High-value fraud cases continue to decline in Scotland

The value of major fraud cases going through the Scottish courts has declined, according to the latest data from KPMG’s Fraud Barometer, which analyses alleged fraud worth more than £100,000.

High-value fraud cases continue to decline in Scotland

Graham Cochran

Four cases were heard in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Paisley in the first half of 2019, down from nine during the same period in 2018.

Meanwhile, the value of the cases was also down from £1.8 million in Q1-Q2 2018, to £1.2m this year. Charges included embezzlement, benefit fraud, VAT fraud and procurement fraud.

The most high-profile of this year’s fraud cases involved murder victim Margaret Fleming, from Inverkip. The former carers of the 21-year-old – Edward Cairney and Avril Jones – were handed life sentences after being found guilty of murdering her and fraudulently claiming £182,000 in benefits by pretending she was alive.

In another case, Ian Brash, from East Lothian, pleaded guilty after he stole more than £350,000 from the Dr Robert Malcolm Trust while he was a trustee of the charity, which provided financial support to medical students. Prosecutors are now seeking more than £1.5 million from the 66-year-old retired architect, through the Proceeds of Crime Act.

Graham Cochran, forensic director at KPMG in Scotland, said: “The latest data shows that people in positions of trust are continuing to abuse their authority. You need to recognise that fraud isn’t just an online or external threat and you should be on your guard”.

Across the UK courts dealt with over £319m of alleged fraud in the first half of 2019, down from £345m in the same period last year KPMG also found.

There were 217 cases of alleged fraud heard in courts across the country, a decrease of 13 per cent on the same time last year, which saw 249 cases.

The Fraud Barometer also noted the commercialisation of cyber-crime and a number of repeat offenders making their way back to court amongst the cases recorded.

It recorded a 57 per cent increase in the number of account takeover cases reaching court in the first half of the year in which digital scammers used a range of techniques including email, SMS and apps to get hold of personal data that then enabled them to take over bank and credit card accounts.

In one case, a Tyneside man who was the UK front of a scam conducted in India was jailed for 28 months at Newcastle Crown Court. The fraud involved online scammers who fleeced vulnerable computer users out of hundreds of thousands of pounds by pretending to help them fix bogus viruses or by hacking attacks on their computers.

Victims, many of them elderly, were panicked into contacting the fraudsters after messages informing them their computers had been infected either popped up on screen or were played through speakers.

When they followed instructions to contact a free number, they were put through to India-based crooks who said they could fix the problem for a fee. But once the scammers had access to victims’ banking details, they plundered their accounts and sometimes installed software to allow them to steal more.

Roy Waligora, KPMG UK head of investigations said: “We are noting a worrying move from criminals simply hacking as a means to an end to being industrialised personal data brokers on the dark web.

“As our digital footprints get larger, cybercriminals will continue to develop new and innovative ways to steal personal data. If we are not alive to the threats, there is a great risk that we increase our vulnerability to criminals through our inaction.”

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