Paul – Written evidence (FDF0103)
On the 28/02/2022 I was the victim of a sophisticated APP scam, which I now understand is called a ‘Malicious Misdirection’ scam. When I realised I had been scammed I immediately contacted the fraud department at Santander and reported the scam. Staff at the bank listened to my account of what happened. She listened to my account of what happened and said she would pass this report on to fraud investigators. What follows is my detailed account of what happened to me, and I ask that you take this into consideration when deciding whether to reimburse me.
2.1 At approximately 10.30am on this day I received a phone call on my mobile from a man claiming to be from the Fraud Department at Santander. He was very well spoken and with a soft Scottish accent. He identified himself as ‘Clive’ and then said he needed to take me through some security questions before the conversation could proceed. He asked me to confirm my date of birth; the first and third numbers of my passcode and for a couple of examples of direct debits that had been paid out of my account. I had no doubt that he was who he said he was, and so I co-operated.
2.2 He then said there had been some suspicious activity on my account and asked had I attempted to make a card payment in the sum of £352 to Amazon at 3am that morning – which I said I had not, so this was a fraudulent attempt at making a payment. He said they must have my card details and asked me if I’d clicked on any links asking for information. He gave an example: a text message purportedly from Royal Mail asking me to pay a postage shortage of £2.99 on a package addressed to me – he said this was a typical example of ‘phishing’. I had indeed received such a text on 26/02/2022 and made a payment of £2.99 using my debit card. I was expecting a delivery of a T-shirt so this didn’t seem an unusual request to me. ‘Clive’ said this is how they got my details.
2.3 By this time, I was alarmed and thanked him for contacting me. He then said that my account had probably been getting tracked for some time and there was a more sinister development. He said an attempt had been made to move £25,000 from my account into the account of a building firm called Osama Construction Ltd. He asked did I bank with my local branch of Santander in the Pyramids shopping centre in Birkenhead. I said that I had opened my personal account online, but I opened my business account by going into the branch in Liscard Village, Wallasey. He replied – “Ah, that branch is now permanently closed.” I wasn’t doubting he was genuinely from Santander, but this was subliminal confirmation - who would instantly know that except a Santander employee?
2.4 He said the bank teller at the branch had attempted to process the transfer, but the Payment Confirmation department had stopped it. He then said that the supposed customer would have had to provide two forms of ID – a driving licence and a passport. He asked me did I have those documents or could I have suffered a break-in at home. I had my driving licence on my person at the time of this call, but not my passport. He suggested I go home, and check and he would call me back. By this time, I was extremely worried and anxious, so I drove home and retrieved my passport. ‘Clive’ called me back and said he had just downloaded and viewed the CCTV from the branch and identified the person claiming to be me and the bank teller who served him. He said the man was of Asian appearance and in his early 20s. He said the bank teller was an Asian woman and he suspected she might be involved because she didn’t leave the window to photocopy the ID documents. He also said there had been 14 attempts to fraudulently move money involving this bank branch in the past month and he was leading an internal investigation to discover who might be colluding at the bank, and he needed my help.
2.5 He asked me to login to my account and said it would be taken offline and that he wanted me to transfer sums of money to some dummy accounts and for me to speak to the payment verification department by phone so he could monitor what they said. He said whoever answered my call would take me through a verification process, he told me what to say, and that if they were acting properly they would draw to my attention the failed attempt to remove £25,000 from my account earlier that morning. If they didn’t mention that, then they were clearly in on the scam. He listened in on my calls and explained to me how to do a shared call – what buttons to press and so on. He said he was recording the calls.
2.6 On this basis he persuaded me to make three transfers totalling over £65,000 to three ‘dummy accounts’. And each time I spoke to someone at the bank to authorise them and none of them mentioned the earlier attempt to move £25,000 into Osama Constuction’s account – therefore I had helped him identify three people at the bank who were involved in the scam.
2.7 He said he needed to end the call and arrange for police to attend the branch and make arrests and asked me whether I was prepared to make a statement to the Merseyside Police that day and that an officer would attend my home no later than 9pm that day. I agreed. He promised to call me back in 20 minutes but didn’t do so. After an hour had gone by and I had time to reflect on what I’d been through, I began to suspect I’d been scammed and phoned Santander fraud department and reported the scam.
3.1 I am a 72-year-old pensioner. On 30/12/2016 I had a major heart attack while on board a transatlantic flight returning to Heathrow from the USA. The plane landed at Shannon Airport in the Republic of Ireland, and I was taken by ambulance to hospital where I was diagnosed as having suffered a heart attack. I was operated on eight days later at a hospital in Dublin and a triple-bypass operation was carried out. My recovery was very difficult both physically and psychologically and I suffered acute anxiety for six months after my operation. I couldn’t sleep for most of that time and was heavily medicated.
3.2 I have now recovered from that, but my experience has left me with a legacy of anxiety, and I frequently suffer anxiety attacks. I suffered a second heart attack in 2018 since when my medication has been adjusted and I am able to function. I suffer from anxiety; I have frequent attacks of vertigo and I have a permanent feeling of light-headedness whenever I am standing upright or walking around. I have suffered a loss of self-confidence and while I can still function reasonably well mentally, particularly in structured situations, I don’t handle stress well and am prone to anxiety and to go into panic-mode.
3.3 I feel that the scam of which I am a victim was extremely sophisticated – they played on my anxiety and this whole experience has left me feeling violated. It’s as if someone took control of my brain and manipulated me. The direction to go home and see if my passport had been stolen was clearly, in retrospect, an attempt to panic me and to isolate me from other people.
3.4 Like many people of my generation, I am not ‘tech-savvy’ and my expertise of dealing with the online, digital world is limited. During the scam the scammer, ‘Clive’, was very patient and understanding in helping me overcome my tech limitations, explaining step-by-step what I needed to do. I was reassured by this and by his patient, helpful manner. I think the key to this scam was the information they gleaned about me from the Royal Mail text. Having spoken to a younger friend of mine he has explained the concept of ‘phishing’ to me. This simply didn’t occur to me. Having clicked on this link I was taken to a page with a Royal Mail logo on it and it asked me to confirm my address and phone number and then for my card details to pay the £2.99. The link led me to a really authentic looking page and I had no idea this was false. The scammers have exploited my vulnerability and well and truly taken me for a ride.
4.1 I have lost more than £65,000 – my life savings. I have very little left in my account now. My only regular source of income is my state pension which is currently £817 every four weeks. I do some part-time consultancy work for the hospitality sector, but other than that I was relying on my savings to get me through. I am devastated by this loss – both financially and emotionally – I am desperately worried that I might not be reimbursed and the position this leaves me in.
4.2 I have written this account with advice and help but it is an honest and thorough account of what happened to me and why I think my vulnerability has been used to steal all my savings. I ask you to take into account this statement when deciding whether you can reimburse me for my losses.
PS: Since writing this account Santander have reimbursed me for 50% of the first transaction I was scammed into making – £12,375. The rest they refuse reimbursement for and I am currently appealing this outcome.
9 April 2022