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'You think it will never happen to you': Mum scammed out of £1K by fake policeman

The scam victim has been named Sarah as she is too frightened to be identified. Credit: South Wales Police

A Swansea mum who was scammed out of nearly £1,000 has spoken about her experience to warn others.

Dispelling the myth that fraudsters only target the elderly and the vulnerable, the mum, who is in her mid-thirties and has been named 'Sarah' as she is too frightened to be identified, has warned how she was caught off-guard by a caller who was persistent, convincing and who preyed on her fears.

I thought I was too switched on for it to happen to me, but it did.

The call came out of the blue one morning in the school holidays.

A man with a local accent told me he was a sergeant at my local police station and that he was calling because there was a warrant out for my arrest, due to unpaid taxes.

I was told that I needed to phone a number straight away, which would put me through to HMRC.

I was told if I didn’t do it straight away I’d be arrested and my children would be taken off me.

My children are my life, so at that point I was obviously really worried.

– Sarah

Scared about the prospect of being taken away from her children, Sarah contacted what she believed to be HMRC on the number she was given.

I tried to tell the caller that I didn’t owe any tax – I was confident about that – but he kept saying that I hadn’t replied to letters and calls and that it was now urgent.

I was told that I had an hour to transfer the money or the police would be arriving to arrest me.

– Sarah

Sarah drove to her nearest branch to draw out the money demanded.

He was very persistent and pushy.

He insisted I deposit the money at a certain bank, but the nearest branch was in Llanelli, so he made me stay on the phone to him while I drove there.

– Sarah

After depositing the money at the bank, the caller then insisted that any proof of the transaction was posted to him.

It was then that something clicked.

Something didn’t add up, but I was wary of him thinking I was suspicious of him so I played along and promised I would send it to him as soon as I got home and got an envelope.

Then I hung up and phoned the police.

– Sarah

South Wales Police is currently investigating Sarah’s case, and she was eventually able to get back the money she had lost.

Sarah’s case proves that there is no such thing as a typical victim; these fraudsters are well practised and are extremely manipulative and convincing.

Victims of these scams often feel embarrassed that they’ve fallen for them, but the fraudsters concerned are calculated and, as in Sarah’s case, often prey on specific fears and vulnerabilities.

It is perfectly understandable when victims believe these calls to be genuine, but I’d urge everyone to familiarise themselves with some of the most common scams and remember some key advice and tips, making sure they also pass on the message to their loved ones.

– Detective Constable Lyndsey Rice

Officers have issued the following advice to anyone who is contacted by a possible fraudster:

Do:

  • Obtain details of caller – including name, rank, collar number and station if they claim to be police officers
  • Note any contact details from caller display or via 1471 after the call has concluded
  • Terminate the call advising you will contact the force control room directly to confirm their identity and be put through to them internally
  • Ring a family member first to ensure the line has disconnected from the initial caller
  • If anyone calls at your address following on from this communication, call 999.

Don’t:

  • Provide any details of bank cards, account numbers, financial circumstances or personal details
  • Agree to make purchases or obtain funds from accounts to hand over to couriers
  • Hand over your bank cards or account paperwork.