Phone, online, postal or doorstep. The young, the old and the in-between. Scams come in all shapes and sizes, and affect everyone. Launching in Scotland on Thursday July 2nd, Scams Awareness Month 2015 (SAM 2015) is part of the fightback.
Throughout SAM 2015, Citizens Advice Scotland and their member bureaux across the country will be urging people to 'end the call, trash the email, rip-up the letter and close the door'. The drive is backed by Police Scotland, Trading Standards, Neighbourhood Watch Scotland and Scottish Water.
"The victims of scams, who come from all walks of life, shouldn't feel daft," said Citizens Advice Scotland Campaigns Officer Daniel Gray. "These are often intricate schemes which mould to the conditions of the day. This year, we expect to see scams linked to the new opening-up of the pension system, for instance. But we want to help people empower themselves. Scammers don't care about their victims' feelings, and members of the public shouldn't be afraid to reject the call and shut the door. We should feel like we can talk about the scams we've heard about - a good old fashioned case of spreading the word, but perhaps via social media and other means."
Scams can also be reported to local CAB offices, to the Citizens Advice consumer service (03454 04 05 06) or to Action Fraud (0300 123 2040). Since Scams Awareness Month began three years ago, the amount of schemes being reported to CABs in Scotland has doubled. Every CAB in Scotland has campaign materials for the public to pop-in and take, and many are partaking in extra local events and activities.
Inspector Brian Mackay of Police Scotland said: “Doorstep crime can affect anyone but we know that the over 60's and the more vulnerable are targeted by these criminals. Bogus callers and rogue traders can be extremely convincing in how they present themselves and win over the confidence of potential victims. Sadly, many people are convinced by their lies.
“We don’t recommend dealing with cold-callers for any form of property maintenance or repair to your home, so if you have any doubts, do not let them into your house.
“If you are aware of any suspicious activity taking place at the home of a neighbour, friend or family member, then please contact us immediately.”
Gordon Robb, Chair of SCOTSS (Society of Chief Officers of Trading Standards in Scotland) said, “Local authority Trading Standards services fully support the need for public awareness campaigns like Scams Awareness Month and are happy to be working again with Citizens Advice at both a national and local level to get the message out.
Scams can cause significant financial harm and mental anguish to the uninformed or vulnerable consumer and regulation or enforcement alone can never be the solution. So I hope that more people than ever will take the opportunity that the campaign presents in getting to better understand how to protect themselves, their family and neighbours."
Neighbourhood Watch Scotland added: "Action Fraud and Neighbourhood Watch Scotland both send out targeted alerts on scams through the safety messaging system Neighbourhood Alert. You can sign up here http://www.neighbourhoodwatchscotland.co.uk/pages/3507/1/Sign_up_for_alerts.html"
Peter Farrer, Scottish Water’s Chief Operating Officer, said: “Scottish Water is pleased to support the Scams Awareness Month campaign, which reinforces our Bogus Caller campaign message. Scottish Water workers are highly visible in communities across Scotland. Unfortunately, there are occasionally people who take advantage of the essential work we do by posing as bogus water employees.
“Scams Awareness Month is an opportunity to remind all customers of our essential advice – don’t let anyone into your home until you are sure of their identity. All our employees carry identity cards, which they will happily show on request.
“If you’re on your own and feel that you need more support then call a neighbour or a friend, and if you are at all worried about a caller, then please contact the police straight away. The advice is easy to remember – just 3 C’s – card, check and call.”