A great-grandfather has spoken out about how fraudsters posing as government officials tried to scam him out of his hard-earned savings – telling him he was owed nearly £4,000 in banking fees.
Edward Gibson, from Sunderland, was home one afternoon when a man claiming to be from a government agency cold-called to inform him he was entitled to reclaim £3,600 of back dated banking charges.
However, in order to access his lump sum, the 80-year-old would have to pay solicitors’ fees of £600. Mr Gibson was directed to leave his home and visit the local shops in order to purchase a series of store vouchers in £50 denominations.
He was told these vouchers would later be collected by someone from the agency.
But the call sent alarm bells ringing in Mr Gibson’s head and he immediately spoke to his daughter and then called Northumbria Police to report the phone call.
Mr Gibson said: “Straight away I knew it was off. I knew the government would not call me, they would send a letter for something like that. It’s knocked me and has made me think twice – I will have to be extra careful from now on.
“The call made me feel so sad, and also mad. I was vexed by it all. I think other vulnerable people who don’t have any family or anyone to talk to could have stayed on the line just for company and they might have believed them.
“It was very convincing, but it just set an alarm off with me.”
Shortly after the incident police began an investigation and the former miner received advice on what to do should the caller ring again.
“I can’t fault the police, they were superb,” said Mr Gibson. “I had four officers come out to my house and help me. They supported me and were brilliant.
“I wouldn’t think twice about calling them again.
“If I can help anyone else and stop this happening to just one other person I will be happy.”
Detective Superintendent Mick Paterson, from Northumbria Police’s Crime Department, praised Mr Gibson’s quick-thinking.
He said: “Crimes like this which target the elderly and the vulnerable people in our society are just awful.
“It’s sad to see that people such as Edward are being preyed on by criminals who ultimately end up destroying their trust in institutions like the police, the government and other companies who they claim to work for.
“The truth is that no company or organisation will ever cold-call you and ask you to send money or ask you to buy store vouchers or part with your banking details. If this happens, just hang up the phone.
“We would also ask family, neighbours, shopkeepers and banks to be vigilant and make sure you ask relatives and friends if they have received any strange phone calls recently; ask your customers why they are buying a large amount of vouchers, and if you suspect something suspicious, give us a call.”
If you think you might have been a victim of courier fraud, or any other kind or fraud, please contact Action Fraud immediately by calling 0300 123 2040 Monday to Friday 8am-8pm. If you are calling from abroad please call +44 300 123 2040.
You can also report it online at https://reporting.actionfraud.police.uk