- 27 Jan 2021
Attendees and apologies
- Neil Ritchie (Chair), Scottish Government (SG) – Head of Consumer, Competition and Energy Company Services Unit
- Saskia Kearns, Scottish Government – Consumer Policy and Interventions
- Pauline Scott, Scottish Government – Consumer Policy and Interventions
- Tanya Friel, Scottish Government – Consumer Policy and Interventions
- Pam Stewart, Advice Direct Scotland
- Julie McCarron, Trading Standards Scotland
- Ken Daly, SCOTSS
- Graeme Paton, SCOTSS
- Douglas Reid, Police Scotland
- Chris McColl, Police Scotland
Items and actions
Welcome and introductions
The Chair began by welcoming partners and set out the key objectives for this meeting: to reach consensus on the single point of contact model for the reporting of scams in Scotland. This will be the starting point, with the finer detail still to be discussed. All partners were happy with this approach.
Single Point of Contact Model: initial scoping
To begin discussions, the chair stated that within the current scam prevention landscape there are many opportunities to explore, which include reviewing different levels of data needed and what partners do with data.
At an operational level, it is important to consider how best to mitigate the rise in new scams as they emerge and how best to communicate these messages to the public. It was noted however that there may be sensitives in relation to data sharing and GDPR.
Following discussion it was suggested that Advice Direct Scotland (ADS) were well placed within the existing landscape to take on the role of ‘single point of contact’. ADS were invited to open the discussion with initial thoughts, with the aim to seek clarity and agreement from partners on next steps in development.
Single Point of Contact: Operational Development, re Data
A single point of contact could gather details from the public about scams and then transfer this information to organisations including Police Scotland (PS) and Trading Standards Scotland (TSS), who in turn would use this data accordingly, for example, enforcement.
Data therefore needs to be transferred to the correct organisation, not only for enforcement purposes but also at a local level, allowing information to be disseminated to the public, particularly the most vulnerable in society. This can be done through various channels such as through carers, family members and through systems such as the Neighbourhood Watch Scotland (NWS) Alerts service.
This will help to improve what currently exists while ensuring all types of scams are recorded from the most serious to the more day-to-day. Identifying who needs what in terms of data and how this feeds into the single point of contact is important.
The single point of contact needs to be a One Stop Shop. This is vital in ensuring the correct information is taken and people don’t need to phone or contact anyone else.
This will involve organisations, particularly PS and Trading Standards Scotland (TSS), working together as it was recognised that data is not collated for the same purpose.
This again raised the question of who needs what data and when do they need it, which is important in feeding back and understanding what happens on the journey, where everyone is kept in the loop. This also helps to set expectation, who is dealing with what and the timescales in place and to avoid duplication.
As part of the current ‘customer journey’ people can report successful or attempted scams, but there is not always an outcome or resolution. Having feedback for the customer is crucial and as such sufficient resources are needed to take this forward and ensure feedback is given to customers.
Looking at calls directed to PS, these are dealt with by visiting PS officers or by a service centre with calls triaged, appropriate officers deployed and incidents created. A team of analysts then look at various types of activities based on Modus Operandi (MO) or intelligence gathered and feed this information back. This creates opportunities for prevention as well as keeping victims of scams updated of progress although PS are unsure how well this is done at the moment.
As part of a more seamless and joined up process for customers, ADS could take details from the public and link up with partner organisations, such as TSS and PS, who would then contact people directly. It is hoped that streamlining the process will encourage people to report scams.
It is known that people can be discouraged from reporting scams if the process is complicated or unclear. It therefore needs to be easy to report and clear that reports will be dealt with.
With a vast amount of information there are multiple ways of gathering material on scams, for example through TSS, social work, adult protection and so on.
As such, the single point of contact should be more than just a phone number, but a package of support. PS were asked whether investigations are dealt with by local policing or a more centralised unit, where details are taken over the phone. PS will look to clarify this, however there may be an opportunities to take pressure off of call centres, which may include advice on specific scams, referrals for further support to organisations such as Victim Support Scotland as well as to ADS or TSS for call blockers.
Concerns were again raised that there could be issues with records of scams in the PS 101 process where a vast number of crimes are reported, and so scams may not appear on police intelligence database, but rather on their incident database. People are being asked at present to triage cases themselves and are potentially given 3 different numbers to call. Reports of scams to the single point of contact and the sharing of data needs to be done in real time, with the data being available to PS and TSS, in particular where they work together, for example on doorstep crime. There are opportunities for joint working which will achieve better outcomes. It is also important to consider how this approach would create opportunities for people to report scams even if they are not victims, through SMS for example. This would help to get prevention messages out to the public.
The marketing of any single point of contact will therefore be vital in understanding how to simplify the journey and how information is passed out to wider connections quickly, for example social care workers.
Following this discussion, ADS were asked to pull together a light touch outline of a proposal of what the model may mean in practice, if they were invited to take on the role of the single point of contact for scams in Scotland. ADS also agreed to create a diagram of the current process in place for reporting scams. This could be useful when looking at the process now and how it can be improved. There is a need to have something up front which is more than a phone number and considers advice on offer, signposting, enforcement and local community support. Partners would be invited to feedback on papers when available.
- ADS will draft a light touch outline and diagram of customer journey for comment
In terms of disseminating information, SCOTSS advised that they could play a role in sending information to Trading Standards Services, to help to coordinate the complete journey. If ADS pass information to TSS and PS, it would then be up to them individually to assess if the data is within their remit.
SG plan to take what is being envisaged and feed this back into the other working groups and the main advisory group, but will keep this light touch. The single point of contact will shape the discussions of other working groups, for example what role would other partners have, on communications side, marketing, expertise on advice and so on.
Initial Practical Considerations for Implementation
When discussing the coding of scams data, ADS advised they don’t have coding specific for scams within their current portal and are open to adapting, or implementing a coding model within their system that aligns with other partners’ needs and approaches, including TSS and SCOTSS. This may involve replicating headings, categories or definitions used. ADS are keen to develop an approach that works across the landscape.
It was suggested that the existing SCOTSS / ADS user group could be drawn on to facilitate and inform this work. The Scams Prevention Toolkit for East Renfrewshire Council, endorsed by SCOTSS, also has a list of sub categories for different scams that may be useful.
PS stated that in their crime categorisation system most scams will fall under the general heading of fraud, for which there is a single code at present. On their new crime system due to be implemented, additional tags can be added to break down that search similar to what is used by National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB).
- SG to liaise internally with relevant policy and/or statistician teams with oversight of the framework that informs Police Scotland crime categorisation, to better understand approach to coding and flexibility
Partners further discussed the point that the category or type of crime, for example doorstep, is also important in order for data to be readily used, and the nature of the crime needs to be identified. This would create a better starting point, looking at the range of scams and what is included, for example, identifying whether it is considered consumer protection or common fraud. There needs to be clarity on this issue.
PS asked about the possibility to make connections in relation to intelligence headers used such as bogus crime, credit card fraud and so on and the possibility to share these headers.
The issue of collating scams information from all partners in the scams landscape was referenced and was suggested as an area which could be discussed at the 3rd Working Group on Sharing Good Practice. There could be an opportunity as previously discussed to map the current landscape and start layering this information. The question exists of who would coordinate this work. ADS will consider this in their paper.
The Chair briefly summarised the discussion and actions and next steps listed below, before thanking partners for attending the meeting.
Next steps and actions
- ADS - ADS will draft a light touch outline and diagram of customer journey for comment
- SG - SG to liaise internally with relevant policy and/or statistician teams with oversight of the framework that informs Police Scotland crime categorisation, to better understand approach to coding and flexibility