MORE than 3,500 people have been targets of scammers in Scotland over the past year – with bogus selling making up more than a quarter of complaints.
Citizens Advice Scotland was contacted by 1,429 people who had been the victims of bogus selling scams including fake lottery wins, computer helpline tricks and calls relating to payment protection insurance claims.
Bogus selling was closely followed by verbal misrepresentation in the ranking of top scams compiled by the organisation. A total of 58 people felt they had been scammed over issues relating to their mobile phones, while solar heating had generated more than 30 claims of scamming.
“Our advisers see thousands of cases every year where consumers have fallen prey to scams or have narrowly avoided them,” said Sarah Beattie-Smith of Citizens Advice Scotland, which is running Scams Awareness Month in May to persuade more people to report scams they have fallen victim to.
“Sadly, very few of us ever report scams to the authorities. But when someone tries to con you out of money, that’s a crime. So we want to encourage everyone to fight these crimes by being more vigilant in spotting them, and then reporting them when they do happen.”
CAS said a growing trend was for victims to be asked to transfer money to the scammer using Ukash vouchers, in which they pay in cash at a shop and receive a code in return which is then sent to the retailer. Although legal, the method means the money transfer cannot be traced – leaving the victim little recourse if their goods or service are not forthcoming.
“Scams come in many different forms, but most recently we’ve seen a worrying increase in the number of cases where consumers are asked to send cash vouchers or money transfers for a service such as computer repair or a PPI refund which never materialises,” added Beattie-Smith.
“The cash vouchers in themselves are perfectly legal and a useful way to transfer money, but it’s clear that scammers are using them to earn a quick buck from vulnerable people.”
A consumer in the Highlands was called by someone claiming to be from the Office of Fair Trading who told him he was entitled to a payment protection refund.
The consumer thought this sounded legitimate, so paid £250 in a Ukash voucher to fund the service. However, the caller did not come round to the consumer’s house as agreed, but phoned back and asked for more money before they would deliver the refund.
Other scammers proved to be more menacing when confronted by the victim. A woman living in the Borders called the Citizens Advice consumer service after receiving a call from someone who told her there was a fault with her computer but reassuring her that they could fix it. She told the caller that she knew it was a scam and hung up. However, the caller kept phoning back – threatening that all the victim’s data would be wiped from her computer in the next few days unless she signed up to their services.