3. I draw members’ attention to my entry in the register of interests in relation to my holding shareholdings in a bank.
To ask the Scottish Government what support is available to victims of financial crime in circumstances where banks seem to have failed to observe their own lending criteria and “know your customer” protocols. (S5O-03729)
Victims of financial crime may now have their losses refunded, following the introduction of a voluntary code of practice that came into force in May of this year. Victims of financial crime should contact their bank for more information in the first instance.
The minister might be aware of the McLaren fraud case, which resulted in a criminal being sent to prison for an extremely long period. One of my constituents lost their house, the title to it and the prospect of recovering it. Party to that was one of the branches of the Royal Bank of Scotland, where the fraudster conducted most of his business.
Would it be possible for the Government to facilitate an investigation that might support the ability of victims to recover the millions of pounds of which they were defrauded through the capturing of ownership of houses across Scotland and in my constituency in particular?
I am really sorry to hear about the case that Stewart Stevenson has told the chamber about, and I would be happy to have further discussion on the circumstances and what the Government might be able to do.
There are already a number of bodies to which victims can go if they are not satisfied with the service that they have received from their bank or their legal representatives, such as the Law Society of Scotland and the Financial Ombudsman Service. In addition, as Stewart Stevenson might be aware, the Solicitors Regulation Authority sets rules to make sure that solicitors treat their clients fairly and professionally in such circumstances.
I am sure that Mr Stevenson will appreciate that all complaint procedures need to be exhausted and those concerned given the opportunity to resolve the situation before further action can be taken, but I suggest that we discuss the matter further.
A study carried out jointly by YouGov and the Bank of Scotland that was released earlier this year found that 400,000 people in Scotland had suffered financial scams at some point in their lives. What action is the minister taking in response to fraudsters’ increasing use of subtle and more advanced tactics, which are most commonly used in phone calls and fake emails, in targeting victims in Scotland?
As the member rightly says, it is dreadful news that 400,000 people have suffered scams. There is a new code of practice that has been developed in collaboration with the banks. I recognise that the code is voluntary, not mandatory, but all banks that have yet to sign up to it should do so. Victims of financial crime whose banks have yet to sign up to the voluntary code should follow the guidance of the Financial Ombudsman Service on how to deal with fraud once it has happened.
As far as prevention is concerned, we all have a duty to raise awareness and to support particularly vulnerable people who might be taken in by such scams.