Certain scams have appeared regularly throughout this year. Here’s a list of the most common ones.
These include contact tracing scams, the promotion of misleading information about the pandemic and the sale of counterfeit PPE and medical products. In recent weeks, there have also been concerns that scammers may attempt to sell fake or non-existent vaccinations.
Throughout the pandemic, consumers have experienced issues obtaining refunds or cancellations for travel and event bookings. Some scammers posed as staff from travel companies, tour operators or insurers and offered to refund or rebook cancelled holidays, while others took advantage of the increase in staycations and posted fake accommodation listings on popular booking sites. During the first lockdown, there were also significant issues with price gouging.
Phishing Calls and Emails
A huge variety of cold calls or phishing emails purportedly from well-known companies such as Amazon, the DVLA, TV Licensing, broadband providers and delivery companies. The aim of the calls/emails is to gain your personal and financial details and in some cases to gain remote access to your computer or other devices.
Scammers have taken advantage of the increase in online shopping this year to set up websites selling in-demand items at cheap prices. They often go to great lengths to look like legitimate businesses, sometimes cloning existing brands’ websites. However, many consumers have lost money after ordering goods which were not delivered – in most cases, they were unable to contact the seller.
In addition to ‘traditional’ scams where cold callers offer overpriced or unnecessary services such as roofing repairs or gardening work, a number of Covid-related doorstep scams have been reported. These include fraudsters offering to disinfect people’s properties for a fee or posing as charity, council or NHS staff and asking for money.
A number of businesses received fake Government emails offering grants during the pandemic. There were also issues with mandate fraud, recruitment scams and phishing scams related to Zoom meetings, Office 365 and voicemail messages.
Consumers received cold calls and texts purportedly from their bank which aimed to obtain their account details. Many of the messages and calls ‘spoofed’ the bank’s genuine phone number in order to appear legitimate. The most frequently reported cold calls said that there had been a problem with the consumer’s account and asked them to transfer money to a ‘safe’ account.
A huge variety of scam emails, phone calls and text messages from HMRC were reported. Many offered grants or relief payments related to the pandemic, while others said that the recipient was eligible for a tax refund. Many people have also received cold calls saying that they are being investigated for tax fraud.
The rise in online shopping meant that more consumers encountered substandard and potentially dangerous fake goods on online marketplaces and scam websites. Our annual anti-counterfeiting campaign aimed to raise awareness of the dangers of counterfeit goods, with a particular focus on cosmetics, clothing, accessories, toys and electrical products.
Following the announcement of the UK Government’s Green Homes Grant scheme during the summer, there was an increase in misleading energy marketing. Dishonest companies led consumers to believe that funding or grants were available for their products, yet asked them to pay for the products up front or take out a loan.
Illicit Puppy Trade
As puppy prices online soared during lockdown, there were warnings from animal welfare charities that the rise in demand could encourage illegal puppy farming, smuggling or dog theft. We have featured some heartbreaking cases where puppies purchased online were found to have serious illnesses and had to be put to sleep. There were also cases where scammers posted fake adverts for puppies on online marketplaces and used Covid restrictions as an excuse not to allow the buyer to visit the non-existent puppy before agreeing to purchase it.
Report all scams to Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000 or via their ScamWatch tool. If you have been the victim of online fraud, report this to Police Scotland on 101.
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