The robotic falcon maker who online criminals targeted

John Donald

Entrepreneur John Donald, who sells robotic falcons all over the world, still finds it hard to believe that the pandemic led to his fall victim to cybercrime.

The tech-savvy grandfather claimed that fraudsters targeted him as his family business struggled to deal with a 95% decline in turnover.

Although the 72-year-old was extremely dubious, he eventually gave in to their demands and wired almost £100,000 to a fictitious bank account.

According to what he said to BBC Scotland, "My wife thought I was having a nervous breakdown when she came through the door just as this process was coming to a close.

That was extremely stressful. I wouldn't want anyone to experience it. ".

According to recent statistics from Police Scotland, there were 17,000 cases of fraud last year, the vast majority of which were committed online, an increase of 68% since 2018.

Robotic Falcon
Robotic birds are sold all over the world by Mr. Donald's business.

Robotic peregrine falcons are created by Mr. Donald's North Berwick business, Robop, to kill birds.

Covid severely hurt the company, which sold its products in 17 different nations.

One Friday in December 2020 at 16:30, Mr. Donald was wracked with worry about the future of the business when he got a call.

One of the worst events in his life began as a result of it.

The caller claimed they were from a joint banking task force and had found fraud in his account while speaking in a well-to-do accent from Edinburgh.

It was done in a very, very sophisticated manner, and I was under a lot of stress at the time, said Mr. Donald.

Something was seriously wrong, his gut told him.

But as he probed, it became apparent that the caller knew a great deal about him and his company. Their explanations seemed reasonable to Mr. Donald.

He attempted to call his bank using a different phone but was unable to do so.

Person typing on a keyboard

The caller then intensified his or her pressure.

They essentially stated that we have this time window because there is a discrepancy between what we see on our system and what you see on yours, so we need to finish this as soon as possible, according to Mr. Donald.

"They asked me to move money from one account into another in my name.

This took longer than five minutes. For an hour, this continued.

"I later felt incredibly stupid, but at the time it seemed like there was no other choice. ".

After six weeks, his bank refunded the missing funds after a friend connected Mr. Donald with the Cyber and Fraud Centre Scotland.

Jude McCorry, the center's CEO, noted that not everyone had such good fortune.

She continued, "We recently witnessed a fraud in which a property deal involved the transfer of £700,000 to the incorrect account.

Not a company, but a person was involved in that. It was significant, and the investigation is ongoing.

"Instead of constantly responding to these crimes, we need to consider how we can prevent them. ".

Police Scotland's top officers think that cybercrime is vastly underreported and that the most recent statistics only scratch the surface.

The difficulty has increased to the point where only about 16 percent of cases of fraud are currently detected, which has decreased by half in recent years.

The involvement of Scottish criminal organizations is growing, according to Assistant Chief Constable Andy Freeburn.

"What we have seen over the last year is emerging serious and organized crime groups operating in that space, trying to take advantage of the Scottish public through cyber, through fraud," he said. "We are now actively working against those gangs.

"We won't be able to escape this situation by making arrests. Scotland is under a serious threat.

"With the help of our banking and financial partners, we are successfully locating individuals and recovering money.

"However, we are also enhancing our prevention messaging, making it very clear to the general public how they can help themselves by not disclosing details, ensuring their computer software is up to date, and reporting anything suspicious to us. ".

In order to purchase new tools and give all of its operational officers training, Police Scotland is investing an additional £4.3 million in its cybercrime strategy.

The force has also developed a protocol to make sure that its use of modern technology is morally correct.

Mr. Donald asserted that the general public needs to be aware of how sophisticated cyber fraud can be.

The fraud line for your bank should be on your phone's speed dial, he continued.

"And, for the bank to kindly respond to calls made to these numbers.

. "

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