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Trading Standards praised after scams victory for pensioners

Published: 9 January 2020

Two Derbyshire pensioners who were separately scammed out of a combined total of £52,500 savings have praised our Trading Standards officers after they helped them to get their money back.

 


John Lowry, 67, from Erewash, and Doreen Moore, 76, from Hatton, both turned to Trading Standards for help after they fell victim to scammers ringing them at home.

Widower John was called at home while he was convalescing from a hospital stay.

The scam started with a phone call with someone claiming to be from BT offering Mr Lowry a new deal and asking him some questions about himself.

Shortly after this call Mr Lowry received another call, with the person at the other end of the phone telling him £400 had been taken from his bank account.

The caller told Mr Lowry, a retired British Rail electrical and mechanical engineer, that they were working with his bank’s fraud team and the National Crime Agency, and they could try to catch the scammers but they needed his help.

Mr Lowry was told to go to his bank and transfer £30,000 from his account into another account.

The caller told him that he would be monitored by cameras at the bank so he didn’t need to worry, and if he was questioned about the transaction he was to say it was for his niece’s wedding and a holiday.

Although questioned at the bank about transferring such a large amount of money, the transaction was allowed and Mr Lowry went home.

At home he received another call from the same person telling him he needed to go back and transfer more money, and to tell his bank he needed it for a property purchase.

Mr Lowry said:

“It was the call telling me to go back to the bank that made me realise I’d been scammed.

“I phoned the police and then I phoned my bank, but the bank said it was my fault and there was nothing they could do as I’d willingly made the transaction.

“I didn’t know where to turn but I wanted to make sure people were aware and to try to stop it happening to anyone else, and that’s why I phoned the county council’s Trading Standards.

“They were brilliant from the start and a Trading Standards officer came to see me to discuss what had happened and to see how I could get my money back.”

With the support of Trading Standards officers, Mr Lowry has now been reimbursed every penny following a ruling by the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS).

Mr Lowry said:

“To fight my case there was a lot of paperwork, but Trading Standards supported me every step of the way and fought on my behalf. I can’t praise them enough.

“I think the banks need to be more vigilant and be aware of what scams are out there and question people more closely. I don’t think I’m that gullible but I fell for it, and I hope people listen to all the warnings and never fall for something like this.”

Debbie Enever, head of external relations at the Financial Ombudsman Service, said:

“Last year the Financial Ombudsman Service saw more than 12,000 cases involving fraud and scams – everything from people being tricked into transferring money to disputed cash withdrawals. Scams are now so sophisticated that anyone can be scammed.

“Due to the work we’ve done with banks, over £20 million has now been returned to victims of fraud in the last year. Banks are now being held to account where they could have done more to prevent a fraud happening.

“If a consumer isn’t happy with how their bank has treated them, they should get in touch with the ombudsman service and we’ll see if we can help.”

Doreen Moore had a similar experience. She received a phone call one afternoon from someone saying they were from Sky and offering her a cheaper deal and a new Sky box. She was convinced the call was genuine and confirmed her bank details with the caller to change her direct debit.

Twenty minutes later she had a call from ‘the bank’, telling her that someone had tried to take funds from her account and she needed to transfer her money to keep it safe.

Mrs Moore said:

“I didn’t realise it at the time but it wasn’t the bank at all. I’ve got an app on my phone so I can look at my accounts but can’t make any deposits or withdrawals. I checked it and money had disappeared from my account.”

Mrs Moore said the person on the phone told her everything was all right and her money was now safe. By now Mrs Moore was worried – she hadn’t authorised any transfer of funds. She contacted her bank’s fraud department and they said they would conduct an investigation. In total the scammer had stolen £22,500.

Staff from our adult care team referred Mrs Moore to our Trading Standards team who liaised with the bank and the police and worked with them to help get her money back. Following a 2 month investigation the bank refunded her money.

Mrs Moore added:

“I’m so grateful to Trading Standards, they’ve been wonderful and they were always there for me.”

Our Cabinet Member for Health and Communities Councillor Carol Hart said:

“We’re delighted that we’ve been able to help bring about a successful result for Mr Lowry and Mrs Moore following what must have been a very distressing time for both of them.

“Scammers have no feelings and unfortunately they are very good at getting people to believe what they are being told, and it is often vulnerable or older people who they target.

“Our Trading Standards officers were determined to fight for Mr Lowry and, thanks to the Financial Ombudsman Service, have been able to get him his money back which is great news. They were also extremely pleased to support Mrs Moore and are delighted she has been fully reimbursed too.

“If people are worried about an older relative or friend or anyone who may be vulnerable to scams they should look at getting a call blocker fitted which can screen or stop any unsolicited calls. If these callers do get through we always advise people to just put the phone down and never, ever sign up to anything or give personal details, especially financial details, away.”

People who may have fallen victim to a scam, or need advice, can contact Citizens Advice Consumer Services tel: 03454 040506.

In addition residents who have been a victim of any kind of fraud can contact Action Fraud tel: 0300 123 2040.

Trading Standards also encourage people to register their home phone to opt out of unsolicited and marketing calls with the free Telephone Preference Service