Residents in Perth and Kinross have been warned to be on their guard against a scam sweeping the area.
The con involves fraudsters claiming to be from either HM Revenue and Customs, the police or Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) companies contacting residents and telling them they urgently need to make a payment to pay off a debt or claim back a rebate.
The victims are asked to pay via iTunes gift vouchers, which they are urged to purchase before contacting the cold caller again.
The criminals tell the victim to call a phone number when they are in possession of the iTunes gift card and provide the 16-digit code on the voucher to the scammers. This allows the criminals to redeem the money on the iTunes voucher or sell on the codes in bulk to other criminal enterprises.
Some victims have been threatened with “arrest” if they do not comply. The gift card values have ranged from £100 to more than £1,000.
A spokesperson for Perth and Kinross Council’s trading standards said: “The effect of scams on their victims is huge, with many suffering from serious financial harm as a result of scams. Recent work in Perth and Kinross has uncovered victims who had lost tens of thousands in phone or mail scams.
“Victims often lose confidence in themselves and suffer psychological effects for years afterwards.”
Trading standards and the police are asking retailers to help combat this crime.
“If possible, where a large value of vouchers is asked for, we’re asking shop staff to engage customers in conversation about the reason for their purchase,” the trading standards spokesperson added.
“In particular, look out for elderly or vulnerable consumers, who may not be usual purchasers of those types of gift cards.”
The problem was recently highlighted by Chief Inspector Ian Scott, police area commander for Perth and Kinross.
He had said: “If people receive a phone call and the caller is asking the resident to use gift cards or iTunes vouchers to make a payment then they are likely to be the target of a scammer trying to defraud them out of their money and they should terminate the call immediately.”
Any suspected scam victims are advised to report the matter to the police by phoning 101 or contact trading standards on 01738 476476.