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Police and trading standards warning over phone scams

PUBLIC agencies in Shetland are warning locals to be vigilant following what was described as a spate of “despicable” telephone scams that have seen victims defrauded of thousands of pounds.

Police in the isles said fraudsters had targeted a number of people using different scams.

In the majority of incidents in recent weeks, the criminals phone individuals claiming to be a representative from their bank and advising them that their bank account has been compromised. The victim is then encouraged to transfer their money into an account provided by the fraudster. 

Last week Shetland News reported how a school worker from Tingwall, Rosalynn Fraser, was scammed out of £3,000 before her bank reinstated the money a few days later.

This type of fraud is known as “vishing” and, in addition to telephone scams, are sometimes conducted online with fraudsters posing as a computer company warning about viruses. Police said fraudsters were “usually extremely convincing in their approach, taking steps to engage with the victim and win their trust”.

Officers are urging people to be aware of calls and contact of this nature, in particular being on guard to ensure elderly or vulnerable family, friends and neighbours are also aware of such scams.

Constable Rachel Branney, Shetland preventions and interventions officer, said: “These are ruthless crimes which can have extremely sad outcomes for those targeted.

“Over recent weeks here in Shetland we have seen victims defrauded of thousands and sadly this week an incident involving tens of thousands of pounds. No price can be put on the devastating impact of losing life savings at the hands of these despicable fraudsters.”

Meanwhile, a Shetland CAB volunteer with over ten years of experience, Helen Wilson, said she herself had been caught out.

“I answered a phone call from a man who called himself Ryan and said he was phoning from the Bank of Scotland about a £7 direct debit to Domestic & General,” she said.

“During the call he asked for two digits from my security number – which seemed like standard bank security practice – in order to allow him to sort out the issue.

“He had a West of Scotland accent, and a very friendly and pleasant manner, and I had no reason to be suspicious of him. Later on in the call he asked for more digits from my security number, as he said it ‘hadn’t worked’, and eventually he said the bank would send out a new PIN to me.

“The new PIN duly arrived, and I was phoned again on the Friday. This time something made me suspicious, and I put down the phone without answering his questions.”

She went into her local branch and learned that the bank had stopped an attempt to withdraw around £1,500 from her account on the Saturday.

“They put me onto the fraud team, who sorted me out with new cards, security numbers and everything so that my money was not at risk any more – but I want other people to know just how easy it is to be caught out.”

SIC trading standards team leader David Marsh said: “We have always known that any of us could be caught out by the right story on the right day, and Helen’s experience only goes to confirm that.

“Never give out sensitive personal or financial information to someone who phones you, no matter who they claim to be or how convincing they seem. Instead, end the call and check that your phone line is clear by calling a friend or relative.

“You can then contact your bank using a number you trust, such as one from your bank card or statement or from the bank’s website – or, as Helen did, go into your local branch to check things out.

“Scammers are always using new tactics and variations to try to fool us, and so we all need to continue to be vigilant in looking after ourselves and those around us. Helen was taken in partly because the caller had a Scottish accent – the sound of someone’s voice, their name, or even the number showing on your phone display when they can all be used to convince us that a scammer is actually the real deal.”

  • Trading standards advises people to keep alert and report scams using the online tool at www.actionfraud.police.uk or by phoning 0300 1232040, or by contacting trading standards on (01595) 744887. You can also keep up to date via trading standards’ Facebook page.