Trading Standards is warning everyone across the country to expect an increase in loan sharks and home power sellers due to the cost of living crisis.
The crisis will provide opportunities for fraudsters to exploit financially desperate audiences, especially the most vulnerable, the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) has said. Some of the likely consequences include an increase in loan sharking and door-to-door energy tariff gouging, as well as other “dodgy savings schemes”.
The CTSI warning follows Ofgem raising its energy price cap by 54% or £693 from April 1, while the Bank of England reported UK inflation hit 5 .5% in January – the highest rate since March 1992.
The CTSI said the tough economic environment has created a “perfect storm” for consumers.
CTSI chief executive John Herriman said: “The cost of living crisis is likely to lead to a significant increase in consumer detriment that the UK has not seen in decades.
“The Covid pandemic has warned us of the depths to which some will sink through the scams that have emerged from it. For the unscrupulous, crises are opportunities to take dishonest advantage of the most vulnerable.
Local trading standards departments, working in partnership with other agencies, have continually addressed the challenges of consumer protection, but it has become increasingly difficult after funding cuts of 50% over the past decade .
He explained: “Gaps in consumer protection are emerging, and while trading standards professionals are doing all they can to protect the public, we are concerned about the possibility of a significant increase in risk levels.
“CTSI is in constant dialogue with the UK government and other stakeholders on how best to protect consumers. These concerns illustrate the need for a consumer protection strategy that recognizes these profound impacts and will mitigate them as effectively as possible.
Scots are also being warned not to get caught by census scammers as the official count of Scotland’s population begins this week.
Advice Direct Scotland, which runs the national consumer advice service consumeradvice.scot, urges everyone to be aware of signs of potential fraudsters attempting to collect personal or financial information.
The charity said scammers can ask for money for a fine or fee, or ask for personal financial information like a national insurance number, bank details or debit or credit card details to provide.
He stressed that the Scottish Census will never ask for money or this type of personal financial information.
Advice Direct Scotland said people should only provide personal details in the official Scottish Census online questionnaire, and explained that this will only be sent as a hard copy if the person specifically requests it.
The charity also said the Scottish census field team would only visit someone at home after March 20 if they had not completed their questionnaire or had been selected for census coverage survey.
Colin Mathieson, spokesperson for Advice Direct Scotland, said: ‘The official census of everyone in Scotland starts this week and one of the most important things to remember is that the Scottish census will not ask for money or personal financial information such as a person’s bank details.
“If you believe you have been approached by a scammer claiming to be from the Scottish Census, you can report it directly to the National Records of Scotland or to us at www.scamwatch.scot and our advisers will be able to help you.”
If you believe you have been approached by a scammer claiming to be from the Scottish Census, you can report them to [email protected] or Advice Direct Scotland at www.consumeradvice.scot.
If you have made a payment or provided personal financial information, you should contact your bank or building society immediately.
Scots can also report suspected scams and suspicious activity at www.scamwatch.scot.
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