Banks’ branch security protocols under fire as criminals force widow, 81, to withdraw £136,500
Counter staff allowed an elderly woman to withdraw her life savings in cash – only for it to end up in the hands of highly plausible conmen. By Amelia Murray
alone since her husband died a year ago, said she hadn’t lost her card.
But the criminal gained her trust through his apparent knowledge of many of her personal details. He read out her card and account information over the phone and told her his colleagues were investigating fraud at all four banks of which she was a customer: HSBC, Barclays, NatWest and Halifax.
He said counterfeit money was passing through these banks, which the police needed to obtain for testing. She would be the undercover operative who collected it and passed it on.
Mrs J wanted to help. She agreed to make trips to several nearby branches of her banks and to make the specified withdrawals. The money would then be collected at her home by “agents”. She was told she would be reimbursed.
“Roy” usually called between 12pm and 2pm daily to deliver instructions about which branches to visit and how much to withdraw.
Roy asked Mrs J to report back to him regarding activity in the bank, such as how many people were in the queue. Most importantly, Roy said, Mrs J must keep the investigation a secret. He checked on a daily basis that she hadn’t mentioned her activities to anyone and congratulated her on her contribution to the “operation”. Every time the fraudsters collected the cash, she was praised and thanked.
Roy convinced Mrs J that any bank staff who questioned her requests were part of the ring of counterfeiters and were conspiring to keep her money. He fed her lines to explain the withdrawals to cashiers – such as a need to pay for home improvements and holidays. Before each visit he rehearsed these with her over the phone.
This went on for several weeks with Roy in constant contact on a number of phones. Mrs J spent £300 on taxis to and from her banks in Hounslow, Twickenham, Richmond and Kingston Upon Thames, on some days making multiple visits to banks.
On November 11 she visited four branches in Twickenham and withdrew a total of £16,000. Bank staff handed this over and she carried it home by taxi to await collection. Three days later she went to NatWest, Barclays and Halifax in Hounslow and took out £10,500. The taxi cost £70 because the driver waited for her to make the three withdrawals before taking her home again. On November 16 and 17 she went to NatWest in Kingston Upon Thames and Twickenham and withdrew £7,700.
Roy also made online purchases using Mrs J’s email address and account details to buy two Rolex watches, which cost £61,200. He said it was important to get the money out of her account and away from the fraudsters at the bank.
Mrs J was also told to buy £4,800 worth of US dollars from a currency exchange firm in Richmond, which she did using her HSBC debit card.
After a few weeks Mrs J started to become concerned at the lack of
HSBC, NatWest and Barclays all allowed the customer to withdraw large sums