Scams Prevention Strategy Partnership and Advisory Group - Accessing Support and Enabling People working group minutes: January 2021

Minutes from the second meeting of the group on 19 January 2021.

Attendees and apologies


  • Saskia Kearns (Chair), Scottish Government – Consumer Policy and Interventions
  • Tanya Friel, Scottish Government – Consumer Policy and Interventions
  • Jamie MacLeod, Scottish Government – Consumer Policy and Interventions
  • Pauline Scott, Scottish Government – Consumer Policy and Interventions
  • Keith McDevitt, Scottish Government – Cyber Resilience
  • Connor McKay, Scottish Government – Cyber Resilience
  • Wendy McInnes, Scottish Government – Building Safer Communities
  • Daniel Sellers, Scottish Government – Cyber Resilience
  • Michelle McKenna, Chartered Trading Standards Institute
  • Pam Stewart, Advice Direct Scotland
  • Ruth Mendel, Citizens Advice Scotland
  • David Cameron , Crimestoppers
  • Bryan MacKie, Police Scotland
  • Mark McGinty, SCOTSS
  • Paul Holland, SCOTSS
  • Julie McCarron, Trading Standards Scotland (TSS)
  • Steve Smith, TrueCall
  • Zoe Westwood, Victim Support Scotland
  • Thomas Docherty, Which? 


  • Matthew Paden, Police Scotland
  • Michelle Rennie, Victim Support Scotland
  • Mike Findlay, Victim Support Scotland
  • Hollie Gibson, Scottish Government – Building Safer Communities

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

The chair welcomed partners to this follow up meeting of Working Group 2, which is a continuation of the previous meeting of this group and will cover topics of discussion around Education and Digital innovation. 

Update WG2 meeting 1 (14 December 2020)

Scottish Government (SG) gave a quick update on the previous meeting which was held in December: The main discussion points included:

Developing a  “whole person, whole system” support package. Partners discussed the importance of providing support for wider non-financial impacts of scams. This included:

  • role of Victim Support Scotland to facilitate in this space, range of services including emotional support
  • Power of Attorney to protect consumers in vulnerable circumstances from being at higher risk via two stage banking protocol authentication
  • TrueCall also gave a short overview of findings from work undertaken by Bournemouth University on wellbeing and telephone scams, and the success of call blockers

Frontline communications and campaign messaging. Partners discussed the following:

  • the value or not of taking forwards a shared language around scams. Partners recognised the importance of sharing intelligence to inform messaging but that language may differ by circumstances – the mapping exercise currently underway as funded by Scottish Government, will help partners to understand best approach
  • recognised potential value of a strategic Comms Plan, to which some type of annual calendar of events may form part of – Cyber colleagues are taking forwards something along these lines, potential model for replication
  • campaign options were discussed for shared delivery by partners – which include Which?, ADS and TSS.  Partners agreed it was worth exploring delivery of something following publication of the Strategy, around Easter time, focused around tangible interventions and offers of support available. Proposals will be provided by lead partners for consideration shortly

It was recognised that due to current events as a result of the Covid 19 pandemic, any campaign may now need to take place later in the year. 

Areas for discussion and action – c) Education 

The purpose of this discussion is to think at a strategic level, what is already in play and where can gaps be plugged. There is already lots of good work underway in this area, particularly from Cyber colleagues, with partners asked to consider and explore further the possibilities which exist.  

Input from partners

A competition could be rolled out aimed at secondary school pupils, similar to a Trading Standards Initiative, The Young Consumer of the Year competition , which was run UK wide, and is still in play in London. This could focus on consumer rights and the impact/consequences scams can have on young people, from a legal perspective. In some areas this was embedded into the curriculum and could be a possible avenue to explore. 

This could be complemented by a package of measures, in particular, Local Authority (LA) Trading Standards have lots of material, as does Neighbourhood Watch Scotland (NWS) and the NTS Friends Against Scams, who have in-school education packages which could be considered. 

The Consumer Council In Northern Ireland also undertake lots of good work with youth groups such as Brigades and Scouts, with badge promotions for different topics. This could also be something to explore.

Action point:

  • Which? will send on contact details for Consumer Council in Northern Ireland

Young Scot have produced tools through the Digi Know programme, which is targeted towards young people in disadvantaged areas with lots of learning in the programme.

Integration of scams awareness with other school subjects and into the curriculum was also mentioned. It could be included within Personal and Social development (PSE) as well as Business Studies where learning could be specific to scams or consumer rights as a whole. There is a need to be careful not to duplicate work which already exists within schools.

Education for businesses was highlighted as an area to explore. The Business Gateway supports businesses, and can give grants to new start-ups. Business resilience training could be built into any grant conditions, where training courses need to be completed before grants are released, and could be effective with new start-ups, training the individuals to be scam aware and cyber resilient from the offset. 

Partners were advised that this is something which is actively being undertaken, by the Digital Business Gateway, where organisations get assessments on their exposure to risk. 

Partners were asked for views on whether or not the scope of the upcoming strategy should extend beyond only individuals to also include small enterprises.  It was commented that support to businesses to avoid the risk of scams often starts from the perspective of the individual – building individual resilience and awareness to avoid scams is key.  

At this point, SG Cyber Resilience Learning Coordinator gave a brief overview of their work in this area. The purpose of this segment was twofold: to provide insight into how a more strategic approach to education and skills development for prevention can be taken forward in practice, through learning from what’s been done in other related policy areas; and to provide a brief overview of potential opportunities where scams prevention work may be able to align with or build on current activities in the pipeline related specifically to cyber resilience.  

Content from the Cyber Resilience Strategy, published in 2015 was shared with partners, which detailed high level priority actions under Education, Skills and Professional development which included exploring opportunities to embed cyber resilience into curricula in all learning settings, and into teacher training.

A draft version of the revised Cyber Learning and Skills Action Plan was also shared with partners with 4 overarching aims and a set of draft actions with a mix of both high level and specific next steps. 

SG Cyber Resilience colleagues highlighted that one key point of consideration that they undertook, which would also likely be relevant to informing any strategic approach to education on scams prevention more generally, was who the audience for the work should include.  This could include not only those attending formal education setting, but also the education providers, and workplace learning.  Whether or not scams prevention education and awareness raising would also include professional skills development was raised – it was suggested that opportunities may exist for the creation of new community scams champions, and provision of local independent advocacy expertise to support those victims of scams.

From this, the idea of intergenerational learning was also discussed by partners. Trading Standards looked at ways in which young people are informed, and how this is passed onto other family members, such as grandparents. Young people want to share their knowledge with others and with one set of teaching, multiple age groups could be reached. The transferability of skills is important and Friends Against Scams have lots of good resources and knowledge which can easily be shared with others. TV advertising campaigns could also be used to encourage young people to teach their grandparents or older relatives about scams awareness. 

It is important to consider the motivations, or hooks that could be used to engage different age groups and how the topic of scams awareness is approached. An example of this could be giving advice to young people on backing up work properly. There is no one size fits all approach and different groups of people require different approaches. 

The Chair brought discussion on the agenda to a close by raising the possibility that a first step in exploring further what a more strategic approach to education and awareness raising for scams prevention might look like in practice would be to map out existing gaps and opportunities, as based on related work already in the pipeline through complementary work-streams such as Cyber Resilience.  

Areas for discussion and action – d) Digital innovation

Partners were asked to consider the role of digital innovation in this space as we see more scams moving online.  By way of an example, partners were given a quick overview of Vistalworks, a technology company which has developed a tool to help identify illicit trade, on platforms such as Amazon and Ebay. They also have a chrome plug in. 

This type of technology may not work for scams where victims have been groomed, for example romance scams, but could work for fake government websites. It could help to identify scams following Brexit, which may see an increase in scams when Covid-19 restrictions are lifted and people are able to travel. A lack of clarity around travel rules and visas, amongst other things, may spark a rise in these scams and this technology could be useful here. 

It was recognised this technology may not help to tackle ‘multi-platform scams’ which are harder to identify and address. This technology may work better for single point scams, for example, solely online, and the possibility exists to build in URLS to identify potential risk. 

This is something that Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) could promote, and could work well with HMRC scams that CAS are seeing more of. However, scammers could easily create an alternative chrome plug in so this needs to be recognised.

Action point:

  • SG to introduce TrueCall to Vistalworks to explore identification of need and the integration of call blockers as part of functionality

The Dot. Scot domain service could be useful in this space. It can monitor webpages and determine if people are being directed away from a main page webpage. This allows them to monitor internet traffic and potentially take any fake webpages down. 

Engagement with banks is also important, to determine if they can improve their systems – it was suggested by one partner that this type of sectoral engagement could be of relevance to Consumer Scotland once operational. There is already a lot of good work underway by banks but more could be done, in particular, supporting consumers to make claims and get their money back if they have been scammed.

Engagement with online sites such as Google, Facebook, Gumtree could also help to disrupt the information flow to people to prevent scams in the first instance. This is something which was raised by Ofcom previously. The flow of digital information needs to move upstream in order to prevent people falling victims to scams. 

There was debate around the use of the word ‘advocacy’ in relation to individuals. While this is really important and could be worth exploring, its use could blur the lines when considering policy advocacy. For example victims of scams are different to people who have issues with energy companies. However, people could get support from the proposed single point of contact where mixed support is made available through establishment of a best practice approach to access.  This could involve establishing a clear link between trading standards and Victim Support Scotland for people to access the support they need and also seek redress.  As part of the support offer made through such an approach, independent advocacy could feature.  Some partners comments that they were surprised the private sector had not already moved into this space of offering bespoke advocacy type support on behalf of clients to make claims and recover money lost through scams.

The question was asked about the sharing of information between banks and other financial institutions when suspicious activity is spotted, for example, several different bank accounts with different banks by the same individual. This is already on-going and information is already shared to spot these signs.

Summary and next steps

The Chair thanked partners for attending this session. A good discussion was generated on both Education and Learning and Digital Innovation and while nothing concrete has been decided on the way forward, there are lots of areas to consider, which will help build a more strategic approach. 

On Education, there is a need to think about the opportunities which exist to plug the gaps on what is currently underway. In terms of Digital Innovation, further work is needed to bring specific sectors together, such as banks and social media, where they may have a role to play further along the line. This may be something that any new partnership based group for scams prevention could take a role in facilitating.


  • Which? - to share contact details for the Consumer Council in Norther Ireland
  • SG - to introduce TrueCall to Vistalworks
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