The head of Aberdeen’s new cyber crime team has warned people of fraudsters who will steal their life savings in minutes – and revealed the key warning signs to look out for.
Detective Chief Inspector Sam Buchan said taking these cautious steps could mean the difference between staying safe and losing a fortune.
Safe account frauds – where the scammer poses as an official in a bid to get someone to move cash to another account – are becoming more prevalent in the area.
Often operating as part of a larger-scale operation they prey on vulnerable people who believe they are speaking to their bank or a police officer, when in reality it is a fraudster intent on getting them to move their cash to a so-called mule account.
DCI Buchan and John Craft, policy executive with Scotland’s national consumer advice service, Advice Direct Scotland, say there are certain things you can do to avoid falling foul of the fraudsters.
The signs to look out for that you’re being conned
1) The victim will receive a call from someone pretending to be an official from their bank or even credit card firm.
The caller will then try to create a sense of urgency by saying there has been suspicious activity in their account and to stop it they should move their money to what they call a safe account.
John Craft said: “If an individual calls you claiming to be your bank or credit card agency and asks for you transfer money to a ‘safe account’, end the call. A legitimate source would not ask you to do this.
“If you are ever unsure, contact the bank or credit card agency via a method you know to be legitimate, such as visiting the bank branch.”
2) The scammer will tell them to hang up the line and call the number on the back of their bank card – but what the victim doesn’t realise is the line has been kept open.
This means that when the unsuspecting victim makes that call the fraudster poses as a bank official and gives details of the safe account, telling them to transfer the cash.
DCI Buchan said: “What I want to do as a preventative message is for people to stop and listen and think about advice from family members. Contact your bank yourself legitimately not on the numbers being provided.”
John added: “If you must call them, use a different phone or wait 15 minutes to ensure the fraudster is not still on the line.
“Additionally, If you believe you have been the victim of a scam, you should report it to us at scamwatch.scot.
“Scams can be very hard to spot, and anyone in Scotland can contact us at consumeradvice.scot or on 0808 164 6000 for free, impartial and practical advice.”
‘Stop, think and listen to advice’
DCI Buchan said: “Taking those cautious careful steps as a result of the phone call or email you have received will be the difference between you losing your life savings and not.”
Increase in frauds across north-east
Instances of fraud overall has increased across the north-east in the past year.
The latest quarterly figures from Police Scotland shows that in the Aberdeen City Council area 788 frauds were reported and 154 detected this past year.
Compared to the same period for 2019/20 where 588 were recorded and 155 detected.
While in Aberdeenshire frauds rose from 508 in 2019/20 to 788 with 116 of those detected this past year and 82 the previous year.
Detective Chief Inspector Sam Buchan, who is heading up the new cyber crime team said: “It’s a common theme with the safe account frauds that someone will call up a vulnerable person reporting to be someone from a bank or the police.
“The technique will be creative and complex but ultimately they will be trying to have that person move their money to a place they can find it.
“We have had successes with that area, investigating organised crime groups that have been up here in the north-east division and continue to be.”
‘We have seen the devastating impact’
Detective Chief Inspector Buchan added: “What people should not do if they have any lingering doubt is take the action that is being asked of them at the other end of the phone.
“But take proper advice from the bank on your terms, not in the terms that have been communicated to you from that initial call – whether that is from a police officer, someone pretending to be a police officer, or someone saying they work for the bank.
“Go and make that arrangement yourself with the bank.”
While anyone can fall victim to scams, often older and vulnerable people are most at risk. And often the consequences it can have on their wellbeing are significant.
Detective Chief Inspector Buchan said: “We have seen the devastating impact on families and on the person, who feels responsible for that money being lost from their bank account.”
Campaign to raise awareness
The warning comes during national Scam Awareness Fortnight.
The campaign, which will end on June 27, includes Police Scotland, Trading Standards and a host of other agencies, and aims to give people the skills and confidence to spot scams and report them.
Manager of Aberdeen Citizens Advice Bureau, Kristi Kelly said: “Scams, and the people who perpetrate them, are despicable. But sadly they are on the rise. They are becoming ever more sophisticated and convincing, and anyone can be hit by a scam.
“We need to fight back against scams. That’s why every year we take this opportunity to remind local people how to spot scams, and how to deal with them. Remember, scammers worst nightmare is people talking about them, shining a spotlight on them, sharing intelligence on how they operate.
“So let’s all work together to beat them. Be wary, keep an eye out for those who are vulnerable. And when you come across a scam – report it to the police (dial 101).”