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Thursday, 03 August 2017

Highland Hospice among companies defrauded in £2.5 million banking scam

Written by The Press Association

A hospice was among those defrauded by a £2.5 million banking scam in the Scottish Highlands.

The Highland Hospice lost a six-figure sum when the phone-based scam, known as vishing, hit companies between July 19 and 30.

Some of the money has been recovered and work is continuing with banks to get more back.

Police Scotland said a number of companies received calls from individuals claiming to work for their bank using genuine-looking phone numbers.

The fraudsters claimed accounts had been compromised and persuaded victims to transfer money to a ''safe account'' in a number of transactions.

The hospice said the money had come from fundraising and described the scam as "abhorrent".

Chairman Forbes Duthie said: "Staff at the Hospice have been shocked and devastated by this despicable and sophisticated cyber crime.

"The stolen funds had been raised through the generosity and significant efforts of Hospice fundraisers and supporters to help us care for our patients and support their families which makes the crime especially abhorrent."

Officers said they are aware of other fraud attempts against hospices recently.

Police have issued a warning to raise awareness.

Highland Hospice chief executive Kenny Steele (pictured) said: "Although this is a horrendous situation it will not have an immediate impact on operations.

"There is resilience built into the Hospice financial systems to cope with these types of risk to ensure that our top priority of patient and family care and wellbeing is protected.

"We have put in additional security measures and we are working with the police and banking authorities to work on recovery of the funds and track the perpetrators. We also hope that releasing this information will help protect other businesses in the area."

No arrests have yet been made.

Detective Inspector Iain McPhail from the Economic Crime and Financial Investigation Unit said: "Any activity of this nature is unacceptable but to defraud money from a charity with the primary purpose of providing palliative care is utterly disgraceful.

"We are carrying out a thorough investigation into this incident and other businesses involved.

"We are also working with the companies' banks as part of the investigation and also to recover the money that has been taken.

"These incidents are unusual in their scale for the Highlands but there is nothing to suggest that the north of Scotland is being particularly targeted.

"However, I would again urge people to be on their guard against unsolicited calls from someone claiming to be from their bank.

"Always double check numbers you're given to call back on or call through the main customer care number for the organisation and ask to be put through."

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