Scots are being warned to look out for fakes and counterfeit goods as scammers seek to profit from panic caused by the coronavirus crisis.
The Scottish Business Resilience Centre (SBRC) has revealed the pandemic has led to a spike in counterfeit crime, cybercrime and fraud.
March saw a 400% increase in the number of pandemic-related counterfeit and fraud reports, the centre says.
This has occurred because of higher demand for protective goods and pharmaceutical products, combined with more people searching online to source products.
Angela Brand, one of the officers seconded to SBRC from Police Scotland, says there has been a marked increase in phishing emails, scams, and a wide array of counterfeit goods being offered for sale as criminals look to prey on vulnerable citizens and businesses.
She said: “The fear surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic is being exploited by criminals who are seeking to profit from the sale of counterfeit goods.
“When buying goods online, always use reputable sites.
“It’s important to check the website address to make sure it is legitimate.
“Look for substitutions such as ‘zeros’ used instead of the letter ‘o’, or additional letters or symbols in the address, which may indicate a fake or cloned website.
“If you receive an email offering goods or services, don’t click on any links embedded in the email. Instead, go directly to the website itself and check if the information contained in the email is valid.
“There are online tools and plug-ins available which you can use to screen websites and help identify potentially counterfeit products. Above all, use common sense and if you are even remotely suspicious, look elsewhere.”
Further advice and guidance is available on the SBRC website and anyone who believes that they have received counterfeit goods are advised to contact the police as soon as possible.