A new Trading Standards Scotland (TSS) campaign, which launched today, will run for four weeks and focus on impersonation scams, misleading information about energy-efficiency measures, financial scams, counterfeit goods and online shopping.
Scammers are already exploiting consumers’ financial concerns and, as winter approaches and people become increasingly worried about rising grocery costs and energy bills, a spate of cold calls, spam emails and fraudulent text messages are likely to compound the crisis.
According to Councillor Maureen Chalmers, Chair of TSS: “Since the beginning of the COVID pandemic, we have seen how quickly scammers can adapt to changing circumstances to take advantage of people’s financial worries.
“Unfortunately, as we move into the autumn and winter months, scammers are increasingly likely to target people who are worried about paying their bills and who may be more likely to click on links or respond to messages offering discounts on bills or investment opportunities.”
Email and text scams connected to the energy bill rebate and cost of living payments have already been reported, as well as fake supermarket voucher and fuel card giveaways on social media.
Doorstep scammers have been giving householders misleading information about grants and funding for energy-efficiency measures such as boilers and insulation, while some rogue traders have taken advantage of the global shortage of construction materials to ask customers to pay large deposits, then failing to return to carry out the work.
There have also been reports of dangerous electric devices being sold online with claims that they can save consumers money on energy bills.
Those worried about making ends meet are also being warned to be wary of online adverts offering ‘quick and easy’ loans or cryptocurrency investment opportunities with supposedly high returns.
Chalmers said: “We are delighted to be working with partners across the UK to run this month-long awareness campaign, through which we hope to provide consumers with the knowledge and tools they need to say no to scammers.
“We would like to remind consumers to be wary of cold callers, unsolicited emails and text messages and online adverts offering deals, discounts and giveaways. Never accept information offered from these sources without doing independent research, and don’t provide any personal or financial information to a cold caller or via a link in an unsolicited message.
“We are also asking people to look out for family members, friends and neighbours who may be vulnerable and to share messages about scam awareness with them.”
Further information about the campaign can be found here.