Carol Duffy, 57, from Solihull, West Midlands, lost her life savings to a convincing telephone scam – now her wedding, pension and house are at risk
Image: Birmingham Live)
A bride-to-be fears she may have to cancel her dream wedding after falling victim to a convincing telephone scam, where fraudsters stole nearly £12,000 of her savings.
Carol Duffy, 57, said the scammer claimed to be from her bank as she was duped into authorizing two “dummy payments” totaling £11,800.
The gran from Solihull, West Midlands, now fears she will have to cancel her wedding to partner Martin Downes, booked for April 30, claiming her bank has refused to refund the majority of the cash.
Carol claims the con artist told her the payments would help Halifax stop customers from falling victim to fraudulent scams.
Carol told BirminghamLive: “I was devastated when I realized what had happened. I’ve been in tears.
“It was February 16. My partner was at work at Land Rover and he received a phone call from a woman claiming to be from the bank, saying someone had tried to take money out of his account.
“He couldn’t hear her properly so he told her to ring me.
“She told me she was from Halifax and said: ‘We need your full co-operation because someone is trying to take money out of people’s accounts, including yours, and we need to try to catch them’.
“I thought: ‘Okay, I can help people here’.
“She told me I had to make two dummy payments and explained I would need to ring a Halifax number to authorize them.
“She said to give them the name she gave me and account details, and say the money was for my niece to go towards a caravan.
“She sounded so professional so it was just so convincing. I thought I was helping the bank to catch fraudsters.”
“She said once the money went through, I’d get a call within the hour to confirm the money had been put back into my account.
“When I didn’t get the call, alarm bells started to ring.
“I ran the bank and they told me I’d been scammed.
“I was screaming and crying, I was devastated. It makes me feel sick to think about it.”
Carol added that the money was the product of her “life savings” and now they have been taken she has been left unable to pay her rent.
Phishing is a method of scamming that involves sending malicious links, emails, texts and other forms of communication with an attached link.
Once the link is clicked the scammers can access your personal details.
The City of London police have given the following advice for those who want to avoid getting phished.
Be aware and pro-active: When responding to emails or phone calls, never give your login or personal details. If you receive an email from a company that claims to be legitimate but is requesting these details, or a contact number tell them you will call them back. Use a contact number for the organization that you have sourced reputably. Speak to them directly to confirm that the message is genuine
Use your spam filter: If you detect a phishing email, mark the message as spam and delete it. This ensures that the message cannot reach your inbox in the future.
Know your source: Never respond to a message from an unknown source. Take care not to click any embedded links. Phishing emails are sent to a vast number of randomly generated addresses. However, clicking embedded links can provide verification of your active e-mail address. Once this occurs it may facilitate the targeting of further malicious emails. Even “unsubscribe” links can be malicious. Ensure that the e-mail is from a trusted source and you are, in fact, subscribed to the service.
Not only could it throw her wedding later this month off the cards, but the couple were also relying on the funds to prop up their pensions.
Carol added: “That was my pension money and our wedding fund.
“We were getting married soon but I don’t know if it will be going ahead now – we’ve a few payments left which we now can’t afford and we now owe rent on our house.
“It was all our savings. It’s left me with nothing, they took all of it.”
A fortnight after reporting the fraudsters, Halifax refunded £823 of her original savings, Carol claims.
She says the partial refund was followed by a letter confirming the bank would not refund the rest of her money.
The correspondence explained that Carol had fallen victim to a so-called Authorized Push Payment (APP).
The fraudulent APPs can be sophisticated and hard to spot.
It reads: “For us to be able to return the money, we’d need to know you tried to confirm the person was who they said they were before making a payment to them.
“For example, you’d need to have contacted yourself using a telephone number from your statement or debit card.”
Halifax said its fraud prevention systems blocked the first attempt to make a payment from the account after detecting it was unusual.
A Halifax spokesperson said Carol was told of the tactics fraudsters used when a call operator questioned her about the payment.
They said the questions were “unfortunately not answered truthfully”.
When the bank was made aware of the scam, Halifax said it immediately tried to recover the funds and was able to retrieve £823 from the receiving account.
A Halifax spokesperson said: “Helping keep our customers’ money safe is our priority and we have a great deal of sympathy for Ms Duffy as the victim of a scam.
“We fully investigate each individual case and do all we can to get back the money that a victim has lost to fraudsters.
“Unfortunately in this case, she authorized the payment despite us blocking the initial transaction and providing relevant warnings about the risk of this being a scam.
The UK lost £2 million a day last year as a result of fraud, according to official Financial Fraud Action UK figures.
To help people protect themselves, here are top tips from Action Fraud, Get Safe, NordVPN and Norton Antivirus to keep you safe:
Don’t assume anyone who has called your phone or left you a voicemail message is who they say they are.
If a phone call or voicemail offers you a deal, asks you to make a payment or log-in to an online account, be cautious.
If you call back, try to use a different line as some scammers keep the line open on their side to trick you.
If in doubt, check it’s genuine by asking the company it claims to be yourself. Never call numbers or follow links provided in suspicious emails; find the official website or customer support number using a separate browser.
Get protected: Before you start shopping online, secure your device with anti-virus software or a firewall. This will help block out pop-ups and hackers.
Check the URL: Only use secure websites for purchases, never buy anything from a site that does not have ‘https’ at the start of the URL and also look for the icon of a locked padlock at the bottom of the screen.
Is the deal too good to be true? Don’t be seduced by “bargains” from companies which you don’t know, if something appears too good to be true, it probably is.
Only shop with companies you know and trust: Watch out for fake websites. You can tell by checking the URL of the website, it may have a different spelling or a different domain name that ends in .net or .org.
Shop from home: Using public WiFi hotspots such as those offered by coffee shops and libraries could leave you vulnerable. If it won’t wait until you get home use your own 3G/4G network.
“Sadly she did not take sufficient steps to verify if the call she received from the fraudster was genuine.
“If a customer has any suspicions about activity on their account or, as was the case here, a message or phone call they have received, they should call us using the number on the back of their bank card or on our website.
“It’s important for people to be aware their bank will never ask them to transfer money to a different account.”