An event in the Scottish Parliament aimed at helping MSPs protect their constituents from scams has recently been sponsored by Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan.

The islands’ MSP hosted the reception on behalf of Advice Direct Scotland (ADS), which runs the www.consumeradvice.scot service. MSPs joined Trading Standards experts and ADS staff – including Sean Harrison, Manager of the ADS contact centre in Stornoway.

Common scams include bogus callers who are offering services such as landscape gardening or maintenance work in a bid to gain access to properties; online marketplace traders selling fake goods; and fake emails claiming to be from companies including Amazon, banks, or government departments.

Scams cost the UK economy up to £10billion a year, and 53% of people over 65 have been targeted by scams. However, only 5% of scams are reported. If more potential scams are reported to consumeradvice.scot, the organisation can work with Trading Standards and Police Scotland to raise awareness and prevent more people being scammed.

consumeradvice.scot was launched in April this year with financial support from the Scottish Government following the devolution of consumer powers, and is operated by the charity Advice Direct Scotland. It provides free, impartial and practical advice directly to consumers in Scotland.

Alasdair Allan MSP said: “Sadly, I know from my own caseload that a significant number of people in the islands fall victim to scams every year.

“Advice Direct Scotland has a significant presence in Stornoway and I was delighted to be able to sponsor this reception aiming to spread awareness of the problems and offer practical guidance to MSPs.

“By following advice from Scotland’s new consumer advice service, people can spot the tell-tale signs and avoid being left out of pocket. But there is no shame in being conned as scammers use sophisticated techniques to trick people, so it’s important to report any suspicions to consumeradvice.scot so that action can be taken.”

Andrew Bartlett, chief executive of consumeradvice.scot, said: “Realising that you may have been the victim of a scam can be extremely upsetting and worrying.

“As Scotland’s new consumer advice service, we are working hard to make people more aware of scams, and advise those who are scammed.

“It’s very important that any potential scams are reported to us as soon as possible so that we can raise awareness with Trading Standards and the police.”

Advice for residents in the Western Isles on how to avoid being scammed:

  • A genuine bank or organisation will never contact you out of the blue to ask for your PIN, full password or to move money to another account.
  • If an uninvited trader knocks on your door and tells you that urgent work needs carried out, don’t take their word for it. Always get at least three quotes from trusted companies and look up reviews of the cold caller's company online.
  • Only give your personal or financial details to use a service that you have given your consent to, that you trust and that you are expecting to be contacted by.
  • If you have made a payment, some scammers will continue to contact you to try and talk you into making further payments. As soon as you realise that it’s a scam you should stop all contact with the scammer.
  • If you’ve paid on a credit or debit card, then you can ask your card provider if they’ll refund the payment. If you paid through PayPal then you can raise a dispute and ask if they will claim the money back.
  • It’s very important that you report any potential scams as soon as possible to consumeradvice.scot, as this helps the organisation to work with others such as Trading Standards and the police.

Stornoway-based Advice Direct Scotland Manager Sean Harrison with Alasdair Allan MSP.