Artful swindlers left a Somers Town mother of two gutted when she was conned out of nearly £700 by scammers claiming to be from Sky customer services.
Childminder Tracy Leach has been a Sky phone and entertainment package customer for almost six years, so it came as no surprise when she took a call from an Asian-sounding guy claiming to be from their customer call centre.
She said he seemed to be very knowledgeable about the family TV and phone package, so didn’t give it a second thought when he told her he was doing a short customer satisfaction survey.
‘The conman was so convincing and caught me at just the wrong time,’ Tracy said.
‘I was in the middle of getting the evening meal under way for my husband Tom, and our two daughters.
‘He claimed his name was George and started by asking me for feedback about our viewing experience. I now realise this was just to suss out if I was a Sky customer, but it didn’t register with me at the time.
‘Then he came up with an offer to upgrade our TV package with a HD+ box and viewing card for a one-off payment of £40. He said we were also due a refund for an earlier overpayment on the account but for security reasons he needed to confirm our bank account details.
‘My husband is seriously into sport, so when I was told it had additional access to the sports channels I thought it sounded far too good to miss.
‘Without a second thought I gave him our bank account number and security details over the phone and thought no more about it.
‘It was only the following day when the bank rang to say they’d noticed some unusual transactions on our account that the penny dropped.
‘The thieves had made two fraudulent purchases and a transfer of £100, helping themselves to a total of £696.70 out of our account.
‘There were two more transactions in the pipeline but the bank had put them on hold.
‘I felt absolutely stupid and sick about how easily I’d been taken in. The hit was set to leave us short to pay some essential monthly household bills.’
Tracy is one of a number of people who have contacted Streetwise about the particularly convincing Sky box scam that’s been sweeping the south.
Sky says it is aware that con artists posing as genuine agents have been cold-calling people with various equipment and service upgrade offers.
Sky service agents would never ask for bank or credit card details over the phone and customers should remain vigilant at all times and never give out secure bank passwords, pin numbers or account details.
Sky scammers are just part of the burgeoning tidal wave of information technology bandits who take advantage of people by intercepting their email, phone text, or social media activity.
Dubbed ‘vishing,’ phone con artists pose as bank, tax, even police officers or company service centre agents, fleecing their unsuspecting victims with sophisticated abuse of trust stories. Anyone with a Sky email address is clearly an obvious target.
Action Fraud is the national fraud and cyber-crime reporting centre. Last year there were more than 1.8 million reported cases of financial fraud, with losses of more than £768 million across Britain.
A spokesperson warned: ‘Our research indicates that eight scam calls are made every second in the UK and you are now more likely to receive a call from a scammer than your own family or friends.’
Streetwise put Tracy’s predicament to her bank HSBC, after it initially declined to confirm it would refund the money taken from her account.
It agreed with us the scam wasn’t so much about being careless with her online passwords or personal security details, but being caught on the hop by a very convincing confidence trick.
A spokesperson told us: ‘Although criminals use sophisticated ways to attack and infiltrate personal data, we accept the growing threat to individuals is sophisticated and plausible rudimentary scams carried out by confidence tricksters.
‘However most scams could be simply avoided if victims took more steps to protect themselves. If they get a bogus phone call that asks for their information and they give it there’s a limit to what we can do to protect them.
‘In the circumstances we sympathise with Mrs. Leach’s situation.
‘We have spoken to her and as a goodwill gesture have arranged to fully credit her account.’
A chastened Tracy said she now appreciates how easy it is to get stung by determined fraudsters.
‘I just feel so stupid giving crooks complete access to our bank account without a second thought, she said.
‘I always believed I was switched on to phone and computer scams, yet all it took was a split second to catch me off guard.
‘The bank got back in touch and following your intervention were very sympathetic at the way we’d been conned.
‘They’ve given us a full refund and we’ve changed all our passwords and confidential information. I cannot thank you enough for all your help.
‘I never for one moment thought I would need it, but when I did, Streetwise came up trumps.
We’re so lucky to have someone like you to turn to.’