A Portrush pensioner has told how she foiled a caller seeking to part her from her savings as part of a payment protection insurance (PPI) con.
The incident occurred on Saturday, shortly after the PSNI launched its ‘If you can spot it, you can stop it’ campaign in response to the rising number of scams being reported.
According to statistics, 314,840 people across Northern Ireland have been the victims of scams in the last three years.
Ray Weir, 77, told the Times that the scammer who targeted her had been “very convincing” and had even used advice on preventing fraud to persuade her he was genuine.
“A few months ago I got a form from a firm, who said they specialised in recovering PPI and asked for the name of any accounts it had been paid on but no account details,” Ray recalled.
“Then the man who phoned on Saturday said he was from the same firm and that the Ombudsman had cleared it for me to get £3750 in compensation.
“He said that he would arrange for a courier to bring me the money to be signed for by 4pm or 5pm that day and all the documentation in a package.
“I assumed that he meant a cheque, and later I decided to ring him back to see if there were any more developments.
“When I called it was the same voice but he gave a different name and told me I would have to go and pick up an iTunes voucher at Tesco’s and put £375 on it to give to the courier when he came. When I asked him why he told me that this was his commission, 10 per cent of the total.”
The scammer then told Mrs Weir that his company would deliver the money in cash to “avoid income tax and VAT” in what he claimed was a “legal way of doing things”.
“He said the firm delivered in cash as protection against fraud, to avoid having to take bank account details and to prevent scams from occurring,” she continued.
“He said they couldn’t send a cheque, which I knew would have been the case if it was a genuine PPI firm. I then told him I knew it was all a big scam and that i was going to take the matter further and he put down the phone.”
While she didn’t fall prey to the fraudster, Mrs Weir says it would have been easy for someone else to be taken in by such a ruse.
“He was so cunning and crafty and I am shocked now that I even considered listening to him at the very start,” she said.
“My husband is 91 years old and I would have been afraid that he could have been taken in, at least initially.
I would be afraid for older people living on their own but really with the way it was done it is something that people of any age could fall victim to.”
Mrs Weir then went to a police station to report the incident, but says she was “disappointed” with the response.
“They didn’t take a report or even ask my name, they just reached me a leaflet,” she claimed. “He said there was a name and number on it for a London-based organisation called Action Fraud and I should report it to them. I think it would have been more reassuring to speak to a local police officer.
“I was also disappointed as I wasn’t aware that the leaflet existed and I wouldn’t have spent all that time talking to the scammer if I had had that advice. I think it should be sent out to every home, the leaflet says that £52 billion is taken through fraud in the UK every year.”
Mrs Weir now intends to report the incident to the fraud squad.
Meanwhile, despite having nuisance call blocking software installed on her phone line, she says she is still receiving over a dozen scam calls each week.
“I would advise anyone who suspects they may have been contacted by a scammer to put the phone down,” she warned. Or talk to your phone provider to see if anything can be done to block them. There are thousands of scams out there.”