A 999 call and the credit card scam that cost me thousands: How an utterly plausible con-trick left John A £7,000 poorerBy Mary B
The con began with a phone call from woman claiming to be a police inspector
'DCI Seymour' told the couple someone was using their cards to buy items
She said the card had been cloned and was being used to make purchases
Con rested on clever technical
trick, specialist technology and acting skills
We feel so stupid: how could my wife and I have been conned out of more than £7,000 by one phone conversation? The answer is that the scam was brilliant in design and execution.
It began with a phone call after dinner on a Friday night. My wife answered the phone and the caller announced herself as ‘DCI Jane Seymour of the Serious Fraud Office’.
The inspector was polite and matter of fact. She asked my wife if she had been in the Apple Store on Regent Street that day or the one in Covent Garden? My wife replied that she hadn’t.
But DCI Seymour reported that someone had bought expensive items from these stores using my wife’s debit card —and the transactions had been within four minutes of each other. Anyone who knows central London knows it is almost impossible to get from Regent Street to Covent Garden in such a short time — something was definitely amiss.
inspector then broke the news that someone had cloned my wife’s
card and was using it to make major purchases. Panicked by this
information, my wife called me over to the phone and asked me to
speak to DCI Seymour.
The inspector explained that the Serious Fraud Office had been monitoring Apple Stores, conscious that the launch of the latest iPhone would make it a target for criminals.
have all your cards with
you?’ she asked. Yes. ‘Are you sure?’
background I could hear hubbub that made me think of TV’s The
Bill or Prime Suspect: the faint sound of people chatting, the
sense that DCI Seymour was at one desk and other detectives were
hard at work on the case, too.
established that neither my wife nor I had been to the Apple
Store, she asked if I had noticed any strange transactions on my
cards. No, I replied.
Trick: The con-artist instructed the couple to phone but stayed on the line so the call went straight back through to her
worried,’ said the inspector. ‘We think all your cards have been
compromised. It may be that someone has hacked into the National
Database. We need to block all the cards
I shivered. Does this mean identity theft? ‘Yes, it could be.
You’ll need to take part in a police investigation later. But we
need to block your cards first.’
Immediately, I was suspicious. Why would she
want all our cards? Was DCI Seymour who she said she was? How
could we know she was really working for the Serious Fraud
turned us from cautious sceptics into credulous fools. ‘Call 999
and check me out,’ she urged. So we did. I put the phone down,
picked it up again and dialled 999. The dialling tone was normal,
the phone rang and the response was as prompt and efficient as a
law-abiding citizen could wish for.
service did I want? The police. I’ll put you through. When a
constable picked up the phone, I asked: ‘Do you have a DCI Jane
Seymour of the Serious Fraud Squad?’
connect you.’ DCI Seymour picked up the phone — her identity
verified. In fishing parlance, we were hooked — and were about to
have your cards blocked immediately,’ said DCI Seymour to
reassure us. ‘New cards can be delivered to your house in three
working days, or five for the foreign cards. But first we’ll need
your PIN numbers.’ That should, of course, have rung alarm
How many times have we all been told, ‘Never, never give your PIN number to anyone. Your bank will never ask for it’? We hesitated — and this is where DCI Seymour scored again. ‘Don’t tell me the codes,’ she said. ‘Tap them into the phone and they will be sent straight to our technical team.’
And so, stupidly, but trusting
that the digital wizardry was in our interest, we did. And, as we
later discovered, using specialist technology, she recorded the
time, we had been on the
phone for at least an hour, in a state of shock and growing
despair over the hassles that apparently came with ID
Seymour kept reassuring us that all would be well. ‘Are you OK?
Do you have enough money for the weekend? We can get you
emergency funds of £300 delivered to you by 3pm tomorrow. We’ll
debit it from your HSBC account and I’ll call you again tomorrow
It was all
so comforting. Her manner was solicitous, reassuring and
practical. When I asked my wife to pour me a glass of wine, DCI
Seymour heard me on the other end of the phone. She laughed and
said she could do with one, too — but not on
Stressful call: The couple were completely taken in and their shock and despair grew as the conversation went on
she said she would send a courier round to pick up our
compromised cards, it seemed so reasonable. ‘Put them in a sealed
envelope inside another envelope, and don’t tell the driver what
it’s for. We’ll contact him
if we had been hypnotised, we did as we were told. ‘The driver’s
on his way. He’ll be with you
and, within minutes, as we later discovered, our accounts were
being plundered, mostly, it seems, by withdrawals from ATM
machines at Euston station. Meanwhile, DCI Seymour kept me on the
line, supposedly keeping us abreast of the activities of the
criminals who had cloned our cards.
been a withdrawal in South London. Someone’s at Euston. We’re
watching the CCTV. There’s another
withdrawal . . .’
On and on it went, as my wife and I became increasingly tired and desperate, but DCI Seymour kept us hanging on, saying: ‘Don’t put the phone down. Stay on the line.’
now, of course, that this was to stop us ringing the banks of our
own accord. At around midnight, my wife collapsed into bed, but
DCI Seymour kept me on the phone until
I had been
speaking to her for two-and-a-half hours. To say we slept badly
is an understatement. We tossed and turned, fretting about the
money being siphoned out of our
and the cold light of day brought me to my senses. ‘Perhaps, I
should call 999 again, just to check,’ I
operator who answered
was annoyed. She told me my case was not an emergency and I
should dial 101 for my local police service. With mounting
anxiety, I explained that I had dialled 999 the night before and
that my call had been put through to an
no record of a call,’ she said. ‘Ah, hang on a moment. I’ll talk
to a colleague.’
with the help of bona fide officers, the truth about the scam was
hinged on a clever technical trick. Quite simply, if you put the
phone down, but the other party does not, they stay on the
you dial a new number, you remain connected to the original
caller. So when I dialled 999, it went back to ‘DCI Jane
Seymour’. She must have had an accomplice posing as the emergency
services operator and, as easy as that, we fell into their
Hi-tech: Specialist technology allowed the fraudster to record the pin numbers as they were entered into the phone
Payments Council, responsible for card security, says there has
been a three-fold increase this year in incidents of this scam.
In the first quarter of 2012, an estimated £750,000 was lost. In
total, we lost around £7,000 of our
— the real police — have been sympathetic and tell us that the
con is targeted at the well-to-do and the elderly who may not be
as techno-savvy as younger account holders. Mercifully, most of
the money has since been credited back to us. The banks conceded
we were victims of an understandable
only French bank BNP failed to reimburse us, but eventually
(after an anguished protest on my part), it, too, paid
my wife and I feel embarrassed and a little sheepish at having
been fooled so easily.
defence, I can only say that the woman who played ‘DCI Jane
Seymour’ was a brilliant actress and this particular bit of
financial con-artistry was new to us.
lucky the damage done wasn’t permanent and that most of the money
has been returned. Others may not be so
I may feel shame-faced about having been so easily deceived, but let my gullibility be a very modern cautionary tale to others.Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2249752/A-999-credit-card-scam-cost-thousands.html#ixzz2FUuLnOs5
In a bogus letter, emblazoned with an imitation London 2012 logo and Olympic rings, recipients are told they have won more than £500,000. It requests personal details which, if received, would likely be handed over to criminal gangs, often operating from abroad.
The letter is signed the Revd Canon Duncan Green who in reality is the Church of England’s Olympics co-ordinator, responsible for the Church’s response to London 2012, and who is also LOCOG’s* head of multi-faith chaplaincy services.
So far reports of similar phoney letters, titled ‘2012 Summer Olympic Lottery, have been made in Surrey, Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Merthyr Tydfil. Consumer experts fear crooks could be targeting people throughout the UK, leading to a warning from Surrey County Council Trading Standards.
Kay Hammond, Surrey County Council’s Cabinet Member for Community Safety, said: “Impersonating the Church of England and using the Olympics to swindle people out of money is beyond contempt. This is a scam and the best thing you can do if you receive such a letter is to throw it in the bin or shred it.
“All manner of criminals will be looking to use the Olympics as a chance to make money through various cons and swindles. Trust your instincts. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
Surrey Police is warning elderly residents to be on their guard as officers investigate a series of distraction burglaries and thefts in which the offenders claim to be police officers.
Detectives are looking at around 30 incidents across the county where elderly people, often living alone, have been approached by offenders posing as police officers or UK Border officials to gain entry into homes.
Victims are approached by between one and three men in dark clothing either at their front door or discover they have entered their property through an insecure door. When confronted, the men often claim they are police officers investigating a crime and show false identification before stealing items.
In some cases the offenders have forced their way inside a property whilst the occupier is in another room or asleep and when challenged have claimed to be police officers.
Over the last three months offences have been reported in Elmbridge, Guildford, Spelthorne, Epsom, and Mole Valley. Last Friday evening (March 16) a 90-year-old woman in Hersham was targeted by thieves posing as police officers who showed her a false silver badge before stealing two handbags and a significant amount of cash. During the incident they pulled the victim’s handbag away from her causing her to fall to the floor and injure herself. She was treated in hospital for injuries to her hip.
In another incident in Surrey Heath, two offenders approached the home of an elderly woman and claimed to be police officers who had caught a thief in her garden. They asked to come in under the guise of needing to search the home for evidence but on this occasion nothing of value was taken.
Senior Investigating Officer Detective Inspector Karen Hughes said: “To target the most vulnerable members of our community in this way is despicable and cowardly. We are doing everything possible to find those responsible and anyone with information which could assist should contact police or call Crimestoppers anonymously
“Detectives are working closely with local Safer Neighbourhood Teams to gather information, look at CCTV and any forensic opportunities. We are also working with neighbouring police forces to see if these offences are occurring over a wider area.”
This week Crimestoppers offered a £5,000 reward for information about the offence in Hersham which left a woman requiring hospital treatment.
Neighbourhood Superintendent Sharon Bush said: “Across the county Safer Neighbourhood Teams are working with their local communities and partner agencies, particularly those who support the elderly, to raise awareness of these crimes. We need people to stay vigilant and report any suspicious behaviour to us.
“If you live next door to someone who is vulnerable or have elderly relatives living alone please remind them to keep their doors secure even when they are at home and take precautions when answering the door to strangers. If you are not expecting the caller keep your door locked and ask to see some identification - perhaps through a window or letterbox. If you decide to open the door, engage the chain and keep it engaged until you are completely sure the caller is genuine. Genuine police officers will not mind waiting outside whilst you phone the Surrey Police switchboard on 101 to confirm their identity.
“If you do find intruders in your home, your personal safety is the priority. Stay calm and raise the alarm as soon as possible by calling the police.”
RESIDENTS are being advised to be extra vigilant following two distraction offences in west Surrey yesterday (Thursday, 26 January) in which suspects have claimed to be police officers.
In Lightwater, an 86-year-old woman opened her front door to two men, one of whom said he was a policeman and had two boys in his car who he believed had been in the householder’s garden having stolen money. The resident allowed the uninvited callers inside and went to go upstairs to check if anything was stolen, before realising she had no cash in the house. The intruders left without taking anything. The incident happened sometime between 5.55pm and 6.50pm.
The suspects are described as two white men. The first is described as 5ft 9” tall, in his late thirties and of a medium build, with short dark brown hair. He was wearing a navy blue suite, navy blue duffle style jacket and a shirt and tie.
The second suspect is described as 5ft 6” tall, of a similar age to the first suspect and of a dumpy build. He had dark hair and was wearing similar style clothing to his colleague.
In a second incident in the Sheerwater area of Woking, three men gained entry into a property where the resident had been asleep at around 8.50pm. The householder was disturbed and got up to find one man in the doorway and asked what he was doing there. The suspect said he was a police officer and produced what appeared to be a warrant card.
He told the 56-year-old resident that they had found a homeless boy climbing through the window and the victim was required at the police station for interview. A second man, also impersonating a police officer, pretended to detain a young man.
The victim refused to go with the suspects and said he was going to call the police instead. The offenders then said they had the wrong man and left the property empty handed via the front door.
The first suspect who spoke to the resident is described as being in his mid thirties, around 5ft 8” tall and of a medium build with a big nose. He spoke with what is described as an Albanian accent and was wearing a dark winter jacket with a dark baseball cap.
The second suspect is described as being a man, between 5ft 4” and 5ft 6” tall. The third man is described as being white, 6ft tall, between 18 and 20-years-old and of a slim build. He was clean shaven with a clear fresh complexion. He was wearing a snood style face covering, similar to that worn by a motorcyclist.
Surrey Police is appealing for anyone who may recognise the descriptions of these offenders or who may have seen the suspects acting suspiciously in the vicinity around the time of the incidents, to contact officers as soon a possible.
Surrey Police recommends that if a resident is in any doubt as to the identity of a caller and posing as a police officer that they do not open the door, they ask for the officer’s identity number and that they call 101 to verify that the person is genuine.
Detective Inspector Andy Haslam said: “These are cruel and cowardly crimes which prey on the more vulnerable in our communities and we are advising residents to stay vigilant. Neighbours of elderly homeowners can help by making them aware of the potential pitfalls and keeping an eye out for suspicious people around their properties.
“Under no circumstances should you let an unexpected visitor into your home. Always stop to think whether you are expecting any callers, use the chain if you do decide to answer the door and check for identification before letting anyone in. Don’t be taken in by these con artists, however convincing their story may sound.
“Similarly it is imperative that all residents remain vigilant about home security and ensure that windows and doors are securely locked. If you are in need of crime prevention advice please contact your Safer Neighbourhood Team and speak to the Crime Reduction Advisor.”
Anyone with information is asked to contact Surrey Police on 101 quoting reference Sh/12/337 or WK/12/539.GD/10/2113. Alternatively Crimestoppers can be contacted anonymously and free of charge on 0800 555 111.
The following security tips are recommended by Surrey Police:
• Keep doors locked and windows secure at all times. Use spy holes to see the caller and if you do open the door, use a door chain if you have one.
• If you do let somebody in to your home, close the door behind them – distraction burglars often work in teams, where one will distract you whilst others sneak in through the insecure door.
• Don’t keep large quantities of cash at home; put it in the bank where it is safe.
• If you suspect a bogus caller is at your door call the police
http://www.surrey.police.uk/home.asp for further details
Are you fed up with receiving visits to your home from cold calling traders?
Are you concerned about rogue traders calling on your elderly or vulnerable neighbours, seeking work?
If so, say "no" to cold calling doorstep traders with a Surrey Trading Standards door sticker.
work closely with Surrey Police and other agencies to help reduce
incidents of distraction burglary and rogue trading. Our sticker
initiative is designed to empower residents, giving them the
confidence to deal with cold calling traders.
We are committed to protecting Surrey residents, particularly the elderly and vulnerable, from being taken advantage of by rogue traders. We want to reduce the fear of crime and prevent residents from feeling pressurised on their doorsteps to make decisions that they may not otherwise make.
up your free sticker to display on your property to send a clear
message to cold calling traders. We expect all traders to respect
your wishes but if they don't, they may be liable to prosecution
for ignoring your request to leave and not return.
This initiative is a county-wide extension of our existing network of 'No Cold Calling Zones'. Whilst the existing zones will remain in place, we ask that residents in the zones pick up and display a new sticker on their property.
Stickers can be collected from your local council office, police station or library. We also hope to make them available through the Neighbourhood Watch network. If you have any trouble getting a sticker pack, please contact Surrey County Council on 03456 009 009.
Senior Trading Standards Specialist
Policy & Operations Team
Surrey County Council Trading Standards Service
East Surrey Area Office
We met at Surrey Camp - and I found your website initiative very interesting and wondered if some of the work we do at Trading Standards may be of interest to you to put on your DropBy website.
Buy With Confidence: The Buy With Confidence Scheme is an approved register of businesses, which have been thoroughly vetted and approved by Trading Standards to ensure that they operate in a legal, honest and fair way.
Here are the links to the national site and the Surrey site
Support With Confidence: To support personalisation, adult social care services and trading standards in partnership with Surrey Independent Living Council (SILC) have developed a quality assurance initiative called Support with Confidence. It is available to anyone buying their own social care, including those who can afford to pay for their own care.
Link to Surrey site
Rapid Action Team: The Trading Standards Rapid Action Team exists to provide a quick response to calls regarding Doorstep Callers, received by Trading Standards, from any source, especially members of the public. It is a team of officers who will attend the homes of Surrey residents to deal with a doorstep con as it is happening. The officers will intervene on your behalf, dealing with the traders or conmen, protecting you from being ripped off or targeted again. The Rapid Action Team are on duty Monday to Friday from 9:00am until 5:00pm.
Link to SCC website
New Door Sticker: Surrey Trading Standards Service is launching its new door sticker to deter cold calling traders. Further information and details about how to obtain a sticker can be found at www.surreycc.gov.uk/stopcoldcallers
Well, I think this is all very interesting and I want to encourage members to use and support those services which have perhaps in the past seemed a bit remote. So I want to thank Surrey Trading Standards and encourage you all to treat them as partners in the community. My especial thanks to:
Ms Claire Hodgson
Senior Trading Standards Officer
Surrey County Council Trading Standards Service
East Surrey Area Office
Claire is interested to hear about issues that concern Surrey residents but has asked me to make it clear that Surrey Trading Standards are currently unable to advise consumers on a one to one basis.
All enquiries need to go through Consumer Direct. Information about Consumer Direct can be seen on the Surrey website, this page also gives you an email link to them.
Alternatively their direct website is www.direct.gov.uk and their telephone number is 01622 626520. Please contact Consumer Direct if you have any specific concerns to raise.