Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland pensioner loses life savings in phone scam

By Allan Preston

The daughter of a pensioner conned out of her life savings in a phone scam says her mother has been left violated and embarrassed.

The victim (69) first received a threatening call from scammers claiming to be from HMRC (Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs) on Wednesday morning, saying she would be arrested if she failed to pay back-tax.

The woman from the Waterside area of Londonderry, who has asked to remain anonymous, was instructed to go to her First Trust Bank and tell cashiers the credit transfer was for medical expenses. She lost £4,000. Her bank said the money can't be recovered, her daughter said.

She added that the family is furious over the brazen theft.

"She started to panic that she was in trouble when the call came," her daughter explained.

"I'm furious. We didn't know anything about it as she didn't tell us.

"It was 5pm that night when we heard."

Police were called immediately, with the family being told that others had been targeted too.

Her daughter added: "She does feel violated. I've had to spend the day with her because she's so upset and feels stupid.

"The bank have also told us the money is non-recoverable.

"These are her life savings as she doesn't have any benefits, just her pension."

SDLP MLA for Foyle, Mark H Durkan, hit out at the "vermin" criminal gangs targeting older people and said he would urge extra vigilance by anyone receiving requests for bank details over the phone.

The PSNI stated that detectives in Derry "are aware of an alleged fraud and enquiries are ongoing".

A spokesperson for First Trust Bank added: "While we can't comment on individual cases, we can confirm we are following the bank's procedures in relation to this query."

An HMRC spokesperson said it took security extremely seriously and was aware a number of people in Northern Ireland had been targeted.

"We have a well-known brand, which criminals abuse to add credibility to their scams," he said. "We recommend that if you cannot verify the identity of a caller that you do not speak to them."

The PSNI advised anyone concerned by calls of this nature, or the intent of unsolicited calls, emails or letters, to report it to Action Fraud via its website, www.actionfraud.police.uk

People with concerns can also phone 0300 123 2040, or call police on the non-emergency number 101.

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