Charity warns public to beware
Scots have been warned to be aware of scammers attempting to exploit the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine by taking advantage of people who want to help.
Advice Direct Scotland, which runs the country’s national consumer advice service consumeradvice.scot, highlighted a range of ways fraudsters might seek to target those trying to offer support.
These include donation scams, where attempts are made to lure people in with fake elaborate stories alongside requests for money.
The charity warned people to be wary of anyone requesting financial assistance for the burial of a loved one, or from people claiming to be “defending freedom”.
It also urged Scots to be cautious if they receive a request from someone claiming to be stuck in Ukraine or who says they need help with repatriation or travel costs.
Advice Direct Scotland said scammers may also use this opportunity to set up ‘spoof’ websites that look like those of official registered charities and fundraising sites like GoFundMe.
It said anyone who is unsure about a fundraising page, or the charitable efforts of an individual, should consider donating to organisations already providing support in Ukraine like the British Red Cross, the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) appeal, or another registered charity.
Financial and banking scams could also see people being asked to assist in ‘moving money out of’ Ukraine - but could result in them being charged or even becoming implicated in money-laundering activities.
Advice Direct Scotland said investment scams are also a potential risk, as fraudsters may claim to offer opportunities that have only become available due to the current situation.
It warned people that if opportunities sound unrealistic or too good to be true, then they probably are.
Other types of potential scams may be those using “deepfake” technology, which involves editing and manipulating video footage to spread false information on social media or on YouTube by making it appear the message is coming from an official source.
The charity encouraged people to fact-check for false information, and not to take videos and social media posts at face value.
It also said people should not be caught out by energy scams relating to recent price increases, which may see fraudsters offering reduced energy prices or short-term special deals to enter fixed-rate tariffs because of the current situation.
And Advice Direct Scotland said the situation in Ukraine could trigger a rise in romance scams, which work off the emotional connection that scammers build with their targets.
Advice Direct Scotland’s list of ‘tell-tale signs’ of a scam include:
- Long, convoluted web or email addresses with characters that look out of place
- Unsecure websites that throw up security warnings by your browser or anti-virus software
- Spelling errors that genuine organisations and businesses are unlikely to have on their websites or marketing materials
- Blurry images, logos and branding can be a sign that materials have been copied
- For door-to-door charity collectors or those operating in public places, always request identification that shows they work for the charity
- Check charity registration numbers with the relevant charity regulators, such as The Scottish Charity Regulator, the Charity Commission Service in England, and The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland
Advice Direct Scotland said people should avoid clicking on links in emails or text messages, and avoid pressing any buttons requested by unsolicited callers on the phone, and refrain from transferring money to people they do not know.
If someone has been scammed out of a large sum of money, they should contact Police Scotland on the non-emergency number 101 or dial 999 if they feel threatened or at immediate risk.