Report by Rachel Bullock
A 90-year-old woman from Teesside who was conned out of thousands of pounds by scammers has spoken out over the lasting impact it has had on her.
The woman, who has asked to remain anonymous, was called by fraudsters claiming to be from Barclays Bank who told her she needed to send her bank cards to St Helens in Merseyside so she could be protected against fraud.
A few days after posting them to the address, the woman panicked and visited her bank to ask about the cards.
"I went down there without a coat. I had a cardigan on. I got the bus there and I didn't even have the proper money. I was looking in my purse for the money for the bus fare. I panicked like mad. I was terrified of what was going to happen."
At this point, she discovered that £4,000 had already been taken from her account.
She added: "Since this all happened, I've had nine falls. That's what upsets me most. I could be stood there, combing my hair or doing something and the next minute I'm on the floor. And I don't know why. It's just shook me so much."
At this point, Action Fraud was contacted and the incident was passed to the Economic Crime Unit who identified that the cards had been used at two addresses - one in London and one in Leicester.
Detective Constable Michelle Dack, Investigating Officer for Cleveland Police's Fraud Investigation Team, then contacted the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit who arrested two males at an address in St Helens.
She said: “£1,600 cash was seized, and account freezing orders are being pursued to secure over £10,000 found in their bank accounts. Paperwork seized from the property recovered suggested that there are other victims who will now be traced and safeguarded.
“Both males have now been bailed pending further enquiries. Thankfully we managed to stop the fraudsters from stealing any more money from the victim - and we prevented further people from being scammed. The victim also received back the money that was stolen from her.”
Access to the internet has made it easier than ever to find information, shop and search at the click of a button. Unfortunately, it has also made it easier for scammers to target victims.
In recent years, fraudsters have gone to extreme lengths to con victims out of their hard earned money. Their methods have become more sophisticated and difficult to spot.
Figures by UK Finance in May 2023 found that over £1.2 billion was stolen by criminals through authorised and unauthorised fraud in 2022 - equivalent to more than £2,300 stolen every minute.
How to report fraud
Action Fraud is the the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cyber crime.
If you believe you have been scammed, you can report it by calling 0300 123 2040, or by using the online reporting tool.
The organisation is hosted by City of London Police as national policing lead for fraud, and your case could be passed on to our local police forces.
Victim Support has outlined some advice on how best to protect yourself from online fraud or phone scams.
If something being offered seems too good to be true, the chances are, it probably is. Always question whether it is genuine.
Keep your personal information safe. Never give anyone your bank PIN or National Insurance number. Shred or tear up any letters that include your personal details, don’t just throw them in the bin.
Protect yourself online. Regularly change your passwords and make them difficult to guess. It can also be helpful to Install the latest anti-virus protection on all your devices.
Be suspicious of ‘cold callers’. This is when someone tries to sell you goods or services on your doorstep or over the phone when you haven’t asked them to make contact. If you have any concerns, tell them politely but firmly that you are not interested, and close the door or put the telephone down. Never get drawn into long conversation, as fraudsters can slyly get information out of you.
If you believe someone has scammed you, report the incident to Action Fraud who will help police investigate, and hopefully catch the criminals.
More advice and information and advice can be found on the North East Regional Cyber Crime Unit website.
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