A woman in her 70s who has lost around £7k after being targeted by suspected scammers wants to warn others who may be at risk.
The 78-year-old from Middlesbrough has faced months of upset and uncertainty after first having money taken from her account in the summer of 2019.
The victim, who worked in accountancy before retirement, wants to share the message that it can happen to anyone and the tactics used by fraudsters are sophisticated and relentless.
DC Rachel Graham, from Cleveland Police’s Fraud Team, is working with the lady and has happily managed to recover around £2,600 to date – as a complex investigation continues.
The 78-year-old victim explains that she was contacted via phone and email, always by people who sounded ‘professional’ and often from phone numbers that appeared to be legitimate.
She explains: “Everyone who contacted me sounded so genuine and as if they wanted to help but of course they didn’t. I just don’t think people realise the ramifications of what they’re doing.”
Suspected scammers contacted the lady in different ways, including posing as well-known retailers and claiming to be investigating fraud on her account.
She adds: “Once they got some details from me it just kept on going, with different names showing up in my account taking different amounts of money. My bank account went absolutely haywire.”
In just a fortnight the victim had around 4k taken from her account in three separate transactions.
It was money that the victim, who recently suffered serious health problems, would have put towards a holiday she has been planning for more than 30 years.
DC Graham said: “I’m grateful to this lady for allowing us to share her experience as it shows people who commit fraud can target anyone at any time and vulnerable people are repeatedly targeted by fraud suspects.
“It’s the suspects that are the cowards, if you are a victim of fraud please report it, do not suffer in silence. If you report the matter we can investigate.
“Sadly it is not always possible to recover monies. In this instance I'm very pleased that I have been able to trace money to return it to the victim and this work continues.
“We continue to work with partners including Action Fraud and the Victim Care and Advice Service (VCAS) during our investigation.
“Fraudsters commit long-term damage against victims. Not only are they affected financially but it’s a crime which makes people feel extremely vulnerable and ashamed.
“Unfortunately with this investigation once the initial scam was successful the lady faced many instances of being targeted further, causing further distress.
“Please remember Action Fraud’s advice to ‘take five’ if something doesn’t feel right.
“That means taking a moment to stop and think before parting with any personal information or money. Don’t be afraid to challenge if something doesn’t sound right, only a criminal will then get pushy - someone who is genuinely trying to help you will not rush you or ask for money from you.”
“Please contact your bank immediately if you think you’ve been scammed they may be able to stop money in transaction and then report it to Action Fraud.”
DC Graham recommends reading your bank’s advice on avoiding fraud, including how to use online banking and card readers safely. The latest scam alerts are available at: takefive-stopfraud.org.uk