Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Phone banking scam nets thousands

Victims of a telephone banking scam have been conned out of £650,000 in the past six weeks.

In the scam, customers are told there has been suspicious activity on their account and are advised to transfer their money to a different account.

One woman from Edinburgh lost more than £160,000 of her savings. However, the bank managed to recover £120,000 and the rest was reimbursed.

A campaign has been launched to raise awareness of the "vishing" scam.

Police have teamed up with the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) to warn people about the fraudsters who call up members of the public claiming to be from their bank.

One victim, a 53-year-old woman who wishes to remain anonymous, said she considered herself to be competent and security-aware in dealing with her finances but fell victim to the "well-organised scam probably carried out by professional criminals".

She said the most important part of the fraud was that she thought she had called the number on her bank card which the fraudster had told her to do to report the alleged crime, but they had simply kept the line open and unbeknown to her she was still speaking to them and not to her bank.

'Narrow escape'

"The call to our home came late in the evening just after 10pm when we were tired and unable to go to our branch or speak with a local relationship manager," she said.

"The main fraudster was articulate, fluent in giving directions about what we had to do to 'protect our money' from criminals whom, we were told, were actively hacking into our accounts trying to move large sums out illegally as we spoke.

"This fear of loss, once created, and the constantly reinforced message that very urgent actions were required, underpinned and drove the way that the subsequent scenario played out."

She added: "There followed possibly the worst five days of our lives during which both the banks and police investigated our case. During this time we had no idea whether or not any of the money that had been stolen would be returned to us."

She said she realised she had a "very narrow escape" as all the stolen money was returned, but her trust in human nature had been "seriously diminished".

"Banking security is clearly everyone's responsibility, the banks and customers alike, and we hope that some of the information we have provided, in some small measure, helps towards saving other people from experiencing such a cruel, harrowing and near life-wrecking ordeal," she said.

'Despicable individuals'

A total of 16 people were targeted in the past six weeks, with £650,000 going missing from their accounts.

Launching the awareness campaign, Det Insp Arron Clinkscales said: "Those responsible for committing these offences are despicable individuals who mostly prey on the elderly and vulnerable members of our communities.

"It is essential that police and the banking industry work together to address this matter and ensure that the public are fully informed on the type of tactics criminals will utilise to obtain their personal details or money."

Chris Wilson, RBS Scotland managing director, added: "Fraudsters work 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'."

All public branches of the main RBS banks will display posters reminding the public never to give out their details if they are cold-called, while police will distribute crime prevention leaflets across the city giving information on how to avoid becoming a victim.

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