A national campaign is currently underway to raise awareness of scams – particularly those that have emerged as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.
Pembrokeshire Trading Standards and Citizens Advice Pembrokeshire are taking part in the annual Scams Awareness campaign which has been running from the 15th June and ends on the 28th.
This year protecting people against scams is more important than ever. The coronavirus crisis means some people are facing issues - from employment and debt to housing and health - resulting in them being in vulnerable situations.
Added to this, the overall heightened uncertainty and anxiety caused by the pandemic is increasing the likelihood of falling victim to a scam.
Trading Standards wants to spread the message that scams are crimes that can happen to anyone and that we can all take a stand to help stop them.
Sandra McSparron, lead officer of the Consumer Safeguarding Team of Pembrokeshire Trading Standards said: “Increasingly we are all becoming targets of scammers, whether by telephone, internet or door to door.
“This campaign will help people spot the signs and how best to avoid them. Knowing how to spot a scam is the best line of defence to avoid being caught out.”
In Pembrokeshire some residents have been approached by rogue traders offering a range of property maintenance services from painting, power washing to roof repairs and hedge cutting. High pressure sales tactics are often used, no paperwork given and extortionate charges for often poor quality work.
Trading Standards advice is not to deal with anyone that cold calls at your home offering to do work. Instead speak to family and friends for recommendation of trades people and obtain a number of written quotes before deciding.
With more people shopping online, fake websites can be designed to steal money and personal details. People have ordered protective face masks, hand sanitiser, COVID-19 testing kits, and other products, which have never arrived. In a lot of cases, if they have arrived, they have been sub-standard.
Trading Standards offers the following tips on how to shop online safely:
· if it is a company you’ve never purchased from before, carry out some research beforehand
· use strong separate passwords for email and shopping accounts
· keep software and anti-virus protection up to date
· be careful with links in emails/texts about offers. Check the shop’s website address by typing this into a search engine instead of clicking on the link.
Forward suspicious emails to email@example.com, and the National Cyber Security Centre’s automated scanning system will check for scam emails and remove criminal sites.
Be wary of subscription traps in which ‘free trials’ of products and services are offered in a wide range of sectors and can sometimes end up costing more than people think.
Said Sandra: “We have received complaints where people have been unaware that they would be charged for items after the trial has ended and the need to pay return postage costs for the items at the end of the trial. As a result we would urge consumers to think carefully before signing-up.”
Business can also be the target for scams.
Malicious email attachments, bogus government grants, mandate fraud, demands for urgent payments, fake websites and impersonation scams are among a raft of scams undermining businesses as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sandra warned: “Criminals are trying to gain computer access or get hold of passwords and login details. Once they have access, criminals can search the hard drive for valuable information.”
If someone needs consumer advice or wishes to report a scam, they can contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 0808 223 1133 or 0808 223 1144 for a Welsh speaker. These details will be shared with Trading Standards who may also make contact by phone to offer support and advice.