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Cyber and Fraud Centre Scotland calls for greater awareness of rising threat

The Cyber and Fraud Centre Scotland has issued a plea for additional funding to be allocated to fighting organised crime through a new collaborative multi-agency model.

Results have revealed that more than £3m of defrauded money was recovered or ceased in transfer during a six-month trial of the centre’s new triage hub, so funding is now being sought to develop and expand the model into a fully sustainable charitable organisation.

The hub trial was set up in May to bring the Cyber and Fraud Centre, Police Scotland and financial institutions like NatWest, Lloyds and Metro Bank, together to share intelligence, disrupt criminal gang activity, deliver support to victims and recover stolen funds.

Police Scotland receives around 18,000 fraud calls a year – with around 95% being cyber enabled and committed using an online device – demonstrating increasing demand for cyber security support as the threat of cyber attack persists for businesses.

Reported incidents of cyber crime in Scotland have doubled between 2019/2020 and 2022/2023, with business email compromise, chief executive impersonation and crypto and investment fraud making up the bulk of these crimes.

The nature of cyber crime as an underreported crime means that these numbers are likely to be higher.

During its trial period, the hub worked on cases totalling almost £10m of fraudulently obtained money by liaising with Barclays, NatWest, Lloyds, Metro and HSBC and gathering intelligence on fraud attempts to help prevent cyber attacks from happening in the first place.

Organisations can find themselves vulnerable to cyber attack, regardless of size, with smaller businesses, public organisations and charities equally vulnerable.

The Orkney-based Rousay, Egilsay & Wyre Development Trust, for example, was targeted earlier this year, with Police Scotland continuing to investigate the case with specialist officers.

Stuart Williams, manager at the trust, said: “Experiencing a cyber attack has a profound and long-lasting effect on people, and it’s important to receive the right support and guidance afterwards.

“Cyber criminals are skilled at deceiving their victims, and there needs to be a greater awareness of what they’re capable of.

“Our organisation was the victim of a targeted attack by criminals who knew exactly what to say to persuade us to part with important details, and we were defrauded to the tune of £120,000 as a result.“

Andy Freeburn, assistant chief constable at Police Scotland, said: “Cyber crime and frauds are more sophisticated and have huge repercussions for victims, as we’ve seen from cases like Stuart’s, which remains under investigation.

“Collaboration is the key to prevention, but also to develop the expert knowledge to investigate and importantly support people, businesses and the wider communities when the worst does happen.

“We know the figures do not represent the full extent of the issue and I would encourage any person or business who has become a victim of a cyber crime to report it to Police Scotland, the Cyber and Fraud Centre Scotland and their banks, to ensure a full investigation and access the support which is available.”

Jude McCorry, chief executive of Cyber and Fraud Centre Scotland, said: “Cyber criminals are becoming increasingly sophisticated, and we really can’t afford to underestimate the impact of cyber crime and fraud – both financially, as cyber crime is estimated to cost the Scottish economy billions each year, and on a personal level too, as experiencing a cyber attack is a highly stressful event for business owners and their employees.

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