It goes without saying that the last six months have seen a significant change in the way all of us have lived. The pandemic has reached every corner of society. We have all adapted and found new ways of being, which also includes the criminals of society. Police Scotland have now reported a significant reduction in road traffic accidents, violent crimes and robberies since lockdown, but crime has indeed adapted. Online and telephone fraud and the more silent crimes like domestic violence and online sexual abuse incidents have increased.
Types of scams that have become more prevalent this year include:
- People appearing at a person’s door and asking for money to take temperatures.
- Websites that pretend to sell masks, hand sanitiser and other PPE.
- Phone, texts or e-mails from criminals pretending to be from the HMRC, or the World Health Organisation.
- Scam e-mails from hackers asking for details related to coronavirus.
- Contact tracing scams.
- Fake grants targeting small businesses and offering large amounts of money.
- People being offered support with applying for benefits, but the scammer requires payment for this “help”.
- Fake puppy sales.
The list is not exhaustive and it is a daunting and sad reality of the pandemic.
Scams are often personalised to create the illusion that an offer is unique to the person that is being targeted. People are drawn in with small requests at first to make them feel secure or committed to things like providing money or sending private details. The psychology of the scam draws victims in either out of fear or to obtain something.
There are steps that we can all take to protect ourselves from being subject to scams. The Financial Services Register is a reliable source to check the company or person you are dealing with. Avoid clicking links or opening e-mails from anyone you are unfamiliar with. Reject pressure to make a decision on an offer in an intimidating sounding situation (a sudden fine or offer that makes no sense and is phrased in a way that ‘requires’ you to make a quick decision). Police Scotland and Trading Standards have launched a campaign of “Shut Out Scammers – 2020” to combat this and to provide detailed advice about the various scam types.
If you have been subject to a scam, there is a lot of support and understanding available. Victim Support Scotland is an organisation that will provide support with no judgement and advice for all who need it. Scammers are people who play on our emotions, they are experienced in appealing to our trust and the emotional distress that they cause is not to be underestimated.
Financial Services Authority: