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A spate of fraudulent calls over recent days has led to islanders losing significant sums of money, according to Western Isles police.

Sgt David Mackinnon of Western Isles police said today (Friday 5 March): “We regret that island residents are still being targeted by telephone callers, fraudulently claiming to be from a bank.

“There have been crimes of this kind recently in North Uist and residents of Lewis and Harris have also been affected, on occasion with substantial sums of money being stolen.

“Our message to people is please, do not give out your banking details to anyone, including by phone.”

The message comes as Police Scotland today reported concern over a significant rise in frauds both nationally and locally. 

In the Highlands and Islands, 402 incidents were recorded in the third quarter of the 2020/21 policing year, compared to 244 the previous year. There has been a notable increase every quarter during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Police Scotland said that, while they would continue to share information and advice alongside partners, they ask the public to be vigilant too.

The focus on fraud comes as Police Scotland release management performance figures covering the period from April to December 2020.

Their third quarter performance review report is due to be laid before the Scottish Police Authority’s policing performance committee at their next meeting on Tuesday (9 March).

The report says: “The COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on crime and offence levels when compared to the previous year, with decreases in a high number of crimes areas whilst simultaneously showing an increase in certain crimes types. 

“Fraud remains one of the fastest growing and widest ranging forms of acquisitive crime across the UK. This was particularly evident at the beginning of this reporting year when the ongoing pandemic created opportunities for fraudsters to exploit changed working and lifestyle conditions and the expanded reliance on technology.”

Police Scotland reports that, overall, crime detection rates in the Highlands and Islands have increased while crime has fallen. Officers, staff and special constables continue to work hard to ensure the region remains one of the safest places in Scotland. 

In particular, the division recorded one of the highest drugs crime detection rates in Scotland at 100%. Meanwhile crimes including serious assaults, sexual offences and acquisitive crime have fallen.   

Alongside Police Scotland’s work to combat the spread of coronavirus, operations to tackle issues such as drug misuse, anti-social behaviour and road traffic offences have also continued to be launched throughout the past year. 

Divisional Commander Chief Superintendent Conrad Trickett said: “It is absolutely crucial that our communities have confidence in the police, particularly at this challenging time. 

“My team and I continue to be immensely grateful to the public for the high levels of co-operation and support we are receiving and I would ask that you continue letting us know your concerns.

“The figures contained within today’s report are to be welcomed, however I must stress once again that they have been recorded during an unprecedented time and it could be many years before we understand the full impact of coronavirus on policing and crime generally. 

“Let me provide every reassurance though that Highlands and Islands Division remains committed to supporting the people we serve, listening to you and acting on your concerns.”