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Scams and frauds in 2021 cost people in the Western Isles almost £900,000 last year, according to Police Scotland, Trading Standards at Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and Citizen’s Advice today (Wednesday 26 January).

The three organisations have joined together to warn of the continuing risk of being defrauded, by phone or on the internet, if not on the doorstep.

Police in the Western Isles dealt with over 70 reports of fraud in 2021, with personal financial losses averaging £12,800 per victim.

And, while it’s not always possible to recover the losses, police officer Fiona Macleod said: “The impact of scams and fraud can be financially and emotionally devastating for the victim, with many suffering isolation and hardship as a result - some even become more susceptible to further exploitation.”

Jay Moran of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s Trading Standards) said: “The location of the Western Isles may present limited opportunities for scams and doorstep crime to be committed in person by fraudsters attempting to take money from people.

“In the case of Internet, mail and phone scams these are very real problems for people no matter where they live. This can of course also include our businesses that may also be targeted by the same means and who also need to be vigilant too.”

There are many types of scams, with new scam tactics consistently emerging and tricking consumers. Some scammers use several different scams with an individual victim to get what they want with some of the more commonly reported techniques being:

  • Calls from someone purporting to be from your bank warning of suspicious or fraudulent activity on your account.
  • Being befriended via a social media or online dating platform, especially by a person who says they work overseas, or in the military, that the circumstances are some type of emergency, or that you are the only person they trust to help them.
  • Email or text message from someone purporting to be a well-known organisation or company such as PayPal, TV Licensing, HMRC, telling you of suspicious activity on your account.
  • Online or telephone offers of a refund, requiring you to purchase gift cards to release the refund.

Norah MacPhee of Western Isles Citizen’s Advice Service said: “Under-reporting and stigma continue to be barriers in scams and fraud, with many feeling too ashamed and embarrassed to tell someone what has happened.”

But Fiona Macleod said: “Anyone can fall victim to this type of crime, not just the elderly and the vulnerable – even if we think we’re scam aware, all it takes is for us to be caught off guard in the moment by a skilled manipulator.”

To raise awareness, the group are suggesting that everyone takes five minutes to scan one of the following websites, giving tips on keeping you and your money safer:

The picture shows police, CAS and trading standards representatives giving information in the Co-op superstore on Macaulay Road, Stornoway.