AN ELDERLY couple have been left ‘terrified’ after losing tens of thousands of pounds to criminals posing as a pension firm.
The woman and her husband, both in their eighties, fell victim to the sophisticated fraud scheme, losing £30,000 of their savings to the professional scammers.
The Edinburgh woman and her partner, who requested to remain anonymous, was left shaken by the incident but wanted to share their experience in a bid to warn others of similar scams.
She said: “Since April this year we’ve had police, fraud squad – you name it – calling us to try and unpick what happened and get our money back. It’s really impacted my health.
“I had to go to the doctor from the stress as it was affecting everything, I couldn’t eat or sleep. I felt so worried.
“We were terrified to open the door or answer the phone after it happened. We did have a couple of phone calls and I immediately got on to the police and they said they were scammers.
“A lot of people’s lives have been destroyed by scammers. It worries me that they have so much of my information still, they’ve got copies of my passport and everything.
“We believed everything they said as they looked so legitimate. It’s given us a wake-up call and I don’t want to deal with other companies again.”
After contacting what they thought was a legitimate asset management company, she handed over £30,000 which was left to her by an aunt in the hopes it would gain some interest.
Investing their savings with asset managment companies is the usual practice for the pair as they do so every year with their money. However, after six months they were contacted by Trading Standards Agency (TSA) to inform they had been the victim of fraudulent activity. This itself was part of the scam.
The scammers had initially posed as the firm online and put up contact numbers, which is how the couple were put in contact with them. The couple were only made aware that the follow up letter from the TSA was also a scam after directly contacting them, who informed them their records weren’t in the system.
This criminal activity comes at a time when only a month ago Bank of Scotland issued a warning to the public about sophisticated fraud schemes for the ‘scamwich generation’.
Now a fraud prevention organisation is issuing a similar warning after being made aware of the couple’s situation.
Take Five – To Stop Fraud have recently revealed new research finding that nearly one in four people find it hard to say ‘no’ to requests from a stranger on the phone.
The research also revealed that the number of impersonation scam cases more than doubled in the first half of 2021 to 33,115 and resulted in criminals stealing £129.4 million through this type of fraud alone.
Former Police Officer and fraud expert, Tony Blake, is heading up the campaign to help prevent people becoming victims of similar scams.
He said: “Criminals are experts at pretending to be someone they are not – and can fool even the savviest of people, who don’t want to seem rude.
“If someone contacts you unprompted and asks for personal or financial information, stop and take a moment to think – even if they claim to be from an organisation you trust. Only criminals will put pressure on you to act quickly. Remember it’s ok to say no and contact the organisation through a route you know to be genuine.
“The banking and finance industry works to tackle fraud on every front, through investing millions in advanced technology and working closely with the government and law enforcement to stop the criminal gangs responsible.”
The victims of this scam said whilst they were in contact with the police after reporting it, they had to keep everything a secret in case the scammers were monitoring their devices.
She added: “When it happened, the fraud squad told us not to discuss this online or with friends because the criminals may have tapped our telephone or be reading our emails. That was incredibly difficult to keep to ourselves.
“We’d gone through so much and had to try and act normally.
“It’s amazing when we started telling people, so many had stories of relatives or themselves being scammed. One friend said their father was scammed for £25,000.”
If you have been the victim of similar fraudulent activity or are unaware of how criminals target the public, you can visit Take Five to Stop Fraud’s website for impartial advice.