THE number of frauds recorded in Scotland rocketed last month as other kinds of offences declined during the coronavirus lockdown.

The latest official figures show police recorded 1,441 frauds in May 2020, an increase of 72 per cent on the 837 recorded in the same month last year. 

It coincided with reports of scammers exploiting the pandemic to steal from the public.

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Comparing April and May this year, the first full months of  lockdown, with April and May 2019, fraud saw the biggest rise of any crime, up 55% from 1,628 to 2,530 crimes.

The fraud figures bucked the general trend of a decline in crimes since the lockdown took effect, with shoplifting down 35% year-on-year in May, sexual crimes down 26%, non-sexual violent crimes down 5%, and fire-raising and vandalism down 21% and 23% respectively.

However robbery was up 16% year-on-year, drug crimes up 12%, and “crimes against public justice”, such as wasting police time and resisting arrest, up 52%.

The Recorded Crime for Scotland figures also reported there were around 2,700 Covid-related crimes, such as illegal gatherings, in April and 1,700 more in May.

Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Liam McArthur said: “Scammers are becoming increasingly hard to spot, as the line between what is real and what is fake gets thinner and thinner.

“Because of lockdown, people are living more of their lives than ever before in an online world. Personal and professional information is being shared every day, over new and unfamiliar platforms, and it is essential to guard against people exploiting this.

"or example, the Test and Protect notice that went to every household could have contained information on avoiding fraud instead of referring people to a website, given we know that people with lower digital literacy are common targets for scams.”

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Besides Covid, the recorded fraud increases have also coincided with a change to the methology, with crimes committed by scammers based outside Scotland included for the first time in April.

At FMQs on Wednesday, Nicola Sturgeon said those who used the pandemic to commit financial crimes against the vulnerable were “the lowest of the low”.

She said: “That behaviour is disgraceful and disgusting and those who indulge in it should be deeply and utterly ashamed of themselves. That is true all the time, but to do that at a time like this, when everybody, individually and collectively, is dealing with an unprecedented crisis and going through the most difficult circumstances, is beyond my comprehension.”