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Were you a victim of these top scams for 2020?

By David G Scott

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Reports suggest that many people and businesses in Caithness fell victim to criminals exploiting the Covid-19 pandemic as revealed in a list of the most common scams recorded in 2020.

Scammers adopted unscrupulous new tactics such as telling people they had been in contact with someone with coronavirus and demanding their bank details to pay for a test.

Scams around illegal puppy farms were also reported during the year with an increase in people seeking to buy pets during lockdown, resulting in some heart-breaking cases where puppies purchased online were found to have serious illnesses.

Elderly people are especially vulnerable to scam callers.
Elderly people are especially vulnerable to scam callers.

Cold calls and texts purportedly from banks continued to be prevalent in 2020, with the most frequently reported scams claiming there had been a problem with a consumer's account and requesting a transfer of money to a "safe" account.

Trading Standards Scotland's "scam share" reporting bulletin has listed the top 10 scams of the year as: Covid scams; bank scams; HMRC scams; phishing messages supposedly from companies such as Amazon; cloned and fake websites; business scams such as fake grants; cold callers; counterfeit goods; misleading energy marketing; and the illegal puppy trade.

Advice Direct Scotland (ADS), which runs Scotland’s national consumer advice service consumeradvice.scot, recently launched a ScamWatch tool to collect data on scams, which can then be passed to Trading Standards teams and other authorities for investigation.

The organisation has published its top tips for taking on the scammers in 2021:

  • 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.
  • Don’t click on any buttons or links in unsolicited emails, even if they look official.
  • 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).
  • Do not press 1 or follow any other instructions given in an automated phone message.
  • Be wary when filling in online surveys or questionnaires through pop-up adverts on social media. These are used to generate leads for companies to cold call you.
  • If you agree to a home visit by a trader following a cold call or online survey, you may want to ask a trusted friend or family member to be there with you to provide a second opinion.
  • Never agree to a purchase or contract on the spot – get at least two other quotes from trusted companies.
  • Contact ADS for free, impartial and practical advice if you are worried something might be a scam or if you have been scammed.
Marjorie Gibson, head of operations at Advice Direct Scotland.Picture: Little White Camera Company
Marjorie Gibson, head of operations at Advice Direct Scotland.Picture: Little White Camera Company

Marjorie Gibson, head of operations with ADS, which runs consumeradvice.scot, said: “Over the past year, scammers have adapted to the coronavirus pandemic to prey on Scots. In what has been a tough year for everyone, it’s sickening that unscrupulous fraudsters have made life even tougher for many Scots by exploiting a public health crisis.

“It’s increasingly difficult to spot scams and there is absolutely no shame in being caught out, as the scammers’ tactics are very persuasive. As we enter 2021, we urge all Scots to remain scam aware and report any instances to us at Advice Direct Scotland so that we can help the authorities to take action."

Consumers can seek help in a number of different ways: freephone 0808 164 6000; and online, web chat and email at www.consumeradvice.scot

Advice on blocking phone scammers

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