Renfrewshire Council

Look out for winter fuel payment scams this season

Advice from Lynsey Duncanson in our Trading Standards team

Lynsey is smiling, sitting at a wooden dining room table with her laptop and a notepad and pen. With extra money being given to people this winter, scammers can use this as an opportunity to get you or your loved ones to hand over personal information. 

Lynsey explains how you can stop them.

"Ultimately scammers want your personal details to gain access to your bank accounts and they then steal your money. Once they have these details they can sell and trade your details to other scammers or even assume your identity to defraud others.

"They want as much information as they can gain. But unfortunately, your name, address and date of birth is enough information to create another you!  Trading Standards would caution you to think before sharing personal information online.

"Social media data and quiz answers can be used to steal identity or enable a scammer to impersonate you to friends and family.  How many people have you told your pets name and favourite colour to on Facebook!"

Look at the messages and emails you get

"Scams come in many forms; uninvited contact can be received by mail, letters, and telephone or in person making false promises to con victims out of money. If you get a text, check if it is from one of your known contacts. Often the language used in a scam email, text or phone call can give you a clue that something isn't right. In emails, scammers will try their best to duplicate official websites. In emails, scammers will try their best to duplicate official websites.

"If it's a phone call, they are often trying to get you to give them information they don't have about you, such as your first name or date of birth. They will try to get this information from you by asking you security questions.

"If you are suspicious of the intent, stop and break the contact."

Using current events because you might expect to see a text, email or get a phone call

"Scammers often exploit current news stories, big events or specific times of the year (like winter fuel payments) to make their scam more relevant. They will also try to claim they are from someone official, give you a limited time to respond, threaten you with fines or other negative consequences. They often try to use emotion against you, such as making you feel panicked or fearful, but they also will try to make you hopeful and curious and tease you into finding out more.

"Saying something is in short supply is another trick, like concert tickets, money or a cure for medical conditions. Fear of missing out on a good deal or opportunity can make you respond quickly."

Lynsey's top three tips for avoiding scams

  1. Keep your personal information secure. Review your privacy and security settings on social media.
  2. Know who you are dealing with. Don't think you are being rude by telling anyone that you are unsure. If the person is genuine, they will not take offence with you calling the bank or company directly to confirm their identity.
  3. Remember the phrase "if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is"

Scams can happen to anyone

Lynsey has worked in trading standards with the council for over 20 years and knows how sophisticated scams can be:

"Scammers are highly trained individuals and have learned how to manipulate people and situations to their advantage. If you have been scammed, remember that you are not alone and that you can get help. 

"You can report a scam to Police Scotland on 101 or contact Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000."

Winter fuel payments

Winter fuel payments are normally paid automatically to anyone who receives a pension or gets another qualifying social security benefit. People on certain benefits should have received their cost-of-living payment and those on tax credits should receive theirs soon.

For more information on cost of living support go to Cost of Living webpage