is true and what is false in relation to the pandemic.

What to Do
  • Remain wary of similar scams related to 5G conspiracy theories and report any similar products to Advice Direct Scotland
  • Get information about the Covid-19 pandemic from trusted sources
Bitcoin Scams
A crypto intelligence company has said that there are increasing numbers of scams related to Covid-19 which require payment in cryptocurrency. £1.4 billion has already been lost in cryptocurrency fraud this year. 
In some cases, scammers have posed as Red Cross workers and asked for donations in cryptocurrencies, while others have sold fake PPE, treatments or testing kits.

Bitcoin investment scams are regularly reported, particularly those which use a celebrity's name to appear genuine. Scottish consumers have recently reported similar scams - one elderly gentleman lost over £1,000 in a Bitcoin investment scam. Another consumer agreed to a 7-day trial for Bitcoin trading - following an initial phone call, they could not get in touch with the company and have had unauthorised payments taken from their account.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has warned that most firms advertising and selling investments in cryptoassets are not authorised by them.

The Journal of Trading Standards have published information about  Bitcoin scams linked to celebrities and Which? have guidance on spotting and avoiding cryptocurrency investment scams.

Advice Direct Scotland have useful advice on the most secure payments to use when shopping online.

What to Do
Business Grant Scams
We have highlighted business grant scams in previous bulletins - a number of national companies are still being targeted by scammers who are sending legitimate-looking emails requesting information and financial details related to Covid-19 Retail, Hospitality and Leisure grants. 
The emails claim to be from clients or employees of the business and may ask for account or business rate reference numbers for retail outlets.

One email sent to a large hospitality chain used official logos and read:
"As you will be aware all of our pubs and hotels are presently closed, along with the head office. We are unable to obtain certain information from our Head Office. Please could you provide our NNDR refererence numbers for the following locations...[list of properties]."

Similar emails have been sent to large retailers, restaurant and cafe chains, all stating that their Head Office is closed or that they have staff shortages and asking for information about business accounts for various sites.

What to Do
  • Question unexpected emails which request private business information or payments, even if they appear to come from someone within your company
  • Think about what you are being asked to do – if in doubt about financial transactions or changes to Direct Debits get a second opinion from a colleague or manager
  • Be cautious when working from home if you receive cold calls offering tech support for your IT system. Only deal with your official IT support desk, if you have one
  • Confirm requests for payment or sensitive information with the person or company who has supposedly sent them, using contact information that you know to be correct
  • Remember that scam emails and texts can look genuine and can appear to come from Government agencies, people within your organisation and trusted companies
  • Report scam business emails to the National Cyber Security Centre

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

The Scottish Business Resilience Centre (SBRC) have a variety of resources to support and protect Scottish businesses, including:
The Law Society of Scotland has links to business support available to members, including a guide to using electronic signaturesusing technology to work remotely and cyber security.

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.
Travel Cancellations - Quarantine
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.
The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) is still currently advising British nationals against all but essential international travel. Find the FCO's guidance on entering the UK here. Further information about enforcement measures in Scotland will be published soon.

There is likely to be some confusion around travel cancellation and refund rights as the new quarantine rules are enforced. 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 or visit their website.

Consumers who are waiting to receive refunds for travel or accommodation should remain 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
  • The latest travel advice from the UK Government can be found on their website as well as foreign travel advice by country.
  • ABTA has published guidance for industry members and customers on holiday amendments and refunds. They are continually updating their advice for customers on travelling.
  • The CTSI have launched an advice booklet for the travel industry.
  • Advice Direct Scotland are regularly updating the information on their COVID-19 consumer website with advice and guidance for Scottish consumers on travel restrictions, flight and holiday cancellations and information for citizens who are stranded abroad.
  • The European Consumer Centre has published frequently asked questions on cancellations of individually booked accommodations, car rental and events due to COVID-19.
  • The EU Commission has published guidelines and recommendations to help Member States gradually lift travel restrictions.
PPE and Face Masks
Hand Sanitiser
The Office for Product Safety and Standards has updated their guidance for manufacturers and makers of face coverings. Anyone selling face coverings must ensure that they meet the existing requirements of the General Product Safety Regulations 2005
It was reported this week that 6.5 million sub-standard face masks and 8,000 counterfeit hand sanitisers have been seized by Trading Standards officers at Heathrow Airport since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to the Journal of Trading Standard, many of the masks seized either had fake safety certificates or made false claims about their effectiveness - others did not meet UK safety standards. The hand sanitisers seized had fake labelling and packaging, which was identical to those of genuine brands. Trading Standards officers have found several other instances of retailers selling counterfeit hand sanitisers, some of which contained dangerous ingredients.

Vistalworks have published articles looking at the dangers of homemade hand sanitisers, counterfeit face masks and counterfeit disinfectants. They have been updating their online marketplace checker and browser plugin to allow consumers to verify the legitimacy of products before buying them online.

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

Ongoing Guidance - Antibody Testing & Medical Products

Which? have published an in-depth article examining the different types of antibody 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. 

Cervical Screening Text Scam
NHS England have warned that women are being sent fake texts telling them that they are due to attend a cervical screening appointment. They are asked to phone a mobile number - if they do so, they will be asked to provide personal details.
Scottish women should be wary of similar texts - the cervical screening programme in Scotland is currently paused and any updates about this will be issued by NHS Inform
Report any scam texts to Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000
Counterfeit Toys
Teddy Bear
This is Child Safety Week and consumers are being reminded to be wary of counterfeit toys being sold online which won’t have gone through quality testing and might contain dangerous materials, loose parts and sharp edges.
It can be tempting to buy an in-demand toy which is advertised at a knock-down price on Ebay or other online marketplaces; however, cheap fakes often do not meet UK health and safety standards.
What to Do
Illegal Money Lending Unit
Loan Shark Poster
As part of their MoneySense financial education programme to support teachers, families and communities over the period of lockdown, NatWest have launched a new free console game called Island Saver. The game is suitable for children aged 7-12 and aims to teach them about money management. Additional educational resources are also available.
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. (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

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.

Unfair Business Practices

Consumers can use the CMA's online reporting tool to  report a business they believe is behaving unfairly during the COVID-19 outbreak.
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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