Banks’ branch se­cu­rity pro­to­cols un­der fire as crim­i­nals force widow, 81, to with­draw £136,500

The Daily Telegraph - Your Money - - FRONT PAGE -

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

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