Belfast Telegraph

Co Down Woman loses £77,000 in email scam

A Co Down woman has spoken of how her life has fallen apart after she lost almost £77,000 in an email scam.

Single parent Amanda Jackson was using the money to purchase a new house following the sale of her marital home.

She received an email from her solicitor detailing the account name, number and sort code she should send the money to in order to complete the sale.

However, she then received a second email, which appeared to be from her solicitor saying the first details were incorrect and providing the 'correct' information.

So fearful was Amanda that something could go wrong with the transaction that she went in person to her bank to ensure there were no issues with the £76,959.

She told the BBC's Nolan show: "The woman over the counter actually said I could have done it online, but I told her I didn't want anything to go wrong - I actually said that."

However, days after the money was lodged, Amanda's solicitor firm contacted her again to say they had still not received the money.

It was then that Amanda realised she had been duped.

"I naively thought that because it asks for the account name it would be married up with the account number and the sort code," she said.

"But the account name means nothing, it is just the numbers.

"I have just been sick ever since. Everyone is telling me my money is gone and no one is responsible but me.

"I have had to try and get the money together, my parents are trying to sell assets to help and obviously I was in breach of contract over the purchase of the house and I'm going to lose that deposit.

"It has been a horrendous week.

"I just can't lose money in this way.

"My life has just fallen apart, I'm a single parent of two children and this was supposed to be a new start."

The account Amanda sent the money to was with Barclays bank. It told the BBC that it meets all regulatory requirements including identification and verification of those opening accounts.

When the bank realised there was unusual activity on the account, it was closed, however the money had gone.

The Law Society has issued guidance to the public and solicitors warning of the possible fraud.

Arleen Elliott, president of the Law Society of Northern Ireland added: "The Law Society of Northern Ireland has become aware of an increased number of frauds targeting a number of solicitor firms throughout Northern Ireland.

"In the majority of the cases fraudsters have contacted the solicitor firms by email and by telephone attempting to obtain the firm’s bank account details.

"However a new and worrying development has emerged in which fraudsters are targeting solicitors’ clients via email pretending to be their solicitor.

"Fraudsters provide the client with new and amended bank details and request that the client transfers money to that account which is controlled by the fraudster.

"Such is the level of sophistication of the fraud that neither the client nor solicitor is aware of the fraud until it has been successfully perpetrated.

"The Law Society is warning the public, clients and its members to be extremely vigilant.

"Clients should not make a transfer of funds if they receive an unusual email or phone request informing them that the solicitors banking details and arrangements have changed.

"Before making any money transfer the client should always double check directly with their solicitor."

Police are investigating the loss of Amanda's money.

A PSNI spokesman said: "This incident has been referred to Action Fraud, although PSNI are currently making enquiries to assist their investigation.

"Action Fraud takes all fraud and cyber-crime reports in the UK and provides support to citizens through both the contact centre and its web-based channels.

"Fraud reports which are submitted through the service are sent via secure transfer to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) at the City of London Police which is the country’s policing lead for fraud.

"The information is then analysed along with a wealth of additional information from government departments, financial institutions and other large organisations.

"Once information has been assessed, the NFIB then sends police forces or other agencies packages for investigation, ONLY where there is actionable intelligence or viable lines of inquiry available for the force to pursue."

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