In this edition of Scam Share we’ll look at some of the most recent scams which have been reported by consumers across Scotland.
As this is Cyber Scotland Week, this bulletin will have a focus on cyber scams as well as the dangers associated with using illegal streaming services and devices. Find out more about the events on cyber awareness and cyber security taking place on the official website. Vistalworks have released their first podcast episode this week, in which they discuss cyber security.
It’s more important than ever to make sure that you stay Scam Aware and share information about scams with vulnerable relatives or friends. Report all scams to Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000 or via their ScamWatch tool. You can also forward suspicious emails to the National Cyber Security Centre.
A recent survey by FACT has shown that 62% of people in the UK are unaware of the hidden dangers of illegal streaming devices and services. The main risks of using these devices and services are:
Malware / Viruses
Illegal streaming devices are one of the main sources of malicious software and can allow criminals to access personal data and account details held on your computer.
Once they have access to your device, criminals may be able to hack your entire home network.
When you use illegal streaming services, your content could be cut off at any time and you won’t be able to get a refund.
In a recent operation we carried out, dozens of illegal streaming services were disrupted, affecting thousands of subscribers.
The profits made from the sale of illegal streaming services and devices often help to fund international criminal groups.
If you share your personal and payment details with criminals you could be at risk of identity theft, fraud and phishing attacks.
The use of illegal streaming services also damages legitimate broadcasters and the creative industries.
According to a report from FACT and Electrical Safety First, the majority of power supplies for illicit streaming devices pose substantial fire and electrical risks to consumers.
(This does not apply to legal devices which are modified to stream illegal content)Always consider the risks to your own and your family’s safety before purchasing a device or downloading any software which would allow you to access content which would normally require a subscription.
Some of the most frequently reported cyber scams over the last year have been:
Since the beginning of the pandemic, more and more consumers have been shopping online, often on a tighter budget.
It can be tempting to click on a social media advert or unfamiliar website offering deals on big brands or in-demand items.However, more people have also fallen victim to online scammers who set up fake websites or stores on online marketplaces in an attempt to steal their personal and financial details.
Find top tips for shopping online safely on our website
Remote Access Scams
There are frequent reports of cold callers posing as staff from telecoms companies or other well-known organisations such as Microsoft and Amazon and asking consumers to download software which will allow the scammer to gain remote access to their computer. They may say that there is an issue with your internet connection or router and they need to gain access to your computer to perform tests and fix it or that your account has been compromised and several payments have been made.
Never follow instructions from an unsolicited caller to download an app or software which would allow them to access your computer remotely.
Find out more.
Data Harvesting Through Surveys/Competitions
We regularly receive reports of fake competitions, prize draws, voucher giveaways or surveys on social media or in emails, which appear to be linked to well known companies.
Many of these adverts lead to fake or unsecure websites which are designed to harvest your personal details or to infect your computer with malware.
Find examples and more information on our website.
We see a huge variety of phishing emails which appear to be from official organisations and companies. Some of the most common scams are supposedly from:
- TV Licensing
- Amazon or Netflix
- Service providers e.g. British Gas or energy companies
Service providers and official organisations WILL NOT email you unexpectedly to ask you to confirm your personal or payment details via a link.
Don’t click on links in unexpected messages – if the message says that there is a problem with your account, log in on the official website or phone the company.
Find out more about the different types of email scam on our website.
Report all scams to Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000 or or via their ScamWatch tool. If you have been the victim of online fraud, report this to Police Scotland on 101.
We continue to receive reports from across Scotland about phishing emails related to shipping or deliveries, most of which ask for small amounts of money to have a package delivered or say that a delivery address is incomplete and ask you to update the details.
One woman recently lost £23,000 after receiving a fraudulent email which appeared to be from DPD. She was asked to pay a small fee to rearrange a parcel delivery and clicked on a link leading to a scam website.She entered her personal and banking details on the website and received a phone call the next day from a man claiming to work for her bank. He told her that there had been suspicious activity on her account and asked her for more details. She then discovered that her savings had been stolen from her account. Thankfully, her bank has since refunded her money.
The Royal Mail and other legitimate parcel delivery services will not contact you unexpectedly to ask for personal or payment details.
Find an up-to-date list of recently reported scam emails and texts on the Royal Mail’s website, where you can also report sites using Royal Mail branding which you think may be fraudulent.
Report scam emails to Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000 or or via their ScamWatch tool. If you have been the victim of online fraud, report this to Police Scotland on 101.
Find out more about your consumer rights in relation to deliveries from online retailers on Advice Direct Scotland’s website.
Consumer body Which? have recently investigated the growing fake review industry on Amazon. They have found businesses who sell fake reviews in bulk and offer review manipulation services. In many cases, reviewers were offered discounts on products in return for four- or five-star reviews.Which? have published useful guides on how to spot fake reviews while shopping online and how to avoid fake reviews on Amazon.
When shopping online, carry out some research before purchasing from sellers or companies you are not familiar with. Rather than relying on reviews hosted on the website you are purchasing from, look for independent reviews on official websites.
There have been warnings about rental scams this week after one estate agent discovered that some of their listings had been stolen by another company who was posting them under their own name. Scammers may post fake adverts for properties to rent, posing as landlords or letting agents. They ask for deposits or other fees up front and often use various excuses (including Covid restrictions) to avoid allowing the prospective tenant to view the property.
We featured one such story in the bulletin last year – a young couple in Edinburgh saw an attractive and well-priced property advertised on Zoopla; however, when they contacted the estate agent named in the advert they had not heard of the listing.
Police Scotland have published useful information on avoiding rental scams. Some of their top tips are:
- Do not send any money or financial details until you are sure that the property exists and that the landlord has control of it. If possible, visit the property and if you are unable to do this, ask for evidence that the property exists such as safety certificates or tenancy agreements;
- Ideally, wait until you have signed a contract in the letting agent’s office before handing over any money – be wary if you are asked to pay via bank transfer or money transfer agents;
- Check that the landlord is a member of the National Landlords Association (NLA) via their accreditation website;
- Be wary of adverts which do not list a contact phone number with a UK code
Report rental scams to Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000 or or via their ScamWatch tool.If you have been the victim of fraud, report it to Police Scotland on 101.
Energy Bill Scams
Several consumers have recently received scam emails purportedly from energy company EE saying that the payment for their latest bill has failed. It goes on to say that some of the billing details for your account have expired and asks you to click on a link to update them.As with many phishing emails, there is a threat in the email and an urgent call to action – it says that your service will be disconnected within 7 days if you do not update your details.
The link within the email leads to a cloned EE web page which asks for your account and payment details.
What to Do
- If you receive an unexpected email from your energy provider and you are unsure whether or not it is legitimate, contact them using details found on their official website or a recent bill
- If you are asked to update your account details in an unexpected email, check your account via the offical website rather than clicking on any links in the email
- Be wary of unsolicited emails which try to panic you into taking urgent action or threaten you with account closure or financial penalties
Report all scams to Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000 or via their ScamWatch tool. If you have been the victim of fraud, report it to Police Scotland on 101.
Just Eat Gift Card Scam
Which? are warning this week about a new scam email purportedly from Just Eat. The emails include a link to claim a £50 gift card – the link leads to a scam website using Just Eat branding which asks you to enter personal and financial details.
Just Eat have confirmed that these emails are scams and have said that they will not send emails asking customers to follow a link and fill in their personal details in order to receive a voucher.
If you receive a similar email, delete it and do not click on any links.
Report scams to Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000 or via their ScamWatch tool. You can also forward suspicious emails to the National Cyber Security Centre.
If you have been the victim of fraud, report it to Police Scotland on 101.
Money Advice Service Scam
The Money Advice Service has warned about scam WhatsApp messages which appear to have been sent by them. The messages, shown below, say that following a recent conversation with a debt advisor, your case is likely to be accepted for Government Legislation which will allow some of your debt to be written off.
You are asked to send copies of recent bank statements, wage slips and photographic ID to a Gmail account.
The Money Advice Service have confirmed that they will NEVER send you unsolicited messages on WhatsApp.
If you receive a similar message, DO NOT reply, click on any links or send any information or documents to the email address listed.
If you receive messages from anyone using their logo, report them to firstname.lastname@example.org
The NHS Scotland Counter Fraud Service has this week warned about an attempted fraud against an NHS Board’s endowment account. A caller posing as a member of staff from the Royal Bank of Scotland spoke to several employees at the Board and built up an understanding of their knowledge of business accounts.The caller said that the bank had identified potential fraudulent payments from the Board’s bank account and said that, in order to stop the fraud, the Board’s finance officer would need to set up a payment to a new bank account. The officer became suspicious and ended the call without taking any action.
Suspected fraud relating to NHS Scotland can be reported online or on the fraud hotline: 08000 15 16 28
Police Scotland have advice on dealing with bank mandate fraud and warn organisations to be wary of requests to make changes to a direct debit, standing order or bank transfer mandate in order to direct future payments to a new bank account, which may be run by fraudsters.
The Government Counter Fraud Function has also published advice on recognising and dealing with mandate fraud during the COVID-19 outbreak.
If you think that your organisation has fallen victim to a cyber attack, you can call the Scottish Business Resilience Centre’s free and confidential Cyber Incident Response number, 01786 437 472, for advice and support.
Find more information about common business scams and how to avoid them, a well as links to official guidance on our website.
The OPSS receive notifications from market surveillance authorities about unsafe and noncompliant products to the Product Safety Database. They publish a weekly report to provide an overview of products found to pose a risk to the health and safety of consumers.
The most recent report (19th February) includes wooden toy trucks, wood carving discs, chain saw blades, children’s radios and plug adaptors. You can also check an up-to-date list of recalled products here.
It has been reported this week that organised crime groups are behind scam emails which aim to convince people to hand over financial details in exchange for Covid-19 vaccinations. The emails use NHS logos and branding in an attempt to appear legitimate.There have been hundreds of reports of scams related to the Covid vaccine – please make sure that family and friends are aware of these scams. Remember that:
- The Covid-19 vaccination is free
- The NHS will NEVER ask for your bank details or for a payment for the vaccine
- The NHS will not ask you to prove your identity by sending copies of personal documents such as passports
- The NHS will NEVER arrive unannounced at your home to administer the vaccine
- NHS Scotland will contact eligible people by phone or letter to arrange their vaccination appointment – they are not using emails to arrange appointments
- If you are offered the vaccine at a price, it could be fake, stolen or non-existent
If you are unsure about a message you have received in relation to Covid-19, call the NHS Scotland national helpline on 0800 030 8013.
Avoid cyber threats and misleading information about vaccinations or other medical developments related to Covid-19 by checking official sources:NHS ScotlandThe Scottish GovernmentThe Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA)Report scams to Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000 or via their ScamWatch tool. If you are concerned that you may have provided personal or financial information via a link in a scam message, contact Police Scotland on 101.
EU Exit: Official Guidance
Official Advice for Businesses
The Scottish Government’s PrepareforBrexit.scot website has up-to-date information to help companies in Scotland understand what the EU exit means for them.
The Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) have also published an updated report looking at trading standards challenges and opportunities following Brexit.The Business Companion website also has a wealth of information and guidance for businesses on leaving the EU.
The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) have published updated guidance on changes to international trade mark registrations after 1 January 2021.
The OPSS is regularly updating their guidance for businesses on UK product safety and metrology regulations.
Official Advice for Consumers
If you are unsure about an email or phone call relating to Brexit, check the following trusted sources of information. Be particularly wary of emails or calls which threaten you or ask you to take urgent action.
- Scottish citizens can find useful information about Brexit at brexitadvice.scot
- Find information on how Brexit may affect people and businesses in Scotland on the Scottish Government website
- The UK Government website has a Brexit checker to give you a personalised list of actions for you and your family if you are travelling or doing business in the EU
Report any Brexit-related scams to Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000 or via their ScamWatch tool. You can also forward scam emails to the National Cyber Security Centre. If you have been the victim of fraud, report this to Police Scotland on 101.
Scottish Illegal Money Lending Unit
If you are in a financial crisis or if you have already borrowed money from a loan shark and are feeling trapped, out of control or isolated, please reach out and talk to one of the many organisations who can help you:
- The Scottish Welfare Fund helps families and people in Scotland who are on low incomes by making Crisis Grants and Community Care Grants available to those in immediate need.
- StepChange Debt Charity have compiled a useful six-step guide to help those who are feeling anxious about their finances during the pandemic.
- The Money Advice Service’s Money Navigator Tool provides money guidance to those financially affected by the pandemic
- Citizens Advice Scotland’s Money Map tool provides clear self-help options on improving your income and cutting your living costs.
- The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) have advice on avoiding loan fee scams and a register of authorised lenders.
- Advice Direct Scotland have an online benefits calculator to help you find which benefits you are entitled to
- If you feel threatened or unsafe, contact Police Scotland on 101 or 999 in an emergency.
- Report scams to Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000.
- Sign up to the Neighbourhood Watch Alert system to receive localised information and updates.
Get genuine information and updates about the COVID-19 pandemic from official websites:
- Scottish Government – Coronavirus in Scotland
- NHS Scotland – Coronavirus information and advice
- UK Government – Response to Coronavirus
- World Health Organisation (WHO) – Technical Guidance
Find a full list of community links and trusted information sources on our website.