Highland Council Trading Standards issues advice on COVID-19 Scams
19th March 2020
In the wake of the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, Highland Council Trading Standards are issuing a warning to the public about a series of new scams related to the virus.
One is an email claiming to be from the government, offering a tax rebate to support people through this challenging period. The email, which looks official, informs the recipient of the rebate amount and requests that you click a link to receive it.
The recipient is then asked to fill in personal details, including their credit card number and address. These details allow the scammer to take money directly from the recipient's bank account.
In another email-based scam, claiming to be from the World Health Organisation (WHO). The email, claims to hold crucial coronavirus safety advice, it has an attachment which downloads a keylogger, allowing scammers to follow the online movements of the user, and in doing so gain access to the device and personal details.
Mark McGinty, Trading Standards Team Leader states, "although we have not received any information to suggest a member of the Highland community has fallen victim to such scams, it is clear that the wider picture is showing us that the scammers have arrived and are here to take advantage of the situation.
"The onset of scammers in Highland is not expected to be any different from other parts of the country, as such, we are working with our partners and will be distributing messages across all media platforms, identifying the most recent scams to inform the public. The advice as ever is if in doubt, check it out. Please don't enter into something you are not sure about."
Partner activity includes Citizens Advice Scotland who have a scam checker which you can access by visiting their website.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) have stated it will consider any evidence that companies may have broken competition or consumer protection law, for example by charging excessive prices or making misleading claims about the efficacy of protective equipment. And it will take direct enforcement action in appropriate cases.
Mark McGinty also states "I'd urge the public to be extra vigilant at this time, scams come in all forms and scammers have no conscience, they are unscrupulous, well organised, and will stoop to no low to get your money. The situation is evolving all the time and Highland Council Trading Standards will be doing its best to keep the public informed."
Members of the public wishing advice on a particular matter can contact Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000 or visit consumeradvice.scot
The Highland Council is working hard to release business grants to eligible local businesses as quickly as possible. The Council has received over 2,000 applications since the scheme was introduced last week and has set up systems to process these applications quickly while ensuring the necessary information is received.
Since The Highland Council's dedicated helpline went live last Wednesday afternoon staff have dealt with over 1,600 calls. The helpline has been set to give assistance and to collect details of individuals and community groups looking to provide volunteering support.
Council tax payers in Highland who have lost their jobs or are experiencing a drop in their income are being encouraged to apply as quickly as possible for a reduction in their council tax. This help, known as the ‘Council Tax Reduction Scheme', is available for lower income households, including home owners.
Around 19,000 business rate payers in Highland will not receive their annual rates bill this April. The Highland Council recognises the exceptional economic challenges for local business and has therefore decided to pause business rates bills in respect of financial year 2020/21.
What is 'shielding'? If you fall within one of the groups recommended to shield, you will have received a letter or text from the NHS. Shielding is a measure to protect extremely vulnerable people by minimising contact between those who are extremely vulnerable and others.
During this time of restrictions it is important that we all stay active, for our physical health and mental well being. Recreation outside is an important element of this, but it is essential that each of us practice good social distancing while outside.
The Highland Council has launched a free helpline to give assistance and to collect details of individuals and community groups looking to provide volunteering support during Covid19. The single line number - 0300 303 1362 - will connect callers to relevant Council specialist teams and will operate Monday to Friday from 8am to 6pm.
Highland Council will be providing e-vouchers to families to support access to free school meals from week commencing 30 March 2020. This innovative and easy-to-use service will ensure over 4,000 school children will continue to receive support for school meals while schools are closed.
The Council has been working at pace to set up centres for the children of key workers. Anyone who has applied for a place at one of the key worker hubs in the Highland Council area will be contacted by the end of today (Wednesday 25th) with confirmation of the arrangements that have been put in place.
THE HELPLINE GOES LIVE TODAY FROM 2:00pm ONWARDS. The Highland Council has launched a free helpline to give assistance and to collect details of individuals and community groups looking to provide volunteering support during Covid19.
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