Criminals have exploited the public health crisis by finding 'sickening' new ways to con the public, according to consumer rights officials.

Among the most common scams have been calls or emails informing people they have been in contact with someone with Covid-19 and demanding bank details to pay for a test.

Trading Standards Scotland said there had also been a rise in illegal puppy farms as more people sought to buy pets during lockdown, with ‘heartbreaking’ cases of animals purchased then found to have serious illnesses.

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Cold calls and texts purportedly from banks continued to be prevalent in 2020, with the most frequently reported scams claiming there had been a problem with a consumer’s account and requesting a transfer of money to a ‘safe’ account.

The Trading Standards Scotland ‘scam share’ reporting bulletin listed the top ten scams of the year as: Covid scams; bank scams; HMRC scams; ‘phishing’ messages supposedly from companies such as Amazon; cloned and fake websites; business scams such as fake grants; cold callers; counterfeit goods; misleading energy marketing; and the illegal puppy trade.

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Marjorie Gibson, head of operations with Advice Direct Scotland, said: “Over the past year, scammers have adapted to the coronavirus pandemic to prey on Scots.

“In what has been a tough year for everyone, it’s sickening that unscrupulous fraudsters have made life even tougher for many Scots by exploiting a public health crisis. 

“It’s increasingly difficult to spot scams and there is absolutely no shame in being caught out, as the scammers’ tactics are very persuasive.”

Advice to stay protected against scams includes being wary when filling in online surveys or questionnaires through pop-up adverts on social media, which can be used to generate leads for companies to cold call and 'do not press 1' or follow any other instructions, given in an automated phone message.

The public is being urged to report all scams to