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Cyber con victim 'living hand to mouth' after pension stolen

By Joanne Sweeney

Published 08/01/2016

Michael McCartan is counting the cost of the scam
Michael McCartan is counting the cost of the scam
The authentic-looking correspondence, supposedly from Amazon

An elderly Belfast man was cruelly duped of his and his wife's Christmas pension payments when he was stung in an internet scam.

And now Michael McCartan is calling on Danske Bank - where he has banked with for 46 years - to reimburse him the £900 that was taken out of his account by faceless thieves.

Scammers stole the money in what's known as a phishing con - a cyber crime which is on the increase in Northern Ireland.

That's where the victim receives an email purportedly from a reputable company in order to get them to reveal confidential details, such as bank information or address online, which are then fraudulently used.

The Dunmurry man argues that Danske Bank's fraud team should have picked up the wrongful transactions as they were for payments that he has never made before in his banking history.

But last night Danske ruled out refunding the money as it contends that Mr McCartan effectively authorised the transactions by giving out his bank details.

"I've never even used Western Union before, not once, never mind three times, never bought Aer Lingus tickets and I've never booked concert tickets over the internet on my card," fumed Mr McCartan (72), who helps care for his bed-bound wife Eileen.

"At the moment, we are living from hand to mouth.

"It's pretty sickening that someone in the Fraud Team has said no to me getting back my money when they were probably not born when I opened my account."

While he has a right of appeal against Danske's decision, the bank confirmed that Mr McCartan would not be getting a refund.

A spokesman said: "Every case is looked at on its own merits. Unfortunately, under the terms and conditions of his account, this customer is not entitled to a refund from the bank because by giving away his card details he effectively authorised the transaction."

He added that by the time Mr McCartan had queried the transactions, some of them, including the two with the largest amounts, had already been authorised by the merchant.

He said: "We are waiting to hear back from two of the merchants about three particular transactions that may have been stopped in time.

"This could lead to some of the funds being recovered."

He also advised that while a bank's sophisticated systems looks for many different types of patterns and irregularities on an account, the fact that a customer has not transacted with a merchant before does not mean that it would be flagged as suspicious.

Mr McCartan raised his complaint with Radio Ulster's On Your Behalf which has taken his case to the Financial Ombudsman.

He was caught out on December 16 when he received what looked like an email from Amazon, explaining that customers' accounts had been hacked and advising customers to update their account details.

Two days later when he went to check his bank balance, he was stunned to find that there was only £90 left - and that was after he and his wife had received double state pension payments that week.

The scammers had the cheek to claim on behalf of Amazon that it had experienced a data breach on December 14 of 2,592 customer accounts and advised customers to verify their details as soon as possible.

"The email looked so official that I thought it had to be ok," said Michael.

"It looked very genuine and I thought I was doing the right thing."

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