‘A sin­gle call was all I got from the po­lice’

The Daily Telegraph - Your Money - - MONEY -

This scam vic­tim, who lost £10,500, is not the only one to feel let down by the long arm of the law. Sam Mead­ows re­ports

Vic­tims of bank trans­fer fraud are be­ing blocked from claim­ing re­funds be­cause po­lice will not share find­ings with them, Tele­graph Money has found. Un­wit­ting con­sumers, tricked into au­tho­ris­ing money trans­fers in the be­lief that they were pay­ing for le­git­i­mate goods or ser­vices, lost £145m last year, ac­cord­ing to the bank­ing trade body. How­ever, only £1 in ev­ery stolen £5 was re­turned.

Sup­port from the po­lice is vi­tal to vic­tims’ hopes of get­ting their money back, which hap­pens ei­ther by con­vinc­ing the crim­i­nal’s bank to pay up or win­ning com­pen­sa­tion fol­low­ing a suc­cess­ful pros­e­cu­tion. Yet fraud re­cov­ery ex­perts say po­lice forces of­ten refuse to help.

Re­cent re­search by Which?, the con­sumer mag­a­zine, found that 96pc of fraud cases went un­solved. A fraud vic­tim doesn’t need the crime to be solved to get re­im­burse­ment, how­ever – they of­ten just need to prove that the ac­count that re­ceived the funds was set up fraud­u­lently.

Po­lice con­fir­ma­tion that the re­cip­i­ent ac­count was opened with false pa­per­work, which is a po­ten­tial breach of money-laun­der­ing rules, will prompt most banks to act.

Cases in which Tele­graph Money has se­cured re­funds for vic­tims have of­ten in­volved the ac­qui­si­tion of po­lice re­ports. Last month HSBC re­funded £8,520 to a scam vic­tim af­ter of­fi­cers gave him a let­ter con­firm­ing that the bank had al­lowed an ac­count to be opened with a fake Dan­ish pass­port.

Not all vic­tims are so lucky. Jimmy Dick, 50, lost £10,499 two years ago when he was tricked by scam­mers pre­tend­ing to sell a van on eBay. It was only af­ter he sent the cash and the van failed to ma­te­ri­alise that he re­alised what had hap­pened. He said things be­gan “spi­ralling out of con­trol” af­ter he lost the money. “I’m self-em­ployed and lost con­tracts. I lost face on site be­cause I felt I’d let peo­ple down. I still don’t know how it hap­pened to me, I’m not usu­ally that stupid.”

He said he tried to get in­for­ma­tion from the po­lice that could sup­port his claim for a re­fund but came up against a brick wall. He called Ac­tionFraud, the re­port­ing cen­tre for scams, but it passes cases to re­gional po­lice forces and does not of­fer up­dates.

Mr Dick said: “One night I got a call from this of­fi­cer who said, ‘I’ve got your case in front of me. It’s not go­ing to hap­pen overnight but leave it with me and I’ll get back to you.’ That was within the first month or so and that’s the last I’ve heard from the po­lice.”

The Met­ro­pol­i­tan Po­lice told Tele­graph Money that Mr Dick was one of 5,000 vic­tims of a £22m on­line com­merce fraud. The fraud­sters cre­ated fake iden­ti­fi­ca­tion doc­u­ments and used them to open bank ac­counts.

The Met’s Det Ch Insp Sheila Ste­wart said: “Crim­i­nals will en­cour­age buy­ers to move away from the web­site [such as eBay] to com­plete the pur­chase. If you go out­side [the web­site] you risk los­ing your money. If the of­fer seems too good to be true it usu­ally is.”

Suzanne Raftery, a for­mer po­lice de­tec­tive who now works for Re­quite So­lu­tions, a re­cov­ery spe­cial­ist, said there was a mad­den­ing lack of con­sis­tency across the coun­try.

“With­out the help of the po­lice there’s no way the vic­tim can know whether the ac­count they paid into was opened fraud­u­lently,” she said.

Jack War­wick of Ac­tionS­cam, who goes by the pseu­do­nym Buster Jack, has helped hun­dreds of vic­tims get their money back. He said: “When I get a po­lice re­port we get the money back, but it doesn’t hap­pen of­ten.”

Bank trans­fer fraud is Bri­tain’s fastest-grow­ing crime but few cases are solved – or even in­ves­ti­gated. A fraud ex­pert at one bank said it passed

on 50-100 cases of sus­pi­cious ac­tiv­ity ev­ery week but heard back from the po­lice about only a frac­tion.

An Ac­tionFraud spokesman said all cases were as­sessed and losses of more than £100,000 would au­to­mat­i­cally be in­ves­ti­gated.

Si­mon Kempton of the Po­lice Fed­er­a­tion, the of­fi­cers’ union, blamed fund­ing cuts and a re­duc­tion in the num­ber of front-line of­fi­cers.

“In­creas­ingly, of­fences that may pre­vi­ously have been pri­or­i­ties have had to be re­placed by oth­ers that are con­sid­ered to carry higher risk such as se­ri­ous vi­o­lent crime and child sex­ual ex­ploita­tion,” he said.

“Ev­ery po­lice of­fi­cer wants to help vic­tims of crime. And we all recog­nise that the ef­fects can be dev­as­tat­ing and long-last­ing. But polic­ing can no longer do ev­ery­thing it once did. This is as frus­trat­ing to po­lice of­fi­cers as it is for the pub­lic, who may feel short­changed by the ser­vice they re­ceive.”

Ad­di­tional re­port­ing: Mar­i­anna Hunt

Jimmy Dick’s life ‘spi­ralled out of con­trol’ af­ter he lost thou­sands in an eBay fraud

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