Members of the public are being urged to report suspected online fraud to the police after three residents were scammed out of more than £170,000 in East Renfrewshire.

Police Scotland revealed the three people, all over the age of 70, lost a combined sum of over £173,000.

A report to councillors on crime levels in the first quarter of 2022/23 stated that enquiries are continuing but all victims have had funds reinstated by their banks.

Chief Inspector Graeme Gallie, area commander for East Renfrewshire, said the majority of acquisitive crime offences have seen a drop in numbers but fraud remains a priority.

There were 66 crimes in the first quarter - one down on the same period last year.

However, the report added that the “prevalence of crimes relating to fraud has increased both locally in East Renfrewshire and across the UK”.

Ch Insp Gallie said online fraud is “a significant part of what we are tackling”.

He added: “As people have moved more and more to online lifestyles, the opportunities for criminality have also grown.

“Whilst Greater Glasgow division has a dedicated economic crime and investigations unit who deal with high value frauds, I also want to highlight the good work done locally.

"At the start of this quarter, officers from East Renfrewshire successfully traced and charged a male with a bogus workman fraud after a 69-year-old resident paid a deposit for plumbing work which was never carried out.

“In another case, a resident paid for a new family pet which never transpired. After protracted enquiries, an 18-year-old female from Hamilton was traced and charged with this fraud.

"Frauds of this nature can be particularly distressing due to the emotional investment in the purchase.”

Councillor Katie Pragnell asked what is being done to tackle online scammers who target Facebook pages.

“There have been instances of scammers using local Facebook community pages,” she said.

“There was one recent scam where a woman had claimed to be a survivor of domestic violence and, when people contacted this person, they were asking for vouchers from UberEats and other situations.

"Once the money was handed over, the person’s Facebook page disappeared, so many were led to believe it was a scam.”

She was told messaging around online scams is shared on Facebook and Twitter, where the “criminals are active”.

Ch Insp Gallie added: “We know some people don’t necessarily use those avenues, so we’re looking at any avenue where we can message out in relation to these offences.”

Chief Inspector Alan Gray, former area commander for East Renfrewshire, said: “We would encourage members of the public to report any concerns they have because we can then escalate those, whether they be dealt with locally or nationally.

“UK policing is well linked up in this regard, in terms of fraud investigation. I think we have good relations in East Renfrewshire around trading standards too.”

A presentation will be set up to give councillors the opportunity to hear from a senior officer in the economic crime unit in Glasgow.

Inspector Michelle Grant added that officers are “reaching out to communities” and have attended events such as church coffee mornings to share information.

She said officers would also give an update to community councils.