Scotland – Cyber Crime ‘Hotpot’!

Scotland – Cyber Crime ‘Hotpot’!

Cybercrime in Scotland is doubling each year as criminals use technology to con unsuspecting victims out of millions of pounds.

Because business, socialising & communication is increasingly conducted online, police are seeing a large rise in financial frauds committed by crooks hiding behind screens.

In 2023 17,000 Scottish online frauds were detected & investigated & such cyber frauds account for 95% of all fraud cases police deal within Scotland.


Now, in a crackdown on the issue, a specialist cyber fraud centre is to open at the Scottish Crime Campus in April.

The officer leading Police Scotland’s response to the growing threat has shown the extent of the swindles & cruel deceptions taking place.

A recent heartbreaking story concerned a 16-year-old who committed suicide after online blackmailers tricked him into sending intimate pictures & then threatened to share them if he did not meet their demands.

Almost Doubling

Assistant Chief Constable Andy Freeburn, Executive Lead for Organised Crime, Counter Terrorism & Intelligence for Police Scotland, revealed: ‘Cyber-crime has increased exponentially from around 2018, almost doubling year on year.

‘We know around 17,000 online frauds are committed each year in Scotland – or around 50 each day & according to our own figures 95% of all frauds have an online element, & it is now synonymous with cyber-crime.

‘Behind every one of these frauds there is a victim of crime. They may have lost their savings, their business & indeed their very confidence of going online.’

Common Scam

Mr Freeburn observed that a common fraud sees the victim being contacted by someone claiming to be from their bank or financial institution alerting them to some suspicious or fraudulent account activity, which needs verified with a call back.

He added: ‘They then provide a number to call back on for security reasons. They then ask the person to withdraw money & pass this to a 3rd party for safety, often saying it is as part of an inquiry.’

Businesses are also prone to sophisticated computerised frauds, sometimes from ‘rogue employees’ with access to their online systems.


In 2023 Office Manager Emma Hunt, from Coldstream in Berwickshire, was jailed for 3 years for embezzling £899,164 to spend on lavish parties, cars, designer goods & a 5-star Caribbean holiday.

She fraudulently obtained money from a property business & some of its clients between May 31, 2016 & January 20, 2019.

As part of her fraud she created false invoices for large sums for ‘supplies’ & ‘business expenses,’ which she transferred online into her own personal bank accounts.


Police Scotland is now work alongside other bodies including HMRC, the National Crime Agency (NCA) & British Transport Police as part of a ‘multi-agency’ approach to target cyber criminals.

10 years ago an £82m state-of-the-art facility was opened in Gartcosh, Lanarkshire, with forensic laboratories & support facilities specifically designed to tackle serious organised crime.

A decade on, the campus is busier than ever with new techniques & technologies being used to detect & prevent crime.

Critical Asset

Mr Freeburn explained: ‘The Scottish Crime Campus is a critical asset. It is the joint location of Police Scotland & key partner organisations.

‘Building on this success, we are launching a Cyber & Fraud Centre where partners will be co-located & tasked with tackling the risk posed by cyber & fraud.

‘This will allow for new standards to be set in intelligence sharing, planning, evidence gathering & enforcement through our combined efforts, expertise & resources.’

He added: ‘We are exploring new technologies & capabilities & are investing in additional crypto currency tools.’

Work More Closely

Police Scotland will also look to work more closely with other UK forces.

Until now, national reporting centre Action Fraud has not dealt with fraud & cyber-crime in Scotland. That is set to change.

Mr Freeburn observed: ‘We saw a massive rise during Covid when people were spending more time online. We are currently reviewing our approach to tackling fraud.

‘This includes the consideration to join a service that will replace Action Fraud. This is to deliver a next generation service for fraud & cybercrime reporting as part of our ambition to creating a fully integrated Law Enforcement Model to tackle cybercrime.’

Mr Freeburn has more than 1,000 dedicated officers under him working hard to ‘detect & disturb’ gangs, prevent cyber-crime & bring criminals to justice, but he admits more needs to be done.

Recent operations have led to concrete outcomes.


6 men & 1 woman were arrested & charged in connection with an alleged high-value fraud, following a joint operation with policing partners in England in Dec. 2023 as part of an ongoing investigation into an elderly woman in Lanarkshire, who had a 7-figure sum stolen last year.

This month an 18-year-old man was charged in connection with a series of alleged frauds in Dunbartonshire & Glasgow.

Officers had received reports of people being contacted by phone by a person claiming to be a police officer from Glasgow.


Mr Freeburn concluded: ‘We want the public to know that we are working hard & are going to continue to try to be responsive to the threat, but we also continue to need the public’s support & for them to be vigilant.’