A FRESH warning has been issued to elderly residents urging them to be on their guard against a telephone scam gang despite the number of Edinburgh victims tailing off.
Banks across the Capital were placed on high alert after 16 customers were fleeced out of savings worth more than £650,000 in the past six weeks.
One 53-year-old woman targeted in the “sophisticated and elaborate” con was instructed on how to move £163,499 into a new account. Much of the money from the scam, known as “vishing” was later recovered.
Police said bank customers should be wary of any phone calls asking for personal information as it emerged a city pensioner came within seconds of losing his life savings.
Retired joiner James Thompson, 66, from Granton, told how the criminal gang nearly lured him into handing out his bank details because “they sounded so convincing”.
“I got a call from a man claiming to work for the Royal Bank of Scotland and saying that there had been suspicious activity on my account,” he said.
“He said someone had spent some £400 on [the website] Gumtree and that we had to change my account number and cancel my cards right away.
“I asked how I knew it was really the bank and he advised me to hang up the phone and dial the number on the back of my card.
“I have never heard about this scam and how they don’t actually hang up the phone and so I proceeded to talk to them and give them my details for almost 20 minutes.”
But Mr Thompson’s suspicions were raised when he heard someone swearing in the background of the call.
“I didn’t think that would happen at RBS,” he said. “I immediately told them I was ending the call, hung up and turned off my computer.”
Within seconds the conmen were back on the phone gloating that they had drained his account and when he checked all he “would see was zeros”.
A frantic trip to his branch showed Mr Thompson had not fallen victim to the scam.
“People always say ‘that will never happen to me’,” he said.
“Even I said that.
“But I was very, very lucky.
“I’ve not got a lot of money, but what I do have is mine – I’ve worked hard for it.
“To think someone can just take it away in a five minute conversation is terrifying.”
The gang have been targeting Edinburgh bank customers for several months, forcing specialist teams from Police Scotland’s economic crime unit to launch a campaign warning residents of the threat.
The number of reported cases has since plummeted.
Police said although the wave of scam calls appeared to be ebbing, bank customers – especially those who are elderly or vulnerable – should remain vigilant and never give their details over the phone.
A spokesman said: “We are still encouraging members of the public to be on their guard and to come forward and report these incidents.”
Last week, the News told how Fred Wood, 58, lost life savings worth £10,000 in a five-minute call.
Mr Wood said he had been forced to cash in the remainder of his savings – around £800 – to make ends meet and had suffered “two months of sleepless nights” since the con.