Fraud soars 700% as cyber criminals target Scottish islands

Fraud in the Scottish islands is up 700 per cent as people fall victim to cyber criminals for the first time.

Broadband now allows gangs access to remote areas that were previously off limits, with police figures showing fraud rising in areas where it was previously low or almost unknown.

While the total number is low, in line with smaller populations, the percentage rise in fraud across the islands reached more than 700 per cent year on year.

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Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles recorded just one case each of fraud between April and September last year.

Broadband now allows gangs access to remote areas that were previously off limits. Picture: Ian Rutherford

But this year there were eight cases in both the Western Isles and Orkney, while Shetland recorded nine in total.

Police in Orkney said money lost to fraud on the island in the first ten months of this year totalled £350,000.

In Inverclyde 65 cases of fraud were recorded – a rise of 124 per cent compared with the same time last year. In the Borders, Dumfries and Galloway and Argyll and Bute cases rose by more than 25 per cent.

Only five council areas – Aberdeen City, East Lothian, Highland, North Ayrshire and South Ayrshire – recorded a drop in fraud cases, while Moray had the same number as last year at 30.

Across Scotland fraud cases increased by almost a quarter year-on-year, with a total of 5,007 crimes.

Police claimed austerity had contributed to the increase, saying the economic climate is “ripe for fraud”.

But the rise of internet banking, online shopping and broadband in rural areas has also given criminal gangs access to people living there for the first time.

Gareth Shaw, money expert at consumer organisation Which? said: “Nowhere in the country is out of reach of criminals using increasingly sophisticated techniques to scam their victims.

“In the digital age, people are falling victim and losing life-changing sums of money to scams on their computers, phones and other devices.”

Detective Inspector Gordon Burns, of Police Scotland’s economic crime and financial investigations unit, said a number of factors had contributed to the increase.

“These include austerity in the last few years,” he said. “I think the economic climate is ripe for fraud. There are also many aspects of fraud that have become more sophisticated. It’s much easier to commit fraud because you can use the internet and phones.”