Cyber crime gangs stole more than £760,000 from north-east firms in the last six months.
New data shows the amount of cash stolen from traders in the region almost doubled when compared to the same period the previous year.
The figures – provided by Police Scotland’s economic crime unit – also show while the amount stolen shot up by 87%, the number of victims rose by 26%.
From last July until January 15, £767,507.86 was taken, with 46 reports made.
Business email intercept-type frauds take several forms and typically involve criminals hacking into a company’s email account and then changing the payment details on invoices.
Money intended for the company’s suppliers is then diverted to the criminals – and usually only comes to light when a supplier questions the missing payment.
And the region’s companies in December 2019 were scammed out of £290,992.24 – more than seven times the amount they stole the previous December, which saw £40,632.14 lost. From July to December last year, the scammers took an average of £2.90 a minute from north-east firms.
By comparison, 34 reports were made during the same period in 2018, with a total of £407,623 lost.
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Detective Inspector Ian Whittle, of Police Scotland’s economic crime unit, said: “This type of financial fraud can be devastating for businesses and I would urge companies in the north-east to be on guard at all times against this type of activity.
“It is important to know the customers you are dealing with and to take the time to assess their profile and the transactions they’re requesting to protect your business.
“The most common customer fraud is abusing methods of payment for goods and services. For instance, if you receive an email from a regular customer or supplier saying they have changed their bank account, I recommend phoning your usual point of contact at that business to double check the validity of the email.
“Another common example is fraudsters claiming to call from a bank and stating the business has been a victim of fraud and that they need to immediately transfer money to another account.
“Banks will never call your business about this. Should you receive a call like this, you should contact your bank to verify the claim.
“Your intuition can often be the best judge of whether a customer interaction seems right, but if you are in any doubt about the validity of a customer or a transaction, do not proceed and report any suspicious activity to the police on 101.”
The figures show that the average victim lost £17,758 in the second half of 2019, compared with £11,988 in the second half of 2018 – and things were particularly grim in the festive period.
There were three reports made in December 2018 with a total loss of £40,632 – and this shot up to six reports with a loss of £290,992 in December 2019.
The figures show a total of 70 reports with a loss of £939,605 to scammers in the whole of 2019, compared with 64 reports with a loss of £619,241 in the whole of 2018 – a 51% rise.