Highland Hospice loses £500k to 'vishing and spoofing fraud'

Highlands and Islands Police are investigating a number of incidents in which fraudsters posed as bank representatives to make victims hand over financial information

Highland Hospice
Highland Hospice

A Scottish hospice has lost approximately £500,000 to a cyber crime, police have confirmed.

Highland Hospice lost the money in a "vishing and spoofing fraud", the Highland and Islands Police Division said in a statement.

Vishing is where a fraudster makes a telephone call posing as a bank representative to persuade the victim to hand over financial information.

The police statement said the hospice was one of a number of victims in the Highlands and the fraudsters had stolen a total of £2.5m between 19 July and 30 July from businesses in the region.

The police said they were aware of other attempts to defraud hospices in recent weeks, but they had not established if these cases were linked.

Last month, Bury Hospice lost £235,000 in an "elaborate" fraud involving an online virus check, and said other charities in Greater Manchester had been targeted in a similar way.

Bolton Hospice also narrowly avoided a "sophisticated fraud" last month that involved contacting a major supplier and having the hospice’s bank’s phone number appear on the caller display.

Kenny Steele, chief executive of Highland Hospice, said: "Although this is a horrendous situation, it will not have an immediate impact on operations. There is resilience built into the hospice financial systems to cope with these types of risk to ensure that our top priority of patient and family care and wellbeing is protected.

"We have put in additional security measures and are working with the police and banking authorities to work on recovery of the funds and track the perpetrators. We also hope that releasing this information will help to protect other businesses in the area."

Detective Inspector Iain McPhail, from the Economic Crime and Financial Investigation Unit at Police Scotland, said the force was carrying out a thorough investigation of the incident.

He said some of the money had been recovered and police were working to recover the rest of the stolen funds.

"I would again urge people to be on their guard against unsolicited calls from someone claiming to be from their bank," he said.

"Always double-check numbers you're given to call back to or call through the main customer care number for the organisation and ask to be put through.

"If you decide to ring back and verify the call, it is advisable to do so on a different phone line, such as another landline or your mobile. If you are still unsure, consider visiting your local branch instead of speaking to someone over the phone."

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