Prevention, awareness raising and enforcement action targeted.
A new national partnership will be established to tackle the significant on-going threat of scams, amid concerns of a rise in this criminal activity among fraudsters during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The creation of the Scottish Scams Prevention Partnership is at the heart of the Scams Prevention, Awareness & Enforcement Strategy. It sees a three-pronged approach introduced focussing on prevention and disruption, awareness and education, along with enforcement.
Consumer bodies have reported a significant rise in activity during the pandemic, with reports of scammers impersonating NHS staff and council staff in order to defraud vulnerable individuals.
Business Minister Jamie Hepburn said:
“Scamming is a criminal offence – it is a form of fraud. We must tackle scams in the same way that we do any other type of criminal activity, with the full power of the relevant enforcement bodies and through a wider process of public education, resilience building and stakeholder coordination.
“Given the economic uncertainty we now face in light of the current global pandemic, and the increased vulnerable circumstances that many people are finding themselves in, it is essential that we tackle this issue head on.
“I am fully committed to doing all we can as a Government, working in partnership with the wider advice and enforcement landscape to make life harder for scammers, and improve the lot of those targeted by scams.
"We must make it as hard as possible to perpetrate this crime in Scotland and ensure support is accessible for those people who lose out as a result of this disgraceful activity."
The new partnership will build on the work of the current Advisory Group whose members have included Police Scotland, Trading Standards Scotland, Advice Direct Scotland and Citizen's Advice Scotland, amongst others.
Assistant Chief Constable Pat Campbell said:
"Police Scotland welcomes the publication of the Scottish Government’s new Scams Prevention, Awareness and Enforcement Strategy. This represents the next step forward in embedding a more strategic and coordinated approach to tackling this criminal activity across Scotland and making the country a hostile environment for criminals to operate. We remain absolutely committed to working with our key stakeholders to improve the consumer journey for those impacted by scams."
Chair of the Society of Chief Officers of Trading Standards in Scotland (SCOTSS) Graeme Paton said:
“SCOTSS welcomes the publication of Scotland’s Scams Prevention, Awareness & Enforcement Strategy and we are keen to continue contributing to its evolution and implementation, having input to its development. Scottish local authority Trading Standards professionals deal with the victims of scams on a daily basis so we look forward to this strategy leading improvements in our ability to protect the public from the scourge of scams and, together with other enforcement partners, taking action against the fraudsters responsible.”
Further information on the Scams Prevention Strategy Partnership & Advisory Group
Industry body UK Finance has reported almost 15,000 instances of impersonation scams between January and June 2020, which represented a 84% increase compared to the same period the previous year.
Scottish consumers have reported scammers cold calling households and posing as Red Cross or NHS workers to collect donations for fake COVID-19 charities, according to Trading Standards Scotland. Other scammers have posed as local council staff and offered to buy groceries for self-isolating or shielding individuals, taking their money but failing to return.