A Northumberland man had £10,000 stolen from his bank account in a phone scam.
Now the county council’s Trading Standards Service and Northumbria Police are warning people to be on their guard against phone fraudsters.
The man received a cold call from someone claiming to be ringing on behalf of his telephone supplier, saying he was due a £500 refund for overpayments on his contract.
After initially providing his bank details, £520 was paid into his account. The next day, the caller rang again to say he had been overpaid by £20 and they needed to recover that extra amount.
Because the man now trusted the caller, he gave further details about his bank account and the scammer was able to remove £10,000. The bank is currently looking into the matter.
Coun Liz Simpson, the council’s deputy business chairman with responsibility for public protection, said: “It is all too common for vulnerable members of the community, typically older people, to be harangued until they provide their person details, agree to buy a product or service.
“We’d urge householders to be extremely wary of cold calls and avoid signing anything. They have interrupted whatever you were doing so it’s not rude to just hang up on them.”
David Sayer, business compliance and public safety unit manager, said: “Consumers are particularly vulnerable to hard-sell tactics in their homes. We advise all residents, particularly the elderly, to be wary. Don’t be pressured or tricked into agreeing to giving over personal details or agree to home visits where you may be subjected to high pressure sales. Also make sure that if you do agree to a visit that someone is there to help you.”
Det Sgt Jane Bowran, of Northumbria Police’s cyber crime unit, added: “This really is an awful case and sadly something that is an increasing concern across the country. These criminals will heartlessly target vulnerable people for financial gain.
“This is why it is so important that we all work together to get as much information and advice about fraud and cold callers out to the public to help protect them becoming victims of crime.
“It only takes a few simple steps to stay safe both online and in your home to prevent fraudsters from accessing your finances or personal information.
“If you have elderly family, friends or neighbours or you care for someone who is vulnerable, please share this advice. Quite often people who have been scammed out of money are too embarrassed to tell anyone about it and feel ashamed, this can have a significant impact on their mental health and wellbeing. I can’t stress enough how we can all play a part in educating them about fraud, cold calling and online scams.”
Anyone who receives one of these calls and would like further advice can contact Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 0345 4040506, or report any potential fraud to Action Fraud at www.actionfraud.org.uk/report_fraud or ring 0300 1232040.
To reduce the risks of falling foul of these cold call scams, Trading Standards has the following tips:
l Don’t take unsolicited calls, especially when you are busy and can’t give the caller your full attention.
l Don’t agree to something on the phone just to get rid of a persistent caller – legally binding agreements can be made over the phone.
l Don’t provide personal details, i.e. bank details, date of birth, passport details.
l Be wary of follow-up calls – you may think they’re just verifying details, but they may be trying to trick you into entering into an agreement.
l Do not to agree to a home visit following the receipt of unsolicited telephone calls. If you do, make sure someone would be available to be there with you.
l Don’t believe everything that callers say. If you were due a refund from a business then they would be happy to write to you.
l Don’t be rushed into anything.
l Consumers can also protect themselves by using a call blocker, of which there are various types available on the market. If you, or someone you know, is likely to be misled by these type of calls then buy a call blocker.
l Remember, it’s your home so put the phone down if you don’t wish to talk.