Two UK gangs behind phone scam stealing thousands

Arron Clinkscales and Chris Wilson have joined forces to fight the scam which targets bank customers. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Arron Clinkscales and Chris Wilson have joined forces to fight the scam which targets bank customers. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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Two gangs are believed to be behind a phone scam which has seen more than £700,000 stolen from city residents.

The callous “vishing” scheme involves a con artist contacting a member of the public claiming to be from their bank or the police.

Victims are told there has been suspicious activity on their bank account and are asked to transfer cash to another account as a safety measure.

The Evening News reported this week that 16 people from across the Capital had fallen victim to the scam in the past six weeks, losing £650,000.

But it has since emerged that another person was targeted on Friday – having £80,000 drained from their account.

A total of 26 victims across Scotland – many of them in their 70s or older – have lost a combined £1.3 million in the last two months.

Police in Edinburgh yesterday joined representatives from the Royal Bank of Scotland to launch an awareness campaign on the scam.

Detective Inspector Arron Clinkscales revealed that detectives from the Economic Crime Unit suspected that two “distinct” gangs – both based in the UK – are responsible for the fraudulent scheme.

Investigators have found no evidence that victims’ details have been hacked – rather, “trust is built up” during a cold call. They are believed to focus on specific areas, however the extent of the scam is unknown as police are only aware of those who have fallen for the con.

In some cases, local “money mules” then meet up with the victims to accompany them to the bank to transfer the money.

The oldest Edinburgh-based victim was a 92-year-old woman who lost her life savings of £99,000.

Every victim has had five or six-figure sums stolen from a variety of banks, including RBS, Bank of Scotland, Santander and Barclays.

DI Clinkscales said the stolen cash was difficult to trace as the fraudsters – believed to be based on both sides of the border – move it around different accounts to avoid being traced.

He said: “Once the money is in the accounts, it is starburst into different accounts, but remains in the UK. We are working with banks and other financial institutions on this.”

A 53-year-old Edinburgh woman, who asked not to be named, transferred £163,000 – the largest amount of money to date – to the fraudsters, however the bulk of the transfer was stopped by bank staff and the remainder was recovered and reimbursed by her bank.

She said: “We called the telephone number on the back of our bank debit cards which the fraudsters had asked us to do for our own security and so that we could be confident we had called the bank’s fraud department.

“We did not know at the time that, when they called us, they had simply kept the line open and we were still speaking to them and not to the bank.”

She said that during the late night call – just after 10pm – the caller was “articulate and fluent” in giving directions about what they had to do to “protect” their money from criminals.

She said she hoped the story of her “narrow escape” would help people avoid such a “cruel, harrowing and near life-wrecking ordeal”.

Chris Wilson, managing director of RBS in Scotland, said more specialist training on spotting the warning signs would be offered to staff, while posters and leaflets will be distributed.
Nuisance call con scheme rumbled

Concerns have been raised about another phone scam which involves con artists getting in touch to claim they can prevent “nuisance calls”.

Duddingston resident George Packwood, 78, contacted the Evening News after receiving a suspicious phone call this week.

He said he wanted to highlight the issue to ensure people do not fall foul of the scam callers, who ironically promise to put a stop to cold calling for a “small fee”.

Mr Packwood said: “They said they could get rid of nuisance calls, and I said that sounded good, and asked what the catch was.

“They said there was a charge of £1.50 or £1.80, and that they wanted my bank details. That’s when I said goodbye.”

Mr Packwood managed to retrieve the scammers’ number by dialling 1471 to find it was a Brighton dialling code.

“I phoned Metropolitan Police and they said there had been dozens of people affected,” he said. “I don’t do any business with anybody that phones me when I haven’t asked them to phone me. They were after my bank details.”