Banks in Scotland’s capital have been placed on high alert after crooks stole more than £650,000 from elderly victims in a telephone scam.
Police have warned banks in Edinburgh to be vigilant after 16 vulnerable customers were caught out by phone hoax “vishing” in recent weeks, which targets people’s life savings.
The con sees scammers posing as bank employees calling victims before emptying their accounts.
They warn bank customers of unusual activity on their account before instructing them to hand over their personal details to protect the funds. The account is then drained of cash.
Specialists from Police Scotland’s economic crime unit are investigating the scam that has affected large parts of the city over the past six weeks and are working with banks to warn customers about the hoax.
Last month an elderly woman in West Lothian lost a “significant sum of money” when she was contacted by someone who told her to transfer her savings because fraudsters were allegedly targeting her account.
Police said the crook “appeared to have specialist knowledge of her account” and gave the woman the impression the call was genuine.
And a 93-year-old woman in Edinburgh was almost conned out of a four-figure sum of money after being asked to visit her local branch and transfer funds to another account.
Bank staff have repeated calls to never give out sensitive account details over the phone.
Detective inspector Arron Clinkscales said the criminals behind the hoax were “despicable” individuals who “mostly prey on the elderly and vulnerable of our communities”.
He added: “It is essential that police and the banking industry work together to address this matter and to ensure the public is fully informed on the type of tactics criminals will use to obtain their personal details or money.
“Our awareness-raising posters will be available within banks branches throughout Edinburgh and local policing teams will deliver crime prevention leaflets to various addresses across the city.
“In addition, bank staff are being given additional training to identify potential victims before they remove large sums of money from their accounts.”
DI Clinkscales was keen to stress that banks never ask for detailed personal information on a cold call.
He said: “I would like to take this opportunity to remind the public that neither the police, nor banks, will cold-call an account holder and ask for personal details, or for money to be transferred elsewhere.
“If you receive a call like this, do not comply. Hang up and ensure the line has been cleared before contacting police.”
Scotland managing director for RBS Chris Wilson said scammers create fear that a customer’s savings may be under threat.
He added: “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’.
“We’re delighted to join Police Scotland in this campaign to raise customer awareness around how these scams work.”
By Pamela Paterson