Fraudsters stopped in their tracks.
Criminals have been prevented from fraudulently withdrawing around £29 million from bank accounts over the last five years, according to a report into serious organised crime in Scotland.
The report by Scotland's Serious Organised Crime Taskforce (SOCT) updates on the success of the Banking Protocol since its launch in 2018. Under the scheme, staff in banks and other financial institutions are trained to spot and help prevent customers being scammed.
The Taskforce Progress Report also details the other ways that criminal gangs have been disrupted from causing harm to individuals, communities and businesses across Scotland.
This includes targeted action on those supplying illegal drugs, including through ‘county lines', and action on environmental waste crime such as fly-tipping.
The report highlights the success of the CashBack for Communities scheme, where seized criminal assets are used to fund programmes established to divert young people away from involvement in antisocial behaviour and crime.
Justice Secretary Angela Constance, who chairs the SOCT, said:
“Tackling and disrupting serious organised crime and diverting people away from being drawn into criminal gangs is a priority for the Scottish Government and the Serious Organised Crime Taskforce.
“This progress report offers an insight into the breadth of activity overseen by the Taskforce and its supporting partners to tackle serious organised crime and it highlights the successes they are having.
“I welcome the on-going success of the Banking Protocol, which has prevented customers, who are often older or vulnerable people, from having a total of around £29 million fraudulently taken from their accounts.
“I am grateful to our partners across the public, private and third sectors who have contributed to the work of the SOCT and I look forward to continuing our collaborative efforts to eradicate serious organised crime in Scotland.”
Deputy Chief Constable Jane Connors said:
“Police Scotland remains fully committed to working in partnership with the members of the Serious Organised Crime Taskforce to continue to disrupt the activities of organised crime groups and ensure the country remains a hostile environment for those involved in this type of criminality.
“By working together we have achieved impressive results which help keep people safe. This has had, and will continue to have, a major impact, preventing them from preying, exploiting and making illicit profit from our communities.”
Major banks operating in Scotland who have signed up to the Banking Protocol include Barclays Bank, Bank of Scotland, Clydesdale, Nationwide, Royal Bank of Scotland, Santander, TSB Bank.
The Serious Organised Crime Taskforce was established in 2007 and has 13 members, with other partners supporting the work taken forward by the Taskforce's subgroups.
The Progress Report outlines the nature and scope of organised crime in Scotland. At the end of March 2023, there were 101 Serious Organised Crime Groups (SOCGs) recorded as operating in Scotland, made up of 1,726 individuals, with 61% of SOCGs located in the West of Scotland, 23% in the East and 16% in the North. There were 165 individuals convicted of SOC offences in custody. These criminals were linked to 51 separate crime groups.
The report shows 72% of SOCGs are involved in the use of seemingly legitimate businesses. Property development remains the most common business sector for SOCGs. This is closely followed by retail, vehicle maintenance, taxis, restaurants and environmental sectors.