'Embarrassed' GP conned out of £25k by fraudsters
A Northern Ireland doctor has spoken of how he was left feeling "embarrassed and stupid" after losing £25,000 in a property scam.
Dr Jimmy Mallon says he believes he is one of at least 1,000 people on what is being described as a 'suckers' list' of people targeted by scammers.
Both he and his wife Helen - who was also duped in a separate scam - have now spoken out to warn others of the dangers.
Mr Mallon, who admits he became a victim simply because of a "matter of greed", is one of thousands of people frequently bombarded by scam mail, emails and phone calls.
"I feel embarrassed, stupid, silly, I was greedy, too, because it was only a matter of greed - getting money for nothing, basically," he told the BBC.
Helen lost £1,250 after she was told she would have to pay to claim a bogus prize of £8,500 in a non-existent Spanish lottery.
The couple have now spoken out to warn people of the dangers of being targeted by such international fraudsters.
"The shame of it is horrendous," she said.
"You don't want to tell anybody, you just keep it a secret for as long as you can and then you feel so distraught.
"Personally I just feel violated, totally violated of my privacy.
"How they got the phone number - because our phone is ex-directory - that is something that always bothers me."
Mr Mallon said Trading Standards had told the couple that a "suckers' list" did exist. "I have a feeling we must be on a suckers' list somewhere," the general practitioner said.
"I know there is one, because Trading Standards has told us about it.
"It's a list of people who have been conned out of their money before - a list of people who are suckers, basically."
But the couple say they are still not sure why they would be on the list.
"We bought a time share in the past. Maybe it's from that," he said.
Trading Standards in Belfast has now set up a special project to warn those that could be targeted.
Trading Standards officer Beverly Burns visits people on the list and offers one-to one advice.
"These are people who have responded to scammers, who then go on a list that is traded around the world," she said.
"All it takes is for you to send £5 off to one scam and your name goes on that list.
"It could be your name, address, date of birth, your mother's maiden name or your email address."
According to the PSNI, if you are unsure about any email you receive, do not respond to it.
If you think you have become a victim of fraud after receiving an email like this, report it to your local police, otherwise forward it to Action Fraud at www.actionfraud.police.uk.
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The internet is widely used by fraudsters carrying out email scams.
Some of the more common types of false email:
- False claims that people have won on a national/state lottery (known as fake lottery scams).
- False claims that people have been left money in a will (known as will frauds).
- False requests from banks or other financial institutions for customers to verify security details - known as phishing.