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Trading Standards and Citizens Advice launch new anti-scams Initiative   

July is Scams Awareness Month and The Highland Council’s Trading Standards team is joining forces with Citizens Advice Bureaux to warn consumers about the risks of being caught out.

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Trading Standards Manager Gordon Robb explained: “Many modern scams are perpetrated from overseas and often the only realistic and effective way to combat them is to raise awareness and stop people becoming victims in the first place. To address this we are delighted to be working together with our local Citizens Advice Bureaux on this campaign which will involve a number of events up and down the Highlands."  

Manager of Inverness, Badenoch & Strathspey CAB Alasdair Christie added: “Scams come in all shapes & sizes. Our campaigning materials will encourage the public to ‘End the call, trash the email, rip-up the letter and close the door. Further, those who suspect scams are being asked to spread the word, with the hope of protecting others. Every week we see clients in our CAB offices that have had bad experiences with scams these range from Prize draws, sweepstakes and foreign lottery scams, miracle health cures, fake websites, copycat websites and false employment opportunities. Often the perpetrators of these scams prey on the elderly and vulnerable members of our communities.”

One developing trend identified by Trading Standards in Highland is a practice that has been dubbed a “Hoax Location Scams”. This is where an online scammer, usually based outwith the UK, adopts a false Highland business address. This gives them a spurious UK credibility and to Highland consumers they appear to be local. Then the scam occurs, as Gordon Robb explains: “The scammer gets the consumer’s money under false pretences; it might be a payment for a non-existent car, or for non-existent holiday accommodation abroad. The Highland address is subsequently discovered to be wholly false or entirely unconnected, the scammer difficult or impossible to trace, the money is lost and Highland’s reputation wrongly damaged in the process. We can and do act to have such websites taken down, but that can be too late for some victims. So this year we are launching a “name and shame” page on our website, which should show up in any web search, to alert consumers and sometimes the small businesses targeted, before they’re conned.” The anti-hoax-location initiative is part of the Highland strategy for Scams Awareness Month.

Gordon Robb continued: “We work closely with the Highland CABs in the Highland Consumer Partnership, bringing together the strengths and expertise of both organisations to the benefit of local consumers and reputable businesses. This campaign is a good example of such joint working.”

If consumers want to report a scam or receive further advice they can contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on telephone number 03454 04 05 06, or visit their local CAB. Highland consumers can also contact the Council’s Trading Standards directly either in person or in writing at: The Highland Council Trading Standards, 38 Harbour Road, Inverness IV1 1UF.

The “Hoax location scams” webpage can be found at: www.highland.gov.uk/scams

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