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.
We know that scams can impact anyone, and the cost that they can inflict is enormous. It is clear that scams – and the fraudulent criminal activity that they represent – can also have severe financial consequences for the economy as a whole, as well as the individuals who are personally impacted.
But as we’re all too aware, for individuals the harm created by scammers is not only reflected in a bank balance – there is significant, and equally concerning personal consequences to being scammed. People can experience emotional harm, ranging from stress and anxiety to anger and embarrassment.
What this means is that the overall cost to Scotland of scams is not only economic, but also social. In the current climate of Covid-19 recovery efforts, effectively addressing scams can contribute towards the longer-term growth of a sustainable wellbeing economy.
This new Scams Prevention, Awareness & Enforcement Strategy will facilitate a more coordinated approach to tackling scams in Scotland, and deliver improved outcomes for a diverse range of people through the introduction of a new strategic framework focused on three pillars:
(1) Prevention and Disruption;
(2) Awareness and Education; and
At the heart of this strategy are the needs of those individuals either at risk of, or who have been impacted by scams in Scotland. The actions presented here will move us towards a “whole person, whole system” support model in Scotland for those victimised by scammers.
People should not be made to feel ashamed, or helpless. They must have a clear understanding of who to go to when they need help, and be able to report scams quickly and receive appropriate feedback on how action has been taken in response. And they must be able to readily and effectively access advice and support to meet all their needs.
This can provide closure for the individual, but can also help build confidence and trust in communities that their rights and their interests are being protected.
We must also enable people to take control when they do become exposed to this criminal activity. This strategy focuses on steps that we can take to build individual – and in turn, community level – resilience against falling victim to a scam. Education and awareness raising of the risks posed by scammers – their modus operandi and tell-tale signs – can enable people to spot scams and avoid them in the first place.
We need to embed scams literacy into wider society, through drawing on the reach, trust and legitimacy of education providers, including schools and training provided at work. Knowledge is power.
On this basis, meaningful, complementary and year-round messaging and campaign activities aimed at the general public will further be promoted. Scammers are not constrained by borders or time zones, and will always look to take advantage of new government announcements, or product and service launches. This means that prevention messaging must be as fleet of foot, and continuous.
There is also a role for digital technology and innovation in key sectors, such as telecommunications and banking. Where prevention can be integrated into processes, we can reduce the onus on the individual to be their own first line of defence.
We also need to make sure we’re using what are increasingly becoming limited resources to best effect across the wider prevention landscape – we need to collaborate, and be strategic in our investments so we are not duplicating efforts.
That is why underpinning all of the actions that are set out in this strategy is a recognition of the importance of positive partnership working, collaboration and coordination of interventions – all the way from local trading standards and community networks, to national level representative groups for industry, regulators and other key enforcement bodies and advice service providers.
The actions we will take under this strategy will set us on the right course to agree a more consistent means of measuring and monitoring the scale and depth of scams activities in Scotland. We will work with partners to take a more proactive approach to addressing new and emerging trends in the methods and intent of scammers, through the effective sharing of scams data and intelligence across the public, private and third sector. And we will look for new opportunities to strengthen the wider advice, support and enforcement landscape, making it easier for individuals to navigate – we must reduce complexity and confusion.
I don’t underestimate the challenge we face in achieving this. There is no silver bullet or single solution. I’m sorry to say that it is unlikely we will ever be able to completely eradicate scams or their impacts in Scotland.
I am, however, fully committed to doing all we can as a government, working in partnership with the wider advice and regulatory 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 we must ensure support is accessible for those people who lose out as a result of this disgraceful activity.
The actions set out in this strategy represent a framework for working across Scotland to deliver our visionto establish Scotland as an inhospitable environment for scammers to operate and exploit people, where people feel safe against the risk posed by scams and can readily access effective support to meet their needs.
By setting the right course, and continuing to work closely with the many organisations – from local to national level – who are already tackling scammers on the frontline, and supporting those at risk or who have been victimised, we will meet these aims. Scams have no place in a Fairer Scotland, and we will do all we can as a government to combat them for the betterment of individuals, families and communities.