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Merseyside Police has helped secure bank refunds of over £460,000 for victims of fraud since March 2019.
A further £1.2m is currently sitting with the financial ombudsman to make a decision.
Victims who have been refunded include those who have fallen foul of bogus tradesmen or romance fraudsters as well as those who have been victims of financial abuse or investment fraud scams.
Some of the cases were flagged up as part of Banking Protocol - a partnership between financial institutions, trading standards and victim support organisations to identify people who have been tricked into withdrawing or transferring cash for fraudsters.
But £462,600 has been refunded as a direct result of the intervention of Merseyside Police’s Financial Abuse Safeguarding officers (FASOs) – who often tackle banks head on to secure the defrauded cash.
In one case a 77-year-old woman from the Wirral was led to believe by a fraudster that an employee at her bank was siphoning money from customers’ accounts.
Between March and April 2019 the woman was defrauded out of £168,000 by a person pretending to be from her bank’s fraud department who instructed her to move her money into other accounts.
Banking protocol was initiated and following an investigation by Action Fraud and Merseyside Police the bank has now refunded £128,000 to the woman.
In another case a 76-year-old woman from Wirral lost her life savings of £100,000 after being contacted by bogus companies offering low risk investment opportunities.
The woman attended at her bank on the Wirral to request assistance in selling shares and the bank initiated banking protocol.
The police were contacted and an investigation was carried out by Action Fraud. A total of £88,000 has now been returned to the victim.
An 81-year-old man from Halewood was targeted by bogus tradesmen who convinced him to withdraw thousands of pounds in cash for repair work to his roof which never took place. Police were alerted by the bank and it was established the company carrying out the work did not exist. It also emerged the man had fallen victim to an earlier scam involving repair work on his bathroom. A number of arrests were made in connection with the scams.
Thanks to banking protocol/FASO intervention £34,800 was refunded to the man.
A 69-year-old woman from Aigburth was targeted by a romance fraudster she met online.
The man claimed to have large sums of money in off shore bank accounts which he was unable to access and asked the woman to send him cash which he will repay when his money is released. The woman sent numerous online bank transfers.
The woman’s family became suspicious and the matter was reported to police.
Through FASO intervention £20,000 has now been returned to the woman.
Constable Jackie Long, who is a FASO, said: “Falling victim to a fraud can make people feel ashamed or embarrassed. In many cases we find victims haven’t even told their own family or close friends what has happened because they can’t actually believe they have been taken advantage of.
“While is some cases victims are targeted because they are elderly vulnerable or socially isolated many are just ordinary people who have fallen victim to very sophisticated scams.
“We work closely with banks and other partners to try to identify and prevent instances where people withdraw or transfer large sums of cash to give to potential fraudsters and, where, possible try to track down the offenders to prevent other people falling victim to the same scam.
“My job is to work with and further safeguard the victims. To explore every avenue to ensure they are treated fairly and help get their money back from the bank. This can often be a long and drawn out process and sometimes we have to involve the ombudsman to get the result we want. We also give advice in relation to current fraud trends and give victim’s the tools to recognise any future scams.
“But I always think – what if that was my mum or my nan? – I would want someone to help them.”
Watch Jackie talk about her job:
· Action Fraud is the UK’s national fraud and cybercrime reporting centre. If you believe you have been a victim of fraud you can contact them on 0300 123 2040 or go to www.actionfraud.police.uk
· Advice and information about fraud is also available via https://www.merseyside.police.uk/advice/advice-and-information/fa/fraud/
Romance fraudsters are responsible for scamming women and men out of millions of pounds ever year.
The scammers create realistic but fake internet profiles in order to strike up long-distance relationships, often with more than one person at the same time.
They then develop the relationship further with emails, instant messaging, texting and phone calls to gain their trust before asking for loans of money or gift cards, often making their victims feel guilty if they ask too many questions.
Susan* (not her real name) from Liverpool lost nearly £50,000 in 2019 after unwittingly befriending a fraudster, who pretended to be a ship’s captain, and wants her story to be a warning to others.
Susan*, 57, first met the man online in August 2019 when he sent her a friend request via Facebook.
Susan said: “I did not accept at first but when I did he messaged me to make me go on ‘Google Hangout’. The excuse he used was that it was easier for him to contact me because of his job. Before Google Hangouts he emailed me a big long soppy letter about being a widower and having a son of 13 who was in boarding school in Greece. He also told me he was half-Greek and half-American and told me about his life.
“I started chatting on Google Hangouts and after about three weeks he asked me for a $100 gift card so he could get further credit on his mobile telephone.
“When I queried this and said why couldn't ask one of his colleagues on the ship to help him or pay for it himself he came up with some excuse about not liking to ask his staff and that his bank account was frozen due to his boss being in trouble and that he was also being looked into.
“I thought about it and threatened to report him to Facebook, he was so upset that I was nasty and did not believe him, that he managed to make me feel guilty. I didn’t get the Amazon card until a week later.
“A month later he told me he had a suitcase stored in Italy with his savings in and he wanted it shipped to England so asked if I would mind it for him until he could come over with his son and start a small business and we could live happily ever after. I said yes, but we should just meet first and then see how we got on before he brought his son over.
“The problems arose when he had to pay money for duty for the case to be sent to Manchester. He asked for a loan to pay the charge and would pay me back. I agreed to this. The case supposedly got to Manchester. I waited in for it to arrive but it never came. I got an email from the transport company saying that duty had to be paid. I paid more money hoping the case would come to me then another problem came up over VAT on gold bars he had in the case that now had to be transferred into my name.
“I was asked for more money with the promise each time of paying me back. Each time, it would be a different person to transfer money to. When I queried this, he had some plausible excuse. I did receive emails and documents which I now realise were fake. Twice money was returned to me because of a mistake in the bank details I was given and I wished I had realised then it was fraud but unfortunately I did not.
“A lot more false drama/lies and arguments went on before the penny dropped with me and I realised it was a scam.”
Susan didn’t let the fraudster realise she was aware of the scam and contacted her own bank and was able to recover 3000 euros from an overseas bank account.
She was advised to contact the police and has received support from safeguarding officers who work within the Economic Crime Team at Merseyside Police.
She has also reported the male to Action Fraud. It later emerged that the ‘ship’s captain’ had had his photo and identity stolen by the fraudsters and that thousands of women had been scammed in the same way as Jenny.
Susan* said: “I gave money through Amazon cards, loans and money from credit cards as I was promised by this man he would pay it back to me. I have lost a lot of money and still have to pay it back.
“I don’t know how these people sleep at night. The loss of the money was more upsetting than the romance, as I had borrowed money and then lost my job. This person knew this but still continued wanting money from me, saying everything would be reimbursed to me and we would live ‘happily ever after’, once the case had been delivered.
“I had advised my friend a couple of years ago that someone she had met on Facebook would be a scammer so I cannot believe I fell for the same trick.
“I did not tell any of my friends about meeting this man on Facebook because I had been overseas and pretended to them I had met him there. I cannot talk about it to them because, firstly I told them a lie and secondly, I feel ashamed and embarrassed.
“I feel like I am living a nightmare now and have to now try and rebuild my life, even though I do not know if I can. I never bothered with internet dating before and the first time I accepted a male friend request on Facebook, I was conned. I have learnt a very hard and valuable lesson, which I know I will never fall for again.”
Susan’s* warning signals for romance fraudsters:
They call you Dear to begin with or Friend, then later on perhaps if they do not use your name, as they are doing it to so many women at once, they may call you Sweetie, Honey, Babe or Baby etc.
They normally say they work as a ship’s captain, a doctor, surgeon, in the armed forces and away or working on a rig
They ask what you are doing at present when they message you
They say they are a God fearing and are honest and loyal etc.
They say they miss you and are lonely.
They can say after only a few weeks that they love and miss you
They can say also after a few weeks, that they want to marry you or they call you their future wife or future mother of their child.
Susan* said: “They will want you to go off Facebook or Instagram to use Google Hangout or possibly Whatsapp or even want to email you. Do not move to these forms of communication. Say you do not and will not use any of these forms of communications, no matter how much they beg you.
“They are very persistent, especially if you start to say you do want to continue messaging them for whatever reason you decide you want to leave it. They may be really persistent, actually to the point of being pushy or bossy. It is their way of keeping you, to continue trying to con you.”
Anyone who thinks they have been a victim of a romance fraud is advised to contact Action Fraud, the national fraud and Cyber Crime reporting centre, by calling 0300 123 2040 or for more advice go to: https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/a-z-of-fraud/romance-scams