Suspicious Text Messages
If you receive a suspicious text message you can forward it to 7726. The free-of-charge ‘7726’ service enables your provider to investigate and take action if malicious content is found.
Recently Reported Scams
‘Ex-offender’ Cold Callers
There has recently been an increase in reports of cold callers who say they are selling goods door-to-door as part of an ‘ex-offender rehabilitation scheme’. Similar reports have been received from at least ten different local authority areas across Scotland.
In some cases, the callers say they have just been released from prison or a young offenders institution and are selling goods to try and make some money before starting a college course.
They typically offer goods such as household cleaning products, gardening equipment or craft supplies. Some may ask for donations for ex-prisoners. If a householder does not have cash, the cold caller may provide bank account details so that they can transfer money.
Although some of these cold callers show some form of ID card, they often don’t have a pedlar’s certificate or a licence from the police to allow them to sell door-to-door in the local area. The goods they offer are usually of poor quality and overpriced.
How to Avoid
Never feel obliged to answer the door to a cold caller – it is your home and you should not let anyone in unless you feel comfortable.
If you do answer the door, verify that the person is genuine and take a note of the company’s details. ID cards can be faked – close the door and, rather than phoning the number on the ID card, look up the company’s number on their official website or in an official phone directory to check their identity. Legitimate callers will be happy to wait while you perform these checks.
If you feel uncomfortable or suspicious about a cold caller in your local area, phone Police Scotland on 101, or call 999 if you feel threatened.
Sign up for Neighbourhood Watch Scotland Alerts to receive timely messages about local crime prevention and safety issues from partners such as Police Scotland: www.neighbourhoodwatchscotland.co.uk
One of our Facebook followers recently got in touch to let us know about a scam she had avoided. She had advertised a sofa for sale on Facebook Marketplace and got a message from a prospective buyer, with whom she appeared to have several friends in common.
The ‘buyer’ asked the woman to pay insurance for the delivery through DPD, telling her that the money would be refunded once the item was received. They sent an email, supposedly from DPD, which included a link to click on to pay the insurance fee.
The woman had not heard of this happening before and felt suspicious, so contacted some of the mutual friends listed on the buyer’s profile. They were able to confirm that their friend’s account had been hacked. If she had clicked on the link in the email, it would have led to a cloned delivery site created by scammers, where she would have been asked to enter her personal and payment details.
Another similar case was recently reported in Scotland, where a man selling a bicycle via Facebook was contacted by a ‘buyer’ who said they would send a courier to collect the item. Again, they asked the man to pay for delivery insurance, promising that the courier would refund this when they collected the item.
How to Avoid Be suspicious if a buyer on any online marketplace offers to pay for an item using an unusual method or if they ask you to pay any kind of insurance/delivery costs. If a buyer becomes aggressive, stop communicating with them.
Don’t click on any links in suspicious emails. If you do click on a link, do not provide bank or security details and never download software on to your device.
Report any suspicious behaviour to the site you are using. If you have lost money, report this to Police Scotland on 101.
British Gas has warned customers to be wary of scam emails which use their logo and say that “your bill is overdue and needs paying”.
The message says that British Gas recently sent you a bill and haven’t yet received payment. You are asked to click on a link to check your account.
It says that, if you do not send a payment within the next two days, you will be charged a further £140, or even more if they ‘have to visit your property to collect this debt’.
There is another link at the bottom of the message, saying ‘pay online now.’ Links in these messages lead to scam websites which use British Gas branding in an attempt to appear legitimate and ask you to enter your account and payment details.
How to Avoid
Scam messages often ask you to act urgently to avoid losing money or having legal action taken against you. Be suspicious of unexpected messages which appear to be from an official company or organisation and say you must provide your details or a payment within a certain time frame.
British Gas have confirmed that these emails are not genuine. If you receive a similar email and are unsure whether or not it is legitimate, phone British Gas using the number on your utility bill.
You can forward suspicious emails to British Gas at email@example.com.
A householder from Renfrewshire recently lost £25,000 after being cold called by someone claiming to be from the fraud department of their bank.
Later that day, two men visited their property, claiming to be detectives investigating bank fraud.
They were carrying Police Scotland ID badges which were later found to be fake.
The men managed to persuade the householder to transfer £25,000 to a ‘safe account’.
Since October 2021, over 30 reports have been received from members of the public across the country who have either been visited or contacted by individuals claiming to be from Police Scotland, with victms losing over £300,000.
How to Avoid
Police Scotland advise that, if you receive an unexpected call or visit, ask for the officer’s details and which department they work for. If the contact is by telephone, hang up and if possible use a different phone to contact the police service via 101, where you will speak to genuine members of Police Scotland and can request police officer verification.
If you receive an email claiming to be from Police Scotland with a link to an external site to make a payment, contact them via 101 to check whether the message was genuine.
Legitimate police officers should be able show new identification cards, which feature an up-to-date picture of themselves along with other key information and various security enhancements that make them difficult to replicate.
According to research by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), more than 70% of consumers have been exposed to rip-offs resulting from misleading practices online.
These tactics can be hard to spot, so the CMA have launched a new campaign to make consumers more aware of these rip-offs – and the tips that can help us avoid falling for them:
Rip-off: Hidden charges
This includes unexpected fees, charges or taxes that get added on when you reach the checkout, so that the final price is higher than you expected. Tip-Off: treat the original/headline price with caution – if it is low, it might be designed to lure you in.
Rip-Off 2: Pressure selling
This could be messages telling you how many people are looking at an item, or have bought it recently, or even that it’s the last one left in stock. Tip-Off: always check at least two websites before buying; it pays to shop around.
Rip-Off 3: Subscription traps
This is where you’re tempted by an introductory offer – and before you know it, you’ve signed up and you’re paying for a subscription that may be difficult to cancel. Tip-Off: set a reminder to review your subscription before the next billing date or the end of any trial period.
Rip-Off 4: Fake reviews
Online reviews can be fake. They might look like the writer’s genuine opinion or experience of a product or service, but positive reviews can be bought. Tip-Off: look out for patterns or repeated phrases in reviews – it may indicate they were written by the same person.
If you are shopping online for Valentine’s Day gifts this year, make sure that you avoid potentially dangerous counterfeit products.
Counterfeit perfume has been found to:
contain unlisted ingredients which can cause allergic reactions and skin irritation, including poisonous chemicals and even human urine;
fail to meet UK and EU safety standards;
be produced and stored in filthy and unsanitary conditions.
Counterfeit cosmetics have been found to:
be made from cheap, substandard ingredients;
contain untested chemicals which can cause allergic reactions or serious health complications;
contain lead, mercury and other toxic ingredients.
How to Avoid
You can use the Vistalworks checker tool at vistalworks.com/checker to check the legitimacy of products on Ebay and Amazon before you buy them. It is also available as a Chrome browser plugin, which will trigger a warning on any suspicious Ebay products or sellers.
If you realise that you have accidentally purchased a counterfeit product as a gift, don’t give it to the recipient. If you have given it to them, let them know that it’s fake as soon as possible.
Find out More
Short video from Vistalworks in which they outline the problems which consumers can face when they buy counterfeit cosmetics online: youtube.com/watch?v=brgGK1i_UYs
App – short for ‘application’, refers to a software program for computers or other devices such as smartphones and tablets.
Malware – malicious software that is designed to damage or gain unauthorised access to a computer or other device.
Phishing – the practice of sending fraudulent emails which often appear to be from well-known organisations or companies and ask the recipient to provide personal information or to visit a particular website.
QR Code – a square barcode that a smartphone camera can scan and read to provide quick access to a website or app.
Ransomware – malware that makes data or systems unusable until the victim makes a payment.
Remote Access – the ability to access a computer or device from another location. Anyone with remote access to a device can access all files stored on it.
Smishing – the same as phishing, but carried out via SMS (text) messages rather than emails.
Software – the set of instructions and programs that tells a computer how to operate.
Virus – a computer program designed to infect and damage legitimate software.
If you feel threatened or unsafe, contact Police Scotland on 101 or 999 in an emergency.