Police are urging people to ‘take five to stop fraud’ after a 45 per cent increase in cases was recorded during lockdown.
The force kicked off the six-week campaign to highlight a growing trend in criminals exploiting the most vulnerable people in Renfrewshire’s communities.
Working in partnership with Take Five to Stop Fraud, officers are warning that criminals are becoming more sophisticated and convincing in their methods, and taking advantage of advances in technology.
Latest Scottish Government figures show that in 2019-20, fraud increased by 23 per cent and since 2010-11 has gone up by a third.
In the last year there have been 11,939 crimes of fraud recorded in Scotland – including many committed online, as criminals use the internet more and more to target victims.
It is an increase of 2,264 crimes on the previous year.
A number of people have reported falling foul of fraud in Renfrewshire in the past six months, including a 58-year-old woman who lost out on nearly £4,000 after a crook posed as a Royal Bank of Scotland worker.
And an 83-year-old Paisley woman lost tens of thousands of pounds in a sophisticated online investment scam.
The OAP believed she was investing her life savings in a well-known US bank but this week discovered she had in fact transferred her cash to criminals.
Cops probing the cruel scam said the pensioner had fallen victim to a ‘clone firm’ scam.
She visited what appeared to be a genuine bank website and invested more than £20,000 after being told she would receive a three per cent yield.
During the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign, members of the public and businesses will be encouraged to follow straightforward and impartial advice – Stop, Challenge and Protect – aimed at reducing the chances of becoming a victim of financial fraud.
This includes online fraud and email deception as well as phone-based and social media scams.
Police Scotland’s Deputy Chief Constable Malcolm Graham said: “Fraud, in any form, is a despicable and cowardly crime, with often anonymous criminals targeting the most vulnerable people in our communities.
“We know these faceless crooks will take any opportunity to exploit any situation to their own nefarious advantage.
“We are well aware that fraud continues to rise and want to take the opportunity to warn the public and businesses to take a few steps to protect themselves and remain vigilant.
“Our advice is clear and the public should be aware that a telephone call, email or text may not be from the person or organisation it appears to come from.
“Never click on a link from an unsolicited email or text, and remember that banks, police or other legitimate organisations will never ask you for personal banking information or ask you to move funds to a different account.”
He added:“Sadly, during the current pandemic when people have been at home, the occurrence of fraud has also risen.
“Our management information showed that fraud increased by 45 per cent in the first six months of 2020-21 compared to the same period last year.
“Police Scotland is absolutely committed to working with a wide range of partners to pursue anyone who sets out to cause harm and misery in our communities and make Scotland a hostile environment for them to operate.
“We remain vigilant and I would urge the public to do the same to reduce the risk of becoming a victim.”