A PENSIONER who was scammed out of £6,000 has warned others not to fall prey for the same trick after she fell ‘hook, line and sinker’.
Joy Mitchell, 81, admitted she felt ‘stupid’ after scammers duped her into believing urgent sewage work was needed to prevent a leak onto her property in Cosham.
The fraudsters, claiming to be from national drainage repair company Dyno-Rod who were carrying out work for Portsmouth City Council, convinced the vulnerable pensioner to hand over the money after turning up at her house.
To add insult to injury, the deviants even called back not realising they had already conned the lady as they attempted to coerce more money from her – raising fears they are targeting people across the region.
Joy told The News: ‘I fell for the scam hook, line and sinker. I was just so worried about there being a sewage leak on my garden and having to move out that I paid them £6,000.
‘They told me there was a problem with my neighbour’s property having a possible leak and how they needed to carry out urgent work using expensive equipment to stop it.
‘They said the leak would come on to my land and lead to my drive being dug up. I would have contacted my neighbour but he was on holiday at the time.
‘They told me they needed a deposit of £20,000 to begin with but I said I couldn’t afford that and paid them £6,000 in cash when they came to the door. They said I would get the money back.’
Following her ordeal, Joy said: ‘I feel shaken up by what has happened. I know I won’t get my money back but I want to warn others not to fall for the same trick.’
Joy explained how she withdrew £5,000 from her Nationwide branch in Cosham before she attempted to get the rest of the money out from Halifax when staff there suspected she was being defrauded and called the police.
The incident follows Hampshire police’s announcement earlier this week that a rapid response scheme by banks and police prevented potential fraud victims in Hampshire from being scammed out of £1.4m in 2018.
The Banking Protocol trains bank staff to spot when someone is about to fall victim to a scam and try to prevent them from withdrawing cash to give to a fraudster, after which they can request an immediate police response to the branch.
A total of seven arrests were made by Hampshire Constabulary last year through the initiative, while in total 247 emergency calls were received.
While quick-thinking Halifax staff spotted the signs in Joy’s case, questions have been asked over Nationwide after they gave Joy her money without seeing any identification and despite her having not been into the bank for four years. Joy’s daughter has now lodged a complaint with the bank on behalf of her mum.
A police spokesperson said: ‘I can confirm that we are investigating a fraud incident in which a woman in her 80s paid £6,000 to men reportedly posing as workmen in Cosham. Enquiries into the circumstances are ongoing and no arrests have been made at this time.’
City councillor, Dave Ashmore, cabinet member for community and environment, said: ‘I was very sorry to hear about this case. Residents should always be inquisitive when dealing with people presenting as officials, regardless of how genuine they may appear. Scammers will often wear official-looking clothing, such as a uniform, high visibility tabards or vests in order to appear credible and genuine.
‘Genuine representatives will always identify themselves. Representatives of Portsmouth City Council will not 'cold call' at your home, will never ask you to disclose your personal information and will never ask you for money.
Advice - what to watch out for
Police and the council have also issued the following advice: Most door-to-door scams involve selling goods or services that are either not delivered or are very poor quality. You won’t get value for money and you may get billed for work you didn’t want or agree to.
Some scammers conduct surveys just to get your personal details or as a cover to sell you goods or services you don’t want or need, such as roofing work or patio replacement.
Unscrupulous employees sometimes still act illegally even when selling a genuine product by a genuine business. If someone knocks at your front door claiming to be from a company, first check their ID. If you’re not happy, don’t let them in.
Never call the phone number on their ID card to check them out. Ask the salesperson to wait outside, shut the door and find the company number on the internet. If they’re genuine, they’ll understand. If you have concerns then call police on 101.
Residents can report suspected incidents of fraud online via: Action Fraud at https://www.actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040.
Nationwide had not provided a comment at the time of publication.