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Criminals exploiting the Covid-19 pandemic by targeting people and businesses in Scotland are among 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 heart-breaking cases where puppies bought online were found to have serious illnesses.
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.
The Trading Standards Scotland ‘scam share’ reporting bulletin has listed the top ten 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, which runs Scotland’s national consumer advice service consumeradvice.scot, recently launched a ‘ScamWatch’ tool to collect data on scams, which can be passed to Trading Standards teams and other authorities for investigation.
Marjorie Gibson, head of operations with Advice Direct Scotland, 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 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 take action.’