TRADING standards officers from across Scotland are sharpening their skills in a bid to stay one step ahead of internet fraudsters, who’re making millions through online crime.
Staff from Scotland’s local authorities have attended a course in Edinburgh today to receive intensive training from some of Scotland’s top e-crime experts.
The 3-day course at Edinburgh Napier University’s Centre for Distributed Computing, Networks and Security covers topics including e-crime investigation techniques, capturing data through social media sites and disrupting overseas scams.
Tony McAuley, Chair-Society of Chief Officers of Trading Standards in Scotland (SCOTSS), said: “Internet, social media and smart phone based commerce is one of the fastest growing and changing trading platforms we have ever experienced. Trading Standards receive hundreds of complaints about various online scams every day – from counterfeit goods being sold online and sites offering to sell goods, like cars or even Christmas trees in one case, that don’t in reality exist, to fake websites portraying themselves as official government sites.
“This new training course, which was made possible by a funding grant from Trading Standards Scotland, has been specifically tailored for Trading Standards’ needs by the University with input from one of our e-crime specialists in Highland Council and will significantly boost our capabilities to protect consumers and provide a fair e-trading environment. It is hoped that we can continue to work with Edinburgh Napier University to continue to develop the new skills we will undoubtedly need in the future.”
A recent House of Commons report revealed that there are an estimated 556 million victims of cybercrime each year – a figure greater than the entire population of the European Union. In the UK, more than 12.5 million people fall victim to online crime every year costing a massive £1.8 billion.
Many of these cases can involve out and out fraud and are a police matter, but a significant proportion of the most prevalent scams can also fall within Trading Standards remit, including:
- Subscription traps – where consumers inadvertently sign up to ‘free’ offers and end up trapped in what can be expensive monthly subscriptions
- Computer virus scams - where consumers are targeted by cold callers pretending to represent well known software companies who offer to fix a fake computer problem. The consumer is then tricked into giving the fraudster access to their computer and hassled in to paying for unnecessary repairs. Consumers also expose themselves to identity theft.
- Copycat websites – Misleading websites that palm themselves off as legitimate government services such as DVLA or Passport Renewal that charge customers for services that would otherwise be free.
- Ticketing scams
- The sale of counterfeit goods on online auction & social-networking sites
Edinburgh Napier’s Professor Bill Buchanan, whose team already offer cyber-crime training to Police Scotland, said:
“Using our research and expertise to help public agencies protect consumers is something Edinburgh Napier is really proud of and our reputation is already widely recognised by the enforcement community.
“Online fraud and consumer threats are an increasing area of public risk. The course will give trading standards officers from across Scotland the skills, insights and understanding of the internet to help them protect consumers online.”
12 Trading standards officers will take part in the first course, which ends on Friday.
SCOTSS is the Society of Chief Officers of Trading Standards in Scotland, an association of professional officers representing every Scottish local authority trading standards service.