Scottish council fraud case throws scams into focus
A Scottish council has been conned out of more than £100,000 by a fraud gang which posed as one of its suppliers.
The scam, involving South Lanarkshire Council, has thrown into sharp focus the threat posed by fraud activity across Scotland and the rest of the UK.
According to the government-funded Consumer Direct, some three million people in the UK fall victim every year, losing an average of £850 each.
Fake lotteries and prize draws, bogus psychic predictions, get-rich-quick investments and "miracle" health cures are among tricks that scammers try.
In one case in January of this year, an elderly woman from Aberdeen was cheated out of £24,000 in a Euromillions scam.
But businesses, whether public or private, are no more immune to being conned than individuals, according to the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA).
SOCA fraud expert Colin Woodcock said he could not discuss specific cases.
But he did warn businesses and public bodies to keep a watchful eye out for scams.
He said: "Businesses are as vulnerable as anyone else.
"Common scams are a false bill, or hijacking an account. Smaller companies, for example, might pass a bill on to their accountant and tell them to pay it without checking it too much.
"They should exercise caution and ask themselves if they remember this company or person, and give them a ring and check."
Dr Ian Ferguson, a digital forensics expert at the University of Abertay, said crime had well and truly moved into the computer age.
He commented: "Traditional crime has migrated and now uses the internet as its vehicle.
"People are still in awe of modern technology and they fail to look at the details around the edges - the technology gets in the way of their common sense."
A clearer picture is beginning to emerge of the scale and nature of scams in the UK, following the creation earlier this year of Action Fraud, a national fraud reporting centre run by the National Fraud Authority.
Mr Woodcock said inheritance fraud (a scam which cons people into believing they have been left a lot of money in a will) and romance scams, were of particular concern at the moment.
"People should remember that if something is too good to be true, then take it from me - it is," he added.
Here is a look at some of the most common scams as outlined by Consumer Direct: