Fraudsters steal £650k from elderly victims

Picture: Craig Stephen
Picture: Craig Stephen
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Fraudsters have stolen more than £650,000 from a string of elderly victims in a telephone scam targeting life savings.

Police have placed banks across the Capital on high alert after 16 vulnerable savers were caught out by a “vishing” – otherwise known as voice fishing – hoax where con artists pretending to be bank employees call victims before rinsing out their accounts.

The scam works by swindlers warning bank customers of unusual activity on their account before instructing them to hand over personal details to protect the funds.

The account is then drained of cash.

Specialist teams from Police Scotland’s economic crime unit are probing the telephone scam that has swept the city in the last six weeks and are working alongside major banks to warn customers of the threat.

Last month, the News told how one elderly woman in West Lothian lost a “significant sum of money” when she was contacted by someone who told her to transfer her savings because fraudsters were targeting the account.

Police said the scammer “appeared to have specialist knowledge of her account” and gave the woman the impression the call was genuine.

It comes after a 93-year-old woman in Edinburgh narrowly avoided being conned out of a four-figure sum when a fraudster asked her to visit her local branch and transfer funds to another account.

Bank staff have now reiterated warnings never to give out sensitive account details over the phone.

Detective Inspector Arron Clinkscales said the criminals behind the fraud rings were “despicable” individuals who “mostly prey on the elderly and vulnerable”.

“It is essential to ensure the public is fully informed on the type of tactics criminals will use,” he said. “Our awareness-raising posters will be available within banks throughout Edinburgh and policing teams will deliver crime prevention leaflets to addresses across the city.

“In addition, bank staff are being given additional training to identify potential victims.”

DI Clinkscales emphasised that banks will never ask for detailed personal information on a cold call.

He said: “I would like to remind the public that neither the police, nor banks, will cold-call an account holder and ask for personal details, or for money to be transferred elsewhere. If you receive a call like this, do not comply. Hang up and contact police.”

Chris Wilson, Scotland managing director for RBS, said scam artists operate by creating fear that a customer’s savings may be under threat.

“No bank will ever ask a customer to transfer their savings or part of their savings to another account or another bank in order to ‘protect the funds’,” he said.

HOW TO AVOID BEING CAUGHT OUT

• Never give out your Pin, bank card or bank details to anyone. Do not write them down.

• Your bank will never ask for your Pin, bank details or card number over the phone. If someone asks for these, hang up immediately.

• If you are concerned about a call, hang up and wait five minutes to ensure the line is clear before calling 101. Scammers will sometimes wait on the line to catch victims when they make their next call.

• Check statements for transfers you don’t recognise.