Preventative spend: research 2018

Findings of a review of existing research and evidence on the financial costs of scams to the Scottish economy to identify and measure preventative strategies designed to reduce their impact. Research conducted by EKOS Economic and Social Research.

4. Scam Prevention Measures

4.1 Introduction

This section provides an overview of some scam prevention activities that exist in Scotland – both a summary of some of the main national services and sources of information and case studies of specific initiatives which have been highlighted through this research.

It is intended to present a review of the wide range of preventative measures already being delivered.

4.2 Nuisance Calls Commission – Action Plan

The Scottish Government convened the Nuisance Calls Commission in 2016, bringing together key regulatory, industry and consumer group stakeholders with an interest in preventing nuisance calls. The Commission culminated in the publication of an Action Plan in September 2017.

It was recognised that nuisance calls are a complex issue that can only be solved by a combination of solutions, and would be difficult to eradicate altogether. The actions outlined are divided into three categories:

  • empowering and protecting individuals:
    • fund 500 call blockers for vulnerable people, overseen by Trading Standards Scotland, building on good practice previously developed (see East Renfrewshire case study, below)
    • raise awareness of protection options by continuing to support/fund campaign activity
    • measure impact and ensure future actions are evidence-based (this report was published in December 2017, see below)
  • encouraging better business behaviour:
    • raise awareness of existing regulations
    • explore future collaboration with financial providers
    • encourage best practice among businesses, e.g. becoming TPS assured
    • update the Scottish Government's Business Pledge to include criteria around protecting and supporting vulnerable customers;
  • improving government and public agency responses:
    • update impact assessments to consider impact on consumers of new policy, e.g. nuisance call firms claiming to be affiliated with government initiatives such as energy efficiency schemes
    • ensure government schemes meet best practice e.g. preventing contractors from cold calling
    • amend telephone systems so that Scottish Government outbound calls start displaying their number, and work with other public agencies to do likewise
    • work to improve regulatory solutions
    • develop a scams prevention strategy to ensure a more co-ordinated cross-agency response to all types of scams.

Research undertaken by Antelope Consulting in 2017 looked at the effectiveness of the proposed measures, what impact they would have on consumers, and made recommendations for the implementation of the Action Plan.[9]

More information: research on nuisance calls action plan impacts

4.3 Action Fraud

Action Fraud is the UK's national reporting centre for fraud and cyber-crime, although it does not deal directly with the public or businesses in Scotland.

While it does not have investigative powers, the information is passed to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau who use it to identify serial offenders, organised crime gangs and established as well as emerging crime types.

The Action Fraud website has a large amount of information on types of fraud as well as news and alerts on methods being used by criminals.

It has however limited information on Scotland and they were not able to provide us with any relevant data.

visit the Action Fraud website

4.4 Age Scotland

Age Scotland provide information and advice to people and families, operating a national telephone helpline for the last 20 years and providing printed information and online information for topics popular with older people.

They are also involved in public policy/public affairs influencing work that would have a positive effect on older people.

In particular, they were a member of the Adult Protection Policy Forum (closed 2 years ago after the Adult Protection Support Act was mainstreamed). The Scottish Government lead this Forum and had Financial Harm as one of its priorities. In addition, the Financial Harm Co-ordination Group (currently led by Paul Comely, National Audit Protection Co-ordinator (based at Stirling University), of which Age Scotland is a member, is also being closed by the Scottish Government. Age Scotland also have a Money Advice Service funded project called "Money Matters", which focussed on boosting the financial capability of older people, but this will close in February with the MAS instead focussing its latest round of funding on younger people.

They take part in Scams Awareness Month, but use their own channels to advertise it. In previous years, they sent out 100,000 calendars (in which one month would give advice on how to protect themselves from scams), but Scottish Government funding for this has been discontinued. The calendars were made available through GP surgeries and libraries and every MSP was asked how many they wanted, who then distributed these through their own networks.

They now fund a smaller run of 20,000 calendars, but scams is now not included.

They have been involved in the Police anti-doorstep crime campaign – Operation Monarda, which involved media work, enforcement track-downs, targeting known persons of interest in local areas who get a knock on the door, with high profile arrests being made. They issue their own promotional materials on who may be vulnerable and give advice and guidance at the door.

Age Scotland are trying to get a more structured relationship with Police Scotland, The Pensions Regulator, Pensions Advisory Service so that people can be referred direct to them and hope this will be in place soon (months, rather than years).

They aim to get the message out regarding doorstep crime and advise older people that if someone comes to their door, to say that they use Care and Repair to undertake any work that is needed, so that they are no longer perceived as a "good mark".

They also encourage older people to make preparations in advance if they are losing capacity in promoting the use of a Power of Attorney (including setting restricted capacity), which should help in minimising scams when they become vulnerable.

4.5 Age UK

The Age UK network includes Age Scotland, Age Cymru and Age NI and more than 150 local Age UKs throughout England.

Age UK provides information and advice through its helpline and on its website through a dedicated advice portal for scams and frauds. It supports people through information and advice and advises how to spot, avoid and report common types of fraud, particularly those targeted at older people, such as pension and investment scams. There is also advice on the support available for scam victims.

Age UK signposts people who have been victims of a scam in general to Citizens Advice and/or Action Fraud.

Visit the Age UK website

The local Age UKs in addition to providing information and advice also provide other services like raising awareness in the community of doorstep scams and provide support to victims, which in one area involved funded intensive work with a befriending element included.

Work is ongoing from the City Bridge Trust which is funding 4 local Age UKs in London to pilot victim support, raising awareness and scam prevention which may be rolled out across the rest of the UK. This is being done in collaboration with Action Fraud in respect of the media, joint press on romance fraud and reporting fraud.

4.6 Angus Council – Operation Carpus

Operation Carpus was a joint initiative between trading standards, social work and Police Scotland in Angus, which identified those at risk of financial harm through scams and then provided them with support and assistance.

Through the National Trading Standards Board (the England and Wales equivalent of TSS), Angus Council Trading Standards were able to access the details of 193 occurrences on a so called 'suckers list' of names and address within Angus known to be susceptible to scams and circulated among criminals.

A screening process took place, removing those known to be deceased, admitted into care homes or moved to other local authority areas. Community police officers then visited the remaining addresses, with 111 visits completed and a feedback form filled out at each. The average age of those visited was 72, ranging from 32 to 95.

Of the 111 individuals visited, 16 (14%) had lost money to scams with a total loss of £155,005 (range of the loss was £25 to an estimate of £100,000).

More than half (55%) of the total, and 81% of those identified as most vulnerable. said they were still receiving approaches from scammers.

The potential savings identified for this small group within the Angus area was £1.5m. The operation also led to improved links between partners for scam prevention and provided a process for future victims. This includes information sharing between the police and trading standards.

4.7 The Banking Protocol

This new scheme is aimed at ensuring banks and police are more active in protecting customers. It is being run as a joint venture between the police, Financial Fraud Action - which represents banks - and National Trading Standards.

All bank staff are to be trained to spot signs that a customer may be withdrawing cash to give to a scammer.

Police hope the scheme will help reduce financial crime by spotting scams before money has been handed over.

The plan is also to train every single front-facing employee of banks, building societies and Post Offices.

4.8 Citizens Advice Scotland

Citizens Advice Scotland represents 61 member bureaux in Scotland, with 79 offices covering all 32 Local Authority areas.

Last year CAS advised on 590,000 new issues through their bureaux, of which 1203 issues related to scams, with a further 1033 being reported through their consumer helpline.

The Citizens Advice Scotland website provides general advice on spotting and reporting scams. If a victim has been scammed and lost money, CAS advise them to report directly to Action Fraud or CAS assist them to report the scam.

If however physical violence or threat is involved, CAS encourage people to call the police.

CAS works closely with Trading Standards, and ask clients to phone the consumer helpline or pass their concerns direct to Trading Standards. The consumer helpline also pass client concerns to Trading Standards, who can take criminal action if appropriate.

Citizens Advice scams resources

CAS help organise Scams Awareness Month, a national campaign which takes place in June or July each year to increase awareness of fraud. Scams Awareness Month is done as part of a conglomerate called the UK Consumer Partnership and includes CAS, the Competition and Markets Authority, the Financial Conduct Authority and Trading Standards. CAS takes forward the Scottish part of the campaign.

The 2017 campaign focused on the 'life established' group aged 45-60s, young people, older people (over 70s) and socially isolated people, and sought to tackle underreporting and stigma associated with scams. The campaign ran for four weeks, each week focussing on one group per week.

In Scotland, 56 events were held by local citizens advice bureaux, engaging 7,600 people directly, with a further 65,500 reached through social media. 96 items were also carried in national and local media.

In 2016, the campaign looked at the different methods used by scammers, with 340 organisations being involved across the UK.

Citizens Advice Bureau and Trading Standards work together to put forward national messages to the public, however grant funding is also given to local bureaux so that the message can be tailored to target particular groups within individual communities, with an aim to raising people's awareness early and before they fall victim to a scam.

Campaign materials are distributed through GP Surgeries, libraries, local partners and community groups, coffee mornings, social media and local Trading Standards.

Training is undertaken with Social Policy Co-ordinators to spot social policy cases, of which there were 7000 last year.

All advisors are trained for 6 months and the CAB has an online advice portal (Advisornet) to which they can refer to ensure that advice is the same and consistent across the bureaux.

In addition, CAS has a self-help website called Advice for Scotland.

4.9 Cold Call Ban 2019

The government plans to introduce a pensions cold calling ban. This will not be included in the Financial Guidance and Claims Bill, meaning legislation may be delayed until 2019.

This will cover UK calls only though, and does not cover the EU/outwith the EU.

4.10 Consumer Protection Partnership

The CPP brings together consumer bodies covering all aspects of consumer protection. It represents consumer advocates and consumer law enforcers from all parts of the UK who are uniquely placed to work together to help tackle the issues facing consumers today.

It produces a yearly report which sets out the work that the CPP has undertaken over the previous year on behalf of consumers, and touches on the areas of concern for the coming year where the Partnership will prioritise its efforts.

Consumer Protection Partnership update report 2017

4.11 Crimestoppers

Crimestoppers is a national organisation, based in London, which yearly help to solve and prevent thousands of crimes. Their helpline gives people the power to speak up anonymously about criminal behaviour, crime that has happened or going to happen.

Contacting the Crimestoppers helpline anonymously ensures that the caller will not be contacted by police, be asked to give a witness statement or have to go to court.

Crimestoppers website also provides information on their website about how to avoid being scammed.

They helpline routinely take information about fraud, however scams is not a category that they currently routinely collect information on and is not identified separately. Their range of callers tend to be compared to the general public in terms of spread of age and sex, however there tends to be more calls from BEM groups, who may be more apprehensive about contacting the authorities.

Crimestoppers have a partnership with the Post Office which started as a result of cash in transit crime. Their joint working aims to highlight a whole range of frauds/scams such as romance fraud, medical scams, inheritance scams, prize draw scams amongst their customer base to try and help people avoid being victims. The partnership work closely with Age UK and Age Concern because of the mail scam demographic.

They share any relevant information with Action Fraud, some of which results from Government campaigns on social media, the Take 5 Campaign and Cyber Aware.

4.12 Cyber Aware

This is a Home Office led initiative which provides resources to companies and charities and has a similar message to Crimestoppers, Action Fraud and Lloyds Bank. It undertakes research around the messaging to keep yourself safe online.

This new scheme is aimed at ensuring banks and police are more active in protecting customers. It is being run as a joint venture between the police, Financial Fraud Action - which represents banks - and National Trading Standards.

4.13 Don't Be Fooled - Money Mules Campaign

Don't Be Fooled is a partnership between FFA UK and Cifas. It aims to inform students and young people about the risks of giving out their bank details, and deter them from becoming money mules, where ordinary bank accounts are used to hold and transfer payments on behalf of criminals.

money mules campaign

4.14 East Renfrewshire Prevention Team

East Renfrewshire Council has undertaken a range of activity aimed at tackling scam activity in the area.

In 2012, East Renfrewshire Trading Standards joined up with teams in Angus and East Dunbartonshire to assess the scale of the nuisance call problem, and to run a three month trial of different call blocking technologies.

It was the first time such a project had ever been undertaken in the UK, and following its success, has since been taken up by 150 other local authorities.

Building on this, the council established a dedicated Prevention Team in 2014 which works closely with other service providers (e.g. social work, NHS, Royal Mail and local charities/support networks) with a focus on tackling scams, particularly those targeting vulnerable residents.

This has included leafleting and poster campaigns and media activity to raise awareness of scams, and direct interventions to support those who have been victims or could be potential victims.

Key interventions have been:

  • Call Blocking Equipment: offered free, with a cost to the council of £100 per kit, and rolled out to 500 residents. Over five years, estimated cost savings are in the range of £2,913 to £7,827 per resident, taking into account that it can allow older people in stay in their own homes for longer and reduces social care costs (by creating fewer problems for carers to tackle), as well as the direct savings made by avoiding fraud. The equipment has blocked 95% of nuisance calls, a figure of over 260,000. The infographic below provides more information on the scheme, with figures based on 450 kits being installed, with an estimated cost benefit ratio of 54:1;
  • Confidence at Home Packs: 8,964 information packs with 'no cold calling' stickers and advice on avoiding scams were circulated. The council estimate potential cost savings of £100 per pack per resident and £100 per pack for public spending. If one in three packs were used, total cost savings have been estimated at just under £600,000;
  • Scam Mail project: the council received 31 referrals regarding mail scams, where victims had lost a combined figure of c. £350,000. After intervention, which has included giving advice to victims and their family on mail redirection, providing links to support groups to tackle isolation and offering call blocker installation, this was reduced to £2,000.

The call blocking equipment used in East Renfrewshire has also provided useful data on the nature of nuisance calls.

In 2017, an average of 52 nuisance calls were received each month per kit, with 6% of participants receiving an average of 100 or more.

Figure 4.1: Impact of East Renfrewshire Call Blocker Scheme
infographic showing impact of East Renfrewshire Call Blocker Scheme

More information can be found at: East Renfrewshire Council - scams resources

4.15 National Trading Standards

National Trading Standards is responsible for gathering important intelligence from around the country to combat rogue traders and tackle a number of priorities. These priorities currently include mass marketing and internet scams, illegal money lending and other enforcement issues that go beyond local authority boundaries.

NTS work closely with mail providers to provide training and guidance on how to identify scam mail. This involves a 2 day training course/guidance, then an audit is undertaken of trainees' opinions on the mail. If the trainer does not agree, the trainee has to go back and retrain. This relationship was borne of early partnership working between Trading Standards, Fife Council and Royal Mail and has now been rolled out across the country.

They worked intensively to combat scams, with their National Scams Team of 18 now having a database of 300,000 victims and 90% of Local Authorities recording local victim information.

The organisation has both a data team and also a project team who run their campaigns, such as Friends against Scams. This involves getting friends/family to identify markers/signs of being a victim (for example through excessive use of their cheque books, loads of mail, loads of calls, other indicators such as not using their heat/light).

On 22 January NTS launched the 1 Million Friends by 2020 campaign and also have other projects, for example, Mail Marshalls which empowers scam victims to take a stand by providing the scam mail which continues to come to them to National Trading Standards.

Working as part of the Joint Fraud Taskforce, this work has included an investigation scheme to stop scam mail getting into the mail system in the first place and to date 9 million pieces of mail have been intercepted.

NTS also works with Banks, the Association of Adult Social Care, Public health, all Local Authorities, Citizens Advice and utility providers.

4.16 Neighbourhood Watch

Neighbourhood Watch's online knowledge database includes advice on how to prevent being a victim of a scam. It also gives other handy resources Neighbourhood Watch scams resources.

This includes links to (amongst others) The Metropolitan Police which gives similar advice to that of Police Scotland on how to identify scams, how to prevent scams and how to report scams. Metropolitan Police - reporting fraud.

4.17 Neighbourhood Watch Scotland

Neighbourhood Watch Scotland has an online resource for Safer Communities which includes information on scams and provides a link so an individual (after registering) can be alerted to scams in their area.

There is no online reporting link to Police Scotland on the Neighbourhood Watch Scotland website.

Neighbourhood Watch Scotland - scam alerts

4.18 Ofcom

Ofcom work collaboratively with the Information Commissioner's Office. They co-operate with each other, giving technical advice and pass on information and seek advice on investigations which are underway.

They are also involved in Project Falcon with the Metropolitan Police which looks at scams enabled by telecoms, and work the National Crime Agency and City of London Police.

This includes trying to combat spoof numbers and smishing.

They are working collaboratively with the banks and telecom providers to update these messages to stop scams, as currently text message accumulators on mobiles will put these messages in with legitimate messages from your bank.

Ofcom also liaises with Finance UK to try to understand the scale of the problem as their customers complain to them if they have been scammed.

They are looking at the rules which are used to determine whether a website is legitimate or not and are also looking at incoming messages, data analytics and the use of AI.

Authentication through third party certification is going to be extended to telephony. This is a new feature of telecoms which is being implemented throughout the world, recognising the danger of being able to put any identity into any phone call.

The authentication protocol will be rolled out over the next 3-5 years and will work in the background. This will identify any person who is not who they say they are and will help address the problem. North America and the USA are implementing this over the next 18 months or so, however there are a number of conditions which are president one of which is not enough people are on the new technology (ie SIP lines). Everyone has to be on SIP lines for this to work, so this could take up to 5 years to address.

They have put a number of measures in place (no detail provided) which have led to a decline in bulk calls which can lead to some criminal behaviour but mostly not.

4.19 Police Scotland

The Police Scotland website offers an overview of common types of fraud, how to avoid falling victim to them, and details on how to report fraud.

Police Scotland - fraud victims support

In 2014, Police Scotland ran a Beat Doorstep Crime campaign, with online advice and leaflets and posters made available. As part of the campaign, a Nominated Neighbour Scheme was established in cooperation with Trading Standards Scotland. The scheme is aimed at over 60s and provides a mechanism whereby a neighbour is contacted in the event of an unexpected doorstep call. The neighbour then verifies if the caller is genuine and, if so, accompanies them to the house.

Police Scotland - beat doorstep crime campaign

4.20 The Pensions Regulator

The Pensions Regulator has an online resource which gives advice on how to protect yourself from being the victim of a pension scam and are working to raise public awareness of the issue.

The Pensions Regulator - Pension Scams advice

TPR acts as lead for Project Bloom and work closely with government, regulators, financial services bodies and criminal justice agencies through their Scorpion campaign to disrupt and prevent scams. This joint work includes investigation, arrest and prosecution, issuing executed warrants and closing down fraudulent websites. Individuals reporting scams to the TPR are directed to Action Fraud as the central point of collection. From there intelligence is matched with anything else they have or other partner who has an ongoing case.

Organisations they work with include the National Crime Agency, Serious Fraud Office, City of London Police (incorporating Action Fraud and the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau), regional police, regional crime units, Financial Conduct Authority, Insolvency Service, Solicitors Regulatory Authority, the Information Commissioner's Office, HMRC, DWP, the Treasury, Money Advice Service, Pensions Advisory Service, Pension Wise, industry groups, pension providers and administrators, the Pensions Liberation Group.

The Pensions Regulator provide campaign materials for use in transfer packs for those with pensions worth more than £30,000, however this is just provided and not mandated.

The TPR have taken action to ban people from acting as trustees of pension schemes over suspicions that millions of pounds were scammed from investors using schemes of which they were trustees. These people gambled scheme assets on high risk investments that are now worth a tiny fraction of what was put into them.

They have also alerted the public to rogue pension websites carrying anti-scam messages to try to trick consumers into believing that they are legitimate businesses.

4.21 Scam Smart

ScamSmart is a Financial Conduct Authority campaign providing information on how to avoid investment and pension scams.

As well as general advice, a drop down menu lists common types of investment/pension scam and provides information on the risks related to specific kinds of scam. There is also a warning list of firms to avoid and a link to the FCA's registered of regulated firms.

4.22 Take Five

Led by the FFA and backed by the government and a wide range of partners, Take Five is a national campaign that offers advice to help protect consumers from preventable financial fraud, including phone, email and online fraud. The campaign is based on the idea that preventing fraud 'can be as simple as encouraging people to take a moment to stop and think'. The advice is focused on helping consumers and businesses to spot the signs of fraud.

Take Five campaign

4.23 Telephone Preference Service (TPS)

The TPS is a free service which enables consumers to opt out of receiving unsolicited calls for direct marketing purposes, maintained by Ofcom and enforced by the ICO.

Research into the effectiveness of the TPS was undertaken in 2014[10], involving a randomised panel keeping a diary of all unwanted calls, comparing those using TPS and those without it. Key findings were:

  • over two periods of four week research, those who became registered with TPS saw a larger decline in the number of live sales/marketing calls than those who did not; and
  • almost half (45%) of those registered with TPS received no nuisance calls, compared with 26% of those who were not.

TPS covers more than half of households in all but one local authority area of Scotland (Eilean Siar), with a national average of 73%.[11]

4.24 WHICH?

Which? is a membership organisation which, as well as giving advice on product Best Buys/Don't Buys are all about championing consumer rights.

They launched a campaign about two years ago which looked at the UK Government's Joint Work taskforce.

They had noticed a theme within frauds which centred, in particular, around bank transfers (which are non-refundable and could be for a life-changing sum of money). In the last year or so they have been looking at what the regulator is currently doing and what more can be done by the regulator to stop consumers falling victim and being left out of pocket.

They put in a Super Complaint to the Payment Systems Regulator as no-one was recording this type of fraud and it was not much of a priority to the banking industry as it was not liable. As a result of the Super Complaint the industry now has to provide statistics and is getting better at reporting/sharing data. The first set of statistics from January to June 2017 showed that between January-June 2017 over £100M was lost by consumers (including businesses), with only £25M being reimbursed.

Which? works closely with Action Fraud and City of London Police, but also work with other charities – primarily Age UK – and have links with Trading Standards, Cyber Aware, the Home Office, Take 5, and the Consumer Protection Partnership.

Their work in Scotland has been primarily around nuisance calls. This is a separate campaign but is linked because nuisance callers could potentially be scammers too.

They have historically spent much time looking at payments systems and how scammers exploit these. They are now looking at campaigns going forward which looks at where other businesses in the chain can protect consumers eg Air BnB rentals – scammers ask individuals to contact them off the Air BnB website, so they lose the guarantees and protections on the website.



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