Highland Hospice charity scammed by around £500,000

ONE of the biggest charities in the Highlands has fallen vicim to a high-value '˜vishing and spoofing' fraud in the north of Scotland.

Highland Hospice. Picture: Contributed
Highland Hospice. Picture: Contributed

A mid-six figure sum of money was fraudulently removed from the charity.

In total the tieves defrauded a number of businesses of almost £2.5million between 19-30 July.

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Some of the money has since been recovered and work is ongoing to try and recover as much of the funds as possible.

The total number of Highland cases currently reported is in single figures.

Police Scotland is aware of other attempts against hospices of this nature recently but it has not been established if these are linked to the Highland Hospice case.

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Highland Hospice 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.”

Highland Hospice chief executive Kenny Steele added: “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.”

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.

“If you decide to ring back and verify the call it is advisable to do so on a different phone line like another landline or your mobile.

“If you are still unsure, consider visiting your local branch instead of speaking to someone over the phone.”