Citizens Advice Scotland, the Trading Standards Institute and Police Scotland are launching Scams Awareness Month in conjunction with partners across the UK, as 31 people in Scotland report bogus selling to the Citizens Advice helpline every week. Anyone is susceptible to a scam, with an estimated 3million people falling victim in the UK every year, but there are clear steps you can take to fight back and stamp-out swindlers.
Daniel Gray, from Citizens Advice Scotland’s Community Action Team says,
“The aim of this campaign is very simple. We want everyone to join in a huge national effort to beat scammers. That means being more vigilant, spreading the word and reporting any scams you come across – even if you don’t personally become a victim.
“Although we’ve seen a 14% jump in the number of bogus selling scams in the last year, which is worrying in itself, we suspect that that really is only the tip of the iceberg. Often, people don’t come forward when they encounter a scam. But what is really positive, is that after Scams Awareness Month last year, 105% more scams were reported to us by the general public. Hopefully, we’ll see even more civic-minded people come forward this year, and all year round, to help us beat the scammers.
“Scams take on all sorts of forms, and con-artists can find you online, through the post, over the telephone and even on your doorstep or out in the street.
“One of the reasons scams are so common is because people don’t report them. Research has shown that, while half of us have experienced some kind of scam, only 5% of us report it. That’s a shocking figure, and if we are prepared to give scammers that sort of free ride, it’s no wonder they keep on going.
“So in this campaign, our message is: Let’s stop allowing them to get away with it. By talking about scams and staying vigilant, we will make life much harder for scammers and fraudsters. If every single one of us plays our part, we really can cut the numbers of scams and give those responsible the justice they deserve.
“The bottom line is that scams are crimes. We should be standing up to them.”
Throughout the month, Citizens Advice Bureaux will be holding events to raise awareness of scams in their area. Each week in May will have a different focus, with online, mail, telephone and doorstep scams all coming under the spotlight.
Other than reporting scams to Citizens Advice Bureaux and Trading Standards, people in Scotland can protect themselves by keeping key facts in their heads. Namely, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is; if you haven’t bought a ticket, you can’t win; you shouldn’t have to pay to obtain a prize or start a job; and if in doubt about someone contacting you, bin it, hang up or delete it.
Brian Smith, Lead Officer Crime and Disorder for Trading Standard Institute says:
“The importance of the matter is shown by Trading Standards, Citizens Advice Scotland and Police Scotland working in partnership to raise public awareness of scams and the fact that criminals are behind them.
“If you spot what you think is a scam or think you have been scammed, report it to the Citizens Advice helpline and help us to stop it. The sooner we can find out about scams, the sooner we can intervene: take down websites, redirect mail, block phone calls. This helps everybody.
And remember, look out for the vulnerable in our society; they are specifically targeted by the scammers. They could be your parents, grandparents or someone who has physical or mental health issues. Spot a scam, protect yourself and your loved ones and stop the scammers by reporting it.”
Superintendent Danny Hatfield said:
“While scams can affect anyone within our local communities, those responsible often target those perceived as the most vulnerable. The criminals are extremely convincing in how they approach and interact with potential victims and anyone can be convinced by the lies they create.
We know that there is a significant amount of underreporting, with individuals either not being aware that they have been subject to a scam, or feel embarrassed to tell someone.
To assist, Police Scotland has launched the 'Nominated Neighbour Scheme', which aims to foster local support for those who could be most vulnerable to becoming potential victims of scams. Further information on this scheme can be found on the Police Scotland website or by calling your local Community Policing team on 101.
This campaign gives advice about what to do when someone becomes aware of a scam and how people can better protect themselves, but where someone has been the victim of a crime it is important that they report it to the police. Only by being aware of scams can Police Scotland and our partners take action against those responsible to keep people safe from scams.”
Notes to editors - click to expand/collapse
1) Scams Awareness Month will be launched with a joint Police Scotland, Trading Standards Institute and Citizens Advice Scotland photocall and street stall, outside Potterrow/Bristo Square in Edinburgh, EH8 9AL. The public will be told what to look out for and avoid, as well as what to do if they spot a scam. PRESS PHOTOCALL 10.30am, Thursday 1st May.
2) Bogus selling reported to Citizens Advice consumer helpline rose 14% between 2012/13 and 2013/14 from 1429 clients to 1631 clients.
3) After Scams Awareness Month ran in 2013, the number of scams reported to the Scottish CAB Service increased by 105% (from 70 in Quarter one of 2012/13 to 145 in Quarter one of 2013/14)
4) We have a case study willing to talk to the press only. Please for more information. Citizens Advice Scotland, TSI and Police Scotland representatives will be available for comment.
What to do if you have been scammed
FOUR SIMPLE THINGS YOU CAN DO ABOUT A SCAM
- GET ADVICE. Contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 04 05 06 or www.citizensadvice.org.uk.
- CHECK. Unexpected calls, letters, and online contacts with someone you trust.
- REPORT IT. For both scams and suspected scams, contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or www.actionfraud.police.uk
- TELL a friend, neighbour or relative about any scams you become aware of.
Signs of a scam
- The call, letter, e-mail or text has come out of the blue.
- You’ve never heard of the lottery or competition they are talking about .
- You didn’t buy a ticket (you can’t win a competition you didn’t enter!)
- They are asking you to send money in advance.
- They are saying you have to respond quickly.
- They are telling you to keep it a secret.
- They seem to be offering you something for nothing.
- If it seems too good to be true – it probably is!
- They are telling you to keep it a secret.
How to protect yourself better
- Never give out contact details like your name, phone number or address to strangers or to people who should have this information already.
- Never give financial information or details of your identity, bank accounts or credit card to strangers or to the businesses that should already hold your details.
- Shred anything with your personal or bank details on – don’t just throw it away.
- If in doubt, don’t reply. Bin it, delete it or hang up.
- Persuasive sales patter? Just say: “No Thank You.”
- Resist pressure to make a decision straight away.
- Never send money to someone you don’t know.
- Walk away from job adverts that ask for money in advance.
- Ask friends, neighbours or family about whether an offer is likely to be a scam.
Who falls victim to scams?
- Research has found that half of us have experienced attempted scams at one time or another, and 8% of us will fall victim to at least one in our lifetime. In extreme cases, people can lose hundreds of thousands of pounds to scams. And they cost the UK economy £3.5bn each year.
- It is sometimes thought that elderly people are the most vulnerable to scams, but research shows that the highest percentage of scam victims are those aged 35-44. This group is twice as likely to fall victim than those over-65. The truth is that ANYONE can be a victim of a con-trick. Many scams today are very sophisticated, and there is no shame in falling for them.