/ Money

A scammer tricked me out of life savings

phone scam

We hear so much about scams, but what’s it really like to suffer one? One man, who would prefer to remain anonymous, contacted us after a scammer pretending to be from his bank convinced him to transfer money to a ‘safe account’.

I lost more than £50,000 to a phone scam. A man who I thought was from my bank was in reality a scammer who stole my money, abused me and taunted me that he’d taken “my life savings”.

And it happened very quickly.

It was 4 March when I saw £1,800 had been transferred from my account without my knowledge. I told my bank’s fraud department immediately and by the end of the day the money was back, my debit card cancelled and a new one issued. My online banking was deleted and they told me to run my anti-virus software before setting it up again.

Three days later, the bank texted to confirm the money had been returned, then to say it had sent me a new debit card.

So that was that? If only.

‘£3,000 payment from your account’

Just a few minutes after the second text a third, also apparently from my bank, arrived. It said a £3,000 payment had been made from my account and advised me to call the fraud team on the number in the text.

I had no reason to suspect anything, the text was in the same thread as the others, so I called.

The man I spoke to ‘David Cunningham’ was professional. He could see my account details (probably due to spyware on my laptop) and asked the same security questions as a genuine bank employee I’d dealt with three days earlier.

He claimed my accounts had been compromised by an online hack and a £25,000 loan taken out in my name. He said he’d set up safe accounts for my money and gave me instructions to transfer it via online banking.

I assumed it was genuine – after all my account had been hacked a few days before and I was already dealing with the fraud department. The man even directed me to a webpage that confirmed my money was protected up to £75,000.

So I transferred all the money from my accounts and waited for the new details he said would be in the post. He even gave me a work mobile number.

When they didn’t arrive, I called ‘David’ who said they’d been posted.

Two days later, a letter from my bank did arrive – to say I was being charging for being over my overdraft limit.

Alarm bells

Alarm bells rang. I called the landline number in the original text. It went to a GiffGaff answer message, so I tried again. This time ‘David’ called back.

I challenged him with questions about my accounts and he told me to go into my branch on Monday.

When I said I’d call the bank immediately, he swore and ended the call. A few minutes later he phoned again to say he had my life savings. I asked why he’d done this to me and my family. He asked if I’d sell my family to him for the amount he’d taken. He called my mobile later and, when my partner answered, he abused her and said we could have the money back in return for photos of her.

By 14 March, the money had been spent and my bank said that as the money had been spent and I’d apparently ‘authorised’ the transactions online it was unlikely I’d get it back.

Could my bank have done more?

I feel my bank should have contacted me about the unusual and ‘uncharacteristic’ transactions – especially as my accounts had been compromised days earlier.

It’s since told me that the time between disabling my online account and when I set it up again wasn’t enough to clear my computer of a spyware virus, but I wasn’t told this on the day.

I had security software on my computer, which claims to protect me from spyware. It didn’t seem to work in my case.

My bank initially offered half my money back, but has since agreed to refund it all.

Advice on scams from Which?

Adam FrenchAdam French, Which? Consumer Rights Producer: From the evidence he gave us, it looks like our anonymous author was the victim of a complex and authentic-looking scam in which his phone number was cloned and he was the victim of ID theft.

If you’ve been caught out by a scam that’s resulted in you transferring your money into another account, contact your bank immediately.

The bank can try to recover the funds once it’s notified.

You could also have grounds to complain if the bank has somehow contributed to the fraud or if it’s failed to try to recover the funds properly.

If your provider refuses a refund or offers only a partial refund you can escalate your complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service. It has statutory power to bind banks to its decision. You may also want to report the scam to Action Fraud.

Comments
Guest
Peter Butler says:
29 May 2016

I never answer calls from unknown number’s. The only calls I answer are from people on my calls list which appear as names. I have never rung my bank I do not even have their phone number as I have always said some people will always fall for even the simplest scam every time however much advice the are given. That’s the way of life.

Guest

The closure of bank branches is making it increasingly necessary to deal with banking arrangements by e-mail or telephone. This story shows how dangerous it can be to trust text messages, e-mail messages and telephone conversations. We live within thirty minutes walk of branches of our banks but that won’t help on a Sunday or Bank Holiday. It’s very difficult to know how to defeat highly-sophisticated fraud of the sort described here. Personally, I think it is a good idea to have your bank’s phone number conveniently to hand [listed in your mobile’s contact list, for example] so you can call them to query any unusual occurrence purporting to be on the bank’s behalf. Paying more frequent attention to account transactions is also necessary these days and doing it daily on-line is recommended in order to catch any irregularity.

Guest

The British public will have to make up its mind , if they think the present state of scammers on telephone lines and email is not acceptable they will have to pressurize the government to make changes to the telephone system and introduce draconian measures against those who abuse the network , Germany has those Laws in its Telecommunications Act but there is not the political will in this country to do the same due to different politics . The other choice is the status quo which with TTIP being introduced means it will only get worse ( unless you are for TTIP or the more secret -CETA and then it will be more “Free ” ) Its time the British public stood up and put its message across forcefully to the government— Enough is Enough !!!

Guest

Lets face it the Banks , abetted by the media, has introduced electronic systems whilst swiftly closing Branches as they are no long economic/required as everything can be done electronically.

The public have been sold a pup as on-line banking and on-line interactions are not safe for the average consumer. Come to that they are not safe for banks with them being compromised for multi-million thefts. It is really quite pathetic the lack of foresight that has gone into this.

The prime motivation of the banks has been profitability and security has been a non-runner in the ocst and benefits equation.

Passing on to branches and in particular the last one in town. IF the public would en-masses transfer their accounts to the last Bank in town and provide it directly with business that would be an effective consideration on keeping it open. The reciprocity arrangements between banks and free use of ATM’s actively discriminates against the final Bank[s] in a town. The public with a little effort could make these Branches both profitable and very unlikely to close.

Local branches staffed by local people is actually a much more secure system than you would think. Local knowledge counts for much.

Guest
dieseltaylor says:
29 May 2016

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Adam Shepherd
News
24 May, 2016
Three banks have lost millions of dollars to hackers using the Swift network

Swift’s CEO has warned that hackers could use its financial transfer system to bring international banks to their knees.

The warning comes after a bank in Ecuador became the third financial institution to be attacked by hackers using the Swift network, which facilitates currency trading between more than 11,000 banks in 200 countries, losing $12 million.

Previous cyber attacks took money from banks in Vietnam and Bangladesh, and Gottfried Leibbrandt, CEO of Swift, warned these attacks appear to be part of a coordinated campaign. “The Bangladesh fraud is not an isolated incident,” he said.

“We are aware of at least two, but possibly more, other cases where fraudsters used the same modus operandi, albeit without the spectacular amounts.”

Guest
dieseltaylor says:
29 May 2016

oops link is
itpro.co.uk/security/26536/hackers-could-cripple-major-world-banks-using-our-network-says-swift-ceo

So there you go even the banks seem to be incapable of protecting themselves let alone customers.

Guest

In both those cases (three , now) the banks themselves hadn’t implemented even rudimentary security over transactions and Swift itself has only belatedly agreed that at the very least two-factor identification would be useful…

theregister.co.uk/2016/05/28/swift_finally_pushes_twofactor_auth/

Guest

Yes . Banks incompetent in their own protection and yet expect the untutored customers, without a personal IT security advisor, to master protecting themselves.

And if you want to think about other vectors of attack then the humble printer is another weak link. Particularly useful if networked.

I honestly believe that the NFC enabled payments system will also be shown to be hackable inside three years. Whilst it is nice to be proved right the effects will be fairly horrendous.

For the illusion greater electronic security we will be coerced into providing more and more personal identifiable information which will include facial ID and voice prints. Amazon already are taking voice prints so people can talk to their TV to change channels etc. Google are looking at facial recognition this year.