Scams have an impact on Scottish consumers every day, often costing thousands of pounds. Anyone can be targeted by a scammer, with attempts to defraud us of our personal information or money becoming increasingly convincing.
Certain demographics are more vulnerable to scams than others. The more vulnerable members of our society are preferred targets of scammers because of a belief that they will be easier to deceive, as well as the misconception that they will be less likely to seek assistance after being scammed. In 2015, over 50% of those over the age of 65 said that they had been the target of a scam. However, this does not mean that the vulnerable are the only ones being targeted.
Most of us will be the target of a scammer at some point or another. With information being more readily available, and methods of contact being more accessible, scammers are in a better position than ever to engage with us.
On the flipside, information, technology, and methods of communication can help us too. By being aware of the different methods employed by scammers, we can effectively stop them in their tracks and report scams as they happen.
Scams impact consumers in different ways. Some common scams to look out for include:
These scammers can take the form of rogue traders or fake charity collectors. They may offer services which you don’t really need or attempt to be invited inside your property. This type of scammer is often scared off when asked for identification or if you ask to contact their organisation to confirm their credentials. Remain vigilant and always ask for identification – remember that a legitimate person will never mind being double checked!
Banking Fraud (Internet, Telephone and Mobile)
Scammers contact the consumer directly, purporting to represent their bank and informing them of a problem with their account. The scammer will ask the consumer to provide their personal details in order to rectify the problem. To sometimes add an air of authenticity, the scammer will ask the consumer to contact the number on the back of their card whilst they remain on the line and note any personal information which is discussed. These scams can also appear in the form of an email, where the consumer will be redirected to a seemingly authentic website where they enter their personal / banking details. Always double check you’re receiving a call or email from an authenticated source and contact your bank directly if unsure.
Phishing, Vishing & Smishing
Phishing is the use of email and postal methods for a scammer to gather information. Vishing is the use of the telephone or ‘voice’ to obtain your personal details. Smishing is the use of text message or ‘SMS’ to do the same thing. All of these methods are used by scammers to trick consumers into supplying information that can be used on its own, or paired with additional information to scam, extort or defraud. Stay vigilant – these scammers are very convincing, some even offering links to websites that look like the real deal.
Romance scams play on the emotions of the person being scammed. Many of these scammers use flattery and ‘love bombing’ – i.e. showering a person with compliments and declarations of affection very early on in a conversation to gain trust. When this trust is built, the scammer uses this and emotional blackmail to gather information or trick the target into giving them money.
HMRC / Tax Scam
Tax scams try to convince the consumer that they are either owed tax from or owe tax to HMRC. These scams can be very convincing, with emails and messages displaying the official branding and logos of HMRC. Tax scammers can also use telephone calls to convince targets to part with their information. Be vigilant and remember that HMRC would never request bank details via email or telephone on their first contact with you.
Technical Support Scams
These scams often take the form of a telephone call or popup information on your computer screen, informing you that you have a virus, or you require technical support. Legitimate technical support companies will not contact consumers by phone, email or text to inform you of a problem with your computer. Security pop-up warnings from real technical support companies will never ask consumers to call a number.
Tour Operator / Holiday Scams
This type of scam can involve false listings, deals that seem too good to be true or redirection to fake holiday booking websites. Check for logos (such as the ATOL logo and the ABTA icon) and confirm with these relevant bodies to ensure the website is registered under their schemes. Be careful and don’t be rushed into making a booking!
Be vigilant – If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
Double check – Always verify credentials of visitors, salesmen and cold callers.
Take your time – Legitimate companies and organisations should never force you to make on-the-spot decisions!
Trading Standards Scotland and Police Scotland are running the Shut-Out Scammers campaign again throughout May 2021. The campaign seeks to reduce the impact of doorstep crime by providing information and advice on how to prevent falling foul of bogus callers.
More information is available through the Trading Standards Scotland website at www.tsscot.co.uk, or by following #ShutOutScammers on social media.
What is consumeradvice.scot?
consumeradvice.scot is a free and impartial multi-channel advice service for Scottish consumers and traders, delivered in partnership with the Scottish Government and Trading Standards. Our expert advisors can be contacted via telephone, email, webchat and through social media.
What do we do?
consumeradvice.scot provides free, practical and impartial advice to Scottish citizens who have experienced consumer-related issues. Our expert advice delivers practical solutions to problems faced by consumers. We can offer advice on a wide range of topics, including:
– Rogue traders
– Retail complaints
– e-commerce complaints
– Health & Safety concerns
– Private Parking Tickets
– Complaints with Service Providers.
Consumer legislation is in place to protect both citizens and traders. Staying aware of these laws and how they can apply to your situation enables relevant and informed action to be taken when required.
We refer cases onto Trading Standards when they warrant further investigation. If you believe a trader has been practicing illegally, contact one of our expert advisors for advice and referral. Our team will ensure that your concerns are handled effectively and efficiently, with minimum fuss.
Alternatively, suspected scams and suspicious activity can be reported 24/7 at scamwatch.scot.
consumeradvice.scot are able to offer free and practical advice on a number of consumer issues including scams. You can contact consumeradvice.scot on 0808 164 6000. We are open 9am-5pm, Monday-Friday. You can follow us on social media – Twitter: @advicedotscot and Facebook at www.facebook.com/advice.scot, Instagram: @advice.scot, or get ahead by visiting our knowledge centre at www.consumeradvice.scot.