Launch of Shut Out Scammers Campaign 2023
As more Scottish consumers struggle with price increases and rising energy bills, Trading Standards Scotland and Police Scotland have launched a nationwide Shut out Scammers campaign.
The campaign aims to raise awareness of doorstep crime, the mis-selling of energy efficiency measures and other forms of financial harm to which consumers are susceptible. The campaign aims to empower consumers rather than make them fearful and to encourage the reporting of scams.
Rogue traders and companies may attempt to exploit the cost of living crisis and scam consumers by providing misleading information about products and services and posting misleading adverts and reviews online.
In addition to more traditional doorstep scams reported during the summer months, with rogue traders offering to carry out home maintenance, gardening work or services such as gutter cleaning or pressure washing, fraudsters have adapted their methods to take advantage of consumers’ anxieties and uncertainties around the cost of living crisis.
According to a recent survey run by Trading Standards Scotland, some of the most common cold calls and scams in Scotland now relate to energy efficiency products, with over a third of survey respondents having been told by a cold caller that they were eligible to receive new insulation under a Government scheme.
Dishonest companies target those who want to save money on their energy bills, saying that funding or grants are available for their products, yet asking consumers to pay for the products up front or take out a loan. Consumers are told that they will receive their money back over time but rarely do.
The Shut out Scammers campaign will run from 17 April – 14 May.
Councillor Maureen Chalmers, Chair of Trading Standards Scotland said: “It is more important than ever to protect consumers from scammers and rogue traders who are adapting their methods to changing circumstances.
“We urge consumers not to deal with cold callers and to seek local traders who have been vetted by Trading Standards and who have made a commitment to treat customers fairly via approved trader schemes. Do plenty of research into companies before agreeing to any work being undertaken, remembering that online adverts can be misleading and that reviews can be faked. It is advisable to check at least three different review sites and to get more than one quote for a piece of work.
"We are also asking people to look out for family members, friends and neighbours who may be vulnerable and to report any suspicious behaviour to Advice Direct Scotland or Police Scotland.”
Detective Superintendent Andy Patrick from Police Scotland said: “We are proud to support the Shut Out Scammers campaign alongside Trading Standards Scotland. We remain committed to working in partnership to bring doorstep criminals to justice.
“Crimes of this nature typically target vulnerable members of our communities, with those responsible attempting to pass themselves off as legitimate tradespeople in order to gain access to a victim’s property, or to charge large sums of money whilst undertaking little to no work.
“Members of the public who witness potential doorstep crime are asked to contact police immediately, so we can investigate and identify offenders.”
"The Police Scotland website has lots of useful information on staying safe from doorstep criminals and this can be obtained by visiting www.scotland.police.uk.”
Colin Mathieson, Spokesperson for Advice Direct Scotland, added: “Advice Direct Scotland have seen various changes to the ways that scammers approach consumers, adapting to changing world events and advancements in technology.
“Their approaches can seem legitimate at first, very often claiming to be reaching out from organisations we recognise and already interact with.
“It’s important to check the credentials of anyone we engage with – whether in person or over the phone or online.
“Ask for identification, and check with the official organisations or companies through contact details you have obtained through official channels, such as websites or contact information from statements or letters.
“You can report suspected scams and suspicious activity to consumeradvice.scot using our Quick Reporting Tool at www.scamwatch.scot, or by calling 0808 164 6000 (Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm).”