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Service launched to protect Highlanders from scams; Rise in suspicious incidents during Covid-19 pandemic

By Louise Glen

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Andrew Bartlett
Andrew Bartlett

A new service has been launched by the national consumer advice service to protect Highlanders from scammers.

ScamWatch is a free tool that allows consumers to report suspected scams and suspicious activity, including online, telephone and doorstep scams.

The intelligence gathered by Advice Direct Scotland, which runs consumeradvice.scot in partnership with the Scottish Government, will then be used to assist Trading Standards Scotland and other authories to take enforcement action.

The service has been launched as part of National Consumer Week 2020.

The coronavirus pandemic has seen a sharp rise in activity by scammers in Scotland.

Fraud in Scotland was 72 per cent higher in September than last year, according to the most recent official data, although methodology changes mean this cannot all be attributed to coronavirus.

In September, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon highlighted that scammers were trying to trick Scots into paying for Covid contact tracing, while local councils have reported a number of doorstep scams relating to outdoor work in recent months.

Businesses in Scotland have also reported several cyber scams, including fraudsters pretending to be from HMRC to access people’s bank details.

The most commonly reported phone scams in Scotland between July and September 2020 included misleading sales of insurance for white goods, appliances or Sky equipment, misleading sales of boiler, plumbing or drainage cover, and Amazon Prime scams.

The new ScamWatch tool allows people and businesses to enter basic information on an online form about the scam, and they can choose to remain anonymous if they wish. The new service is available at www.scamwatch.scot

Andrew Bartlett, chief executive of Advice Direct Scotland, said: “Scams impact people in Scotland every day, sometimes costing them thousands of pounds.

“Reporting a scam to us via the new ScamWatch tool will help us to gather intelligence to protect people across the country.

“By sharing the information with enforcement agencies, together we can shut out the scammers.

“The National Consumer Week campaign advises people to remain vigilant, check the source of engagement, and avoid making decisions in the moment.

“But there is nothing to be ashamed of if a scammer catches you out, and our advisers are available to offer free, practical and impartial advice on what to do next.”

The ScamWatch Quick Reporting Tool is available at www.scamwatch.scot

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