Be on guard against persuasive criminals

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The Western Isles is considered a safe place to live, insulated from the crime levels which blight many other parts of the country.

However a warning tale from a Point resident underlines how we are all vulnerable to the sophisticated practices of organised crime.

Seventy-five year old Mary Golish (pictured) from Sheshader lost almost £7,000 after she was scammed over the phone by a genuine sounding fraudster who claimed to be calling from her bank.

Mary explained: “I got a call from a lady with a Scottish accent in July from the Bank of Scotland asking if I had recently made a payment of £900 to John Lewis, it was strange as I had made a payment like that the year before.

“When I explained this she said that I needed to change my details right away. I said to her how do I know you are not a scammer, and she said that she would not take any of my details over the phone.”

Reassured by this Mary went through a process over the phone to transfer the money from her own account to a ‘new secure account’ which she believed had been set up in her name.

However the next day when she went into her bank to withdraw some funds she found out to her horror that she could not as all her money was gone.

She said: “At first the bank said it would be alright that I would get my money bank, as this had been declared illegal, however when the bank’s fraud department became involved I was told this wouldn’t necessarily be the case as the money was now gone.”

Mary’s has made a complaint to the police who traced the money to Bolton in the Manchester area and she is now waiting for the police in that region to investigate the matter. In the meantime she has approached the Financial Ombudsman and the local MSP Alasdair Allan to assist in her case.

Talking how sophisticated these criminals are, she said: “I am not a stupid person, I was quite confident, but I fell for it.

“I was watching TV the other day and a lawyer was describing how she had been defrauded for £500,000, so the fact that she could be taken in, as a lawyer, is a little bit more of a comfort.

“These criminals are becoming more and more clever and the police and the banks have not caught up with them yet. There needs to be more training so that they can catch them. I was told by the police that crime like this has risen 80 per cent in the last year alone. I am not hopeful about getting my money back.”

Police Scotland warns Island residents to be on their guard if they receive unsolicited telephone calls relating to their bank cards, credit cards or financial accounts.

The advice highlights how these criminals will tell the victim that there are concerns regarding their finances and ask them to transfer money to different bank accounts.

They also routinely inform the victim to call their bank, 999 or other legitimate number, only for the victim to unknowingly be connected straight back to the fraudster.

Police say: “Be very suspicious of unsolicited calls that you receive in relation to your financial accounts. Personal information, credit card or bank details should not be provided to strangers on the telephone. In addition, never tell somebody your bank PIN number, even if they claim to be the bank or police. If the caller is genuine they will never ask for this information.”

For advice visit: website