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 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 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.