By Claire McKim
SCOTS police have hit out at BBC bosses after copycat scammers swindled thousands of pounds from victims using a trick shown on TV.
At least a dozen people have been duped into buying bogus electronic goods by criminals in Edinburgh, who handed the victims bags of cardboard and bottled water in return for cash.
The Real Hustle, shown on BBC Three and fronted by TV presenter Paul Wilson, demonstrated the same trick on its TV show last year using professional scammers.
Around £2,500 has currently been taken from the victims as a result of this con.
The BBC is denying the programme encourages criminal activity in its viewers but DS John Graham, investigating the scam, said the TV programme was at danger of showing criminals “best practice”.
He said: “I have not seen the programme but this (scam) was portrayed on this programme I believe.
“There is always a danger with television programmes that if you show criminal activity enough times you are going to show best practice to criminals.
“At the start of the inquiry, the first part of one of the documents I have seen said this modus operandi was shown on the programme.
“There’s a good chance they are the same group of people who are performing this scam in the west of Scotland and in Northern England.
“The victims are shown fake documentation relating to the goods and leave confident that they have made a bargain purchase. They are then left devastated when they discover that they have parted with their money for nothing.
Since October 2011, 12 people have been targeted by fraudsters offering to sell them laptops and other electrical wares.
Shoppers at Meadowbank, Cameron Toll, Leith, Portobello and Tollcross have all been targetted.
Lothian and Borders Police are urging the public to remain vigilant for an ongoing scam in Edinburgh, with DS Graham adding: “These men appear very convincing and desperate for money to pay essential bills.”
The TV show also features former I’m a Celebrity contestant Jessica-Jane Clement as one of its presenters.
David McLetchie, Conservative MSP for Lothian, said: “BBC Three seems to be running an open university for criminals as far as this show is concerned. The law-abiding viewers are going to have to pay as much attention to this programme as the criminals.”
A BBC Spokesman defended the show, saying: “It is completely wrong to suggest The Real Hustle promotes criminal behaviour. This is a well-known real scam. The series sets out to highlight such scams and to give viewers all the information they need to protect themselves.”