How to stop cyber fraud: The methods used by scammers to target people in Hampshire

Portsmouth pensioner Arthur Brameld was scammed out of £8,000 by a fraudster who accessed his savings account by impersonating a member of his bank’s fraud team.

But thanks to a quick-thinking daughter and our intervention, his bank intercepted the scammer’s fraudulent transfer in the nick of time, and the money was promptly returned to his account.

The 68-year-old was just one of numerous readers who contacted Streetwise to say they were gutted after discovering they’d been taken in easily by convincing crooks.

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Cyber fraud is getting more sophisticated

Arthur was robbed after being discharged from Southampton General hospital for an operation to improve the blood supply to his heart. He said the scam was so sophisticated anyone could have fallen for it.

His daughter Jane had been staying with him during the first week of his discharge, then called in daily to check that he was managing his post operative needs.

What sent the widower into a tailspin was the fact that the thief appeared to know his personal and bank details and had called from a number which seemed genuine when verified by the phone caller ID and his bank card.

Former painter and decorator Arthur received the call out of the blue in the week before Christmas. The scammer posed as Clive, a member of the HSBC fraud team and was calling to verify a couple of transactions from his savings account which looked suspicious.

‘He said it looked as if my accounts were at risk because two unusual payments had been made from the account, one for £65 to Virgin Wines, and another for £16.50 to Halfords.

‘What convinced me he was pukka and the story he’d given me was genuine was that he knew all the details of my account and precisely where I lived.

‘I confirmed I hadn’t made any such purchases, and he told me not to worry as the account would be frozen and he’d call me back to set up a replacement.

‘A couple of hours later he rang with a new account number and sort code and talked me through transferring the balance using my online banking facility.

‘He then said they’d ring back again to give me an update and go through the process of opening a new current account because it was also at risk.

‘After my op, I was feeling a bit below par and all this worrying rigmarole did nothing for my stress levels as I anxiously sat by the phone waiting for the next call.

‘An hour or so later I received a call from someone calling himself Phil who, to my relief, confirmed appropriate action had been taken with the savings account. and arranged to open the new current account.

‘Because he knew all about me, I had no reason to believe he was a thief about to clean me out.

‘By a stroke of luck Jane came in early after work with some shopping, and when I told her what had happened, she was immediately concerned the call might not be genuine.

‘Previously helped by Streetwise, she was relieved when contact was made with fraud staff on our behalf after we spent almost an hour trying to ring the bank branch but couldn’t get through. Your prompt help was vital to get us in touch with the genuine bank fraud team. I can’t thank you enough for bringing timely closure to this embarrassing stressful situation.’

Eric Groves of Southsea wasn’t so lucky. He was left sickened at how easily he was scammed out of £23,000 after being targeted by a remote access fraudster impersonating a Microsoft engineer.

Initially, the fraudster claimed to be checking out his MS 365 account broadband speed and went on to claim he’d noticed several security defects.

Eric was happy to allow remote access to his computer to rectify the bogus problem which facilitated the planting of malicious spyware designed to monitor every keystroke on his device.

A fortnight later a paperless bank statement revealed the crook had helped himself to the bulk of his savings. After we spoke to his bank, they confirmed they’d signed up to the code that pledges to refund their customers that fall victim to this bank transfer fraud.

‘I thought I was switched on,’ a devastated Eric said, ‘but they sounded so professional.’

Miriam Uttley emailed to tell us her Facebook account had been hacked and was up in arms about scammers using the messaging service to pose as relatives or a friend in financial difficulty.

She wanted to warn others not to take the service for granted when a thief posing as her brother messaged claiming he was stranded in Prague and had run out of money to pay his hotel bill after testing positive for Covid.

The Fareham based carer agreed to transfer £1,500 to him to settle the account to be repaid on his return, but when she subsequently called Miriam was stunned to discover she’d been a victim of impersonation fraud. Her real brother knew nothing at all about the message and had not left the UK for almost two years.

Sally Osgood got in touch to say she had unknowingly become the victim of a sophisticated impersonation and delivery intervention scam leaving her in a state of shock and a potential £2,159 hit in the bank balance.

A fraudster had stolen her personal details and opened a credit account with a retailer to order a top of the range Windows surface book 3 laptop.

In the week after Christmas, Sally from Horndean noticed the fraudulent transaction when she received a bank statement. Enquiries revealed the laptop was consigned to her address but had been intercepted by the scammer pretending he was her husband inflating a bike flat tyre on the pavement close to her front gate. Following Streetwise intervention with the store she was refund in full.

Streetwise warns if you’re sure you’d never fall for a fraud, think again. Fraudsters are getting smarter and more believable at impersonating banks and other service providers we’ve all come to trust.

If you’ve been contacted out of the blue, required to share personal details online or by text, pressured to make a decision, or an offer looks to good to be true, it’s got scam written all over it.

But by keeping up your guard you can protect yourself from fraudsters making off with your money. Remove all personal information from social media platforms; remember neither a bank nor the police will ever ask you to move your money to a different account to keep it safe; if you’re called never agree to download something, click on a link or log in; hang up if you’ve the slightest doubt about the person who has called.