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
Following the freezing of some charges and suspension of enforcement for others during the lockdown period, The Highland Council has been following a phased return to normal operations since the 26th of June. Further details are given below.
Many Highland Council tenants may be missing out on help towards their rent from Universal Credit because they have not notified the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) of their annual rent increase which came into effect on the 30th March 2020. Those tenants who have not yet reported their rent increase could be facing a shortfall in the help they receive towards their rent, putting them at risk of rent arrears.
The Highland Council is updating parents and carers of its position on early learning and childcare (ELC). In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, The Scottish Government removed the statutory requirement for Local Authorities to deliver 1140 hours of ELC from August.
Following on from the recent publication of Highland Council's Supporting Economic Recovery in Highland - A Guide for Businesses - the Council is announcing relaxation of some controls that will assist tourist accommodation providers have been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. In recognition of this where there are specific planning and licensing controls in relation to occupancy, for example: a restriction on the occupancy of any caravan for a continuous 12 month period; or where conditions restrict occupancy for specific periods of time, ...these will be relaxed by the Council up to and including April 2021.
The Caithness Committee met virtual today for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic and it's agenda focused on the actions taken by the Council and the third sector to deal with the effects of Coronavirus in Caithness. The Executive Chief Officer for Education and Learning, Paul Senior, gave members an update on the plans and preparations underway to prepare for the return of pupils and staff to Caithness schools in August.
Margaret Davidson, the Leader of the Highland Council has given her strong support to the efforts of the Scottish Government to obtain greater fiscal flexibility from the UK Government. The Scottish Government have sought flexibility to offset capital underspend against resource expenditure, more flexibility over resource borrowing and greater flexibility over the use of the reserve for capital.
The Highland Council is planning to re-open play areas across the region throughout summer. Advice was provided by the Scottish Government on 28 June as to the safety measures that should be applied.
The Highland Council was one of the first local authorities in Scotland recognised to develop a Schools Digital Learning Hub, which provides a resource for staff, parents and pupils to support home learning. Prior to Covid-19, we had an estate of 27,000 Chromebooks that were already a part of our ICT in Learning Strategy.
Earlier today (Wednesday 1 July 2020) members of The Highland Council's Economy and Infrastructure Committee had the opportunity to discuss (by video conference) progress made with the Corran Ferry Project which is reviewing the options for securing a replacement ferry and considering the way forward for the future operation and management of the service. The Corran ferry service has reached a critical point and strategic decisions need to be made.
As Scotland prepares for the easing of lockdown and the re-opening of the tourism and hospitality sector, The Highland Council's Environmental Health are advising holiday accommodation providers to make sure their private water supplies are safe to drink. A large number of self-catering and tourist accommodation in the Highlands are served by private water supplies and with these being closed during the lockdown period, the water supply system may not have been maintained and could create a risk to the quality and safety of the drinking water.