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Recent reports to Police Scotland and the Cyber and Fraud Centre Scotland highlight a worrying increase in “Ringing the Changes” scams across the country, primarily across the central belt. These scams exploit the confusion of everyday cash transactions leaving unsuspecting individuals and, more than often, businesses out of pocket. 

Understanding the Scam 

The “Ringing the Changes” scam works like this: 

  1. The Setup: The scammer makes a small purchase using a large denomination banknote (e.g., buying a £2 item with a £50 note). 
  2. The Confusion: While the cashier provides change, the scammer creates confusion. They might ask to exchange the change for a different denomination, request additional small items, or employ sleight-of-hand to hide some of the cash. 
  3. The Take: The scammer leaves with more money than they’re owed, exploiting the cashier’s confusion, and leaving them shortchanged. 

Why It Works 

This scam thrives in busy environments. Hurried cashiers, especially during peak hours, are more susceptible to the scammer’s extremely professional distracting tactics. This method can be extremely difficult to spot immediately, often only coming to light when tills are reconciled. 

Protecting Yourself and Your Business 

Here’s how to minimise the risk of falling victim to this scam: 

  • Staff Awareness: Educate staff on how “Ringing the Changes” works. Train them to be extra cautious with large banknotes for small purchases. 
  • Clear Policies: Establish clear policies on cash handling. Consider a “no large note” policy for small transactions or require a manager’s approval for cash exchanges. 
  • Attentiveness: Encourage staff to stay focused, even during busy periods. Advise against handling multiple transactions with the same customer simultaneously.  Complete one transaction before dealing with another question they have. 
  • Reporting: Report any suspected scam attempts to Police Scotland by calling 101 or businesses can call the Cyber and Fraud Centre Scotland’s Cyber Incident Response Line at 0800 1670 623. 

Stay Vigilant 

The “Ringing the Changes” scam is a cunning example of how simple social engineering tricks can lead to financial loss. By implementing these measures and promoting awareness, you can reduce the chances of you, or your business being targeted.