Be A Lert

A cautionary tale for you.

I tend to think of myself as being intelligent. After all, the last time I had my IQ tested it qualified me to join Mensa, I have a masters degree, and am generally quick on the uptake. But two weeks ago something happened that made me realise that anyone can do something really stupid. And I did. I allowed myself to become the victim of one of those scam artists we all read so much about. I used to think “that will never happen to me,” but I’m the living proof that it can, even if we think we are taking every precaution to protect ourselves online. So read and learn!

I received a text message which began with the same greeting that most of the messages I get from either of my daughters begin. It was from a number I didn’t know, but it said that ‘she’ had a new number and could I use it to reset our WhatsApp connection. You’d have thought that this coming from an unknown number would have been enough of a clue, wouldn’t you, but it wasn’t and I fell for it. I didn’t even ask any basic “who is this” questions to prove identity which, looking back, seems such an obvious thing that I should have done. The conversation continued and ‘she’ told me that because she had a new number her bank wouldn’t be recognising her account for another couple of days, and she had a large invoice that was due to be paid. Could I help, and she would repay me as soon as her account was sorted. It was a four figure sum but as she got married a few months ago and I knew she had recently had her wedding photos back this didn’t seem that unlikely: weddings are expensive events, and photographers don’t come cheap! Long story short, but I eventually got the payment through, and it was only then that something about the words used in one of ‘her’ messages raised a doubt – the English was bit strange. I asked a question I should have asked much sooner, and got no reply. I then checked with my ex-wife and both of my daughters, and of course she didn’t have a new phone and number, did she!

I then reached for the phone and called my bank. After a fifty minute wait in the queue – there are a lot of victims around – I got through and explained to a very pleasant young man called Robert why I was calling. He went through all of the basics with me about what had happened, and then transferred me to the specialist department for this, telling me along the way that this was the fourth such call he had taken that day! I then spent the best part of an hour with an amazing young woman called Nicola, who had the broadest Northern Irish accent you can imagine and a wonderful sense of humour. Even though I was deep in the financial doo-doo she somehow made me feel a little less stupid and angry with myself. Having taken all of the details she needed she then read me all the warnings that as I had contributed to my own downfall the bank was very unlikely to offer me compensation. In other words, I was the one who would be paying for the expensive lesson I had just received, and for my own stupidity. I had to accept that this was fair, though it didn’t cheer me up! Nicola also advised me to report the event to something called Action Fraud. This turned out to be an online crime reporting system, run by the City Of London police force. She gave me a direct number for future contact, to save the need for the fifty minute wait, and we said our goodbyes.

The next day dawned, to messages from both of my daughters asking how I was. The answers were along the lines of ‘feeling stupid and angry with myself.’ I had started the Action Fraud process the previous evening but as it was by then around 9pm I had decided to save the case and return to it the next day, as I was feeling exhausted. I duly submitted my report, and was allocated a crime case number for my efforts. It can only have been around ten minutes before I received a return email, which contained a letter telling me that they could take no further action as this wasn’t the type of case that the Home Office counted as part of its crime statistics. Given how much these have grown over the years this seemed to me a dubious way of keeping the numbers down and making Plod look better, but I was hardly in a position to effect any change, was I? I was pondering what else I could do, and was beginning to think of how I might word a pleading letter for when the bank had completed its investigations and confirmed that my money had disappeared into thin air. I even considered writing to the Home Secretary – after all, that Suella Braverman seems such a nice, caring sort of person, doesn’t she?

The next thing to happen was that I received a text message from my bank at around 1.15pm. I opened it up, fearing the worst, but to my delight and amazement it informed me that they had completed their investigation and had made a full refund to my account. I immediately went online to check the account, and sure enough the money was back in there. Several text messages to the family later, I began to realise how much I had worried them and how lucky I was for such an outcome.

I had intended to ring the number Nicola had given me, in the hope of finding her on duty at around the same time we had spoken the previous evening, so that I could thank her, but I didn’t need to: she rang me as soon as her shift started just to check that I knew the outcome. Of course I did! She explained that I had been incredibly lucky in that I had fallen victim to scammers who were too lazy or stupid to follow the usual pattern of moving the money on straightaway, and had even used an account with the same bank, which made it easy for the bank to locate the cash and reunite it with its owner. Nicola sounded a lovely person on the phone, and her pleasure in the outcome felt truly genuine – almost as great as mine!

So, I had an amazingly lucky escape, and don’t need to find my way to any food banks just yet. Then again, watch this space, as the government will shortly be making its Autumn Statement, which will tell us how much more we will all be paying to make up for their errors, incompetence and mismanagement. At least I’ll be facing the extra costs with the real bank balance I thought I had, though! But I have learned a lesson from all of this. Being the person in our family who is usually the first to see one of these frauds and warn the others didn’t make me immune to falling for one. Pride comes before a fall, they say, and I came very close to that. I will now be doubly careful, and even more suspicious than I thought I was before: I now count myself as a better qualified ‘Lert.’ The lesson I am sharing with you in telling this story is a simple one: don’t assume that you are too smart to fall victim to a scam, as it can happen to the best of us. No matter how smart we think we are, remember…

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70 thoughts on “Be A Lert

    • Good for you, hope it gets a result. That story is big news here this morning – it’s on Sky News and in many newspapers. Not the same one I fell for but it’s good to see them being taken down.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. What an awful experience. I haven’t received any scam messages [on my phone] because I don’t use the phone much and don’t get any calls from interstate…which is where all the ‘tries’ seem to be coming from. I’ve gotten to the point where if I see a state prefix, I simply don’t answer the phone. On emails, however, I get the bl00dy things all the time, and they’re getting so sophisticated that you really have to stop yourself from automatically clicking that link.
    I’m so glad your experience ended on a good note. I wonder if the network providers can’t set up some algorithm to check for suspicious activity to help protect us, even just a little bit. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. I’m glad you haven’t suffered the same, though those emails can be a real nuisance, can’t they!

      Maybe the network providers can do more, but there is still the element of customer stupidity (i.e. me) to consider!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I don’t know what the network providers can do, but they must be able to do /something/.
        In your case, it almost feels as if your SMS interactions with your daughters were…studied. Are our SMS messages even encrypted? I have no idea. Yes, /we/ have to have out wits about us, but it’s hard to be analytical when our strongest emotional buttons are being pushed. 😦

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’m not sure what they can do, and it probably comes down to cost and whether they are prepared to take that on. In my case most of our messaging is on WhatsApp, which supposedly has end to end encryption. It makes you wonder, though.

        Those emotional buttons are the ones that work for the scammers – certainly in my case!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ah, right. I don’t use WhatsApp so I know nothing about it. End to end encryption should be a high level of protection though.
        Maybe the scammers have a script that says ‘Dads will do anything for their Daughters’. Then, every so often they reach a ‘Dad’ who actually has a ‘Daughter’ and BAM. Even if it is totally random though, I shudder to think that some cognitive behaviourist is mapping out these buttons. 😦
        Anyway, always well that ends well.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I don’t think I was monitored – I just fell for a blanket approach. You’re right, though, as I think there is some psychology behind this. I hope no one who read this post will suffer.

        Liked by 1 person

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  3. I don’t have any children, and I am not on Whatsapp, or anything similar. So I have never had such messages. However, my wife has four grown up children, and has had around six similar scam messages. Fortunately, she worked for a major bank until she was made redundant in 2018, so is well-aware of scams and has never replied to one.
    I am so happy to hear that your bank did the right thing and refunded the money.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m glad to hear you haven’t fallen victim, Pete, and I hope you never do. I was very lucky that the scammers were sufficiently incompetent to use the same bank as me and not move my money on, otherwise I don’t think I’d have had it refunded!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Yes this scam is all over. I had a message ‘hello mother, I have lost my phone… ‘. Nationwide does seem on the ball with transactions they regard as suspicious. When our son was planning to do our new bathroom we did a bank transfer of £1000 to his trade account. Shortly after I was at the shops when I got a phone call which I thought was a scam and quickly ended the call. It turned out to be a genuine call from Nationwide. Back home we had more phone calls and had a hard time explaining to them we hadn’t been duped!

    Liked by 1 person

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  6. Thank you for sharing Clive we have to be so very careful when reading messages and emails and usually, the grammar is a clue but they are so cute now like you I use Whats app…I am so pleased that you got your money returned as its seems the scammers were not that bright after all xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Carol. Yes I had a lucky escape and they didn’t finish it off as you might have expected. Their grammar and spelling were fine until their last message, so it took a while for me to spot the clue! I thought the story worth sharing as until this happened I had always thought I wouldn’t fall for one of these xx

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Sorry I missed this one. Glad you came out financially unscathed, though feeling a bit doh! The problem, of course, is being nice people we take things at face value. We fall prey to people who are assholes.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Oh Clive! So glad you got your money back! It is scary how easy it can be to fall for a scam. Like you I like to think I wouldn’t but yes, we can’t let down our guard. Thanks for the warning. Heck I do stupid things a lot, just fortunately they don’t have dire outcomes!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’ve done this with a spoof TV licence scam, but fortunately came to my senses immediately afterwards, so contacted the bank straightaway. didn’t lose any money, but a pain in the neck having to block card and change login details. I’ve had a few of those What’s App messages, but they don’t sound like any of my (4) kids so never fooled. I always report scam calls to my mobile operator (O2). Others must as well, because I’m pleased to see that some of the calls I get are coming up with the screen ID ‘possible fraud’ (or something similar – can’t recall exact wording at the moment).

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve had to do that twice after being cloned. As you say, it’s a pain but a necessity. The bank said they didn’t need to change my card for this as it wasn’t a card transaction – but I check my account every day anyway so would soon spot anything odd. We all have to be so careful these days: I thought I was until this happened!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Oh Clive … how AWFUL! What a terrible thing to have to go through. No, you are not stupid at all … but isn’t it a damn shame that there are people out there who spend multiple hours every day figuring out ways to scam us out of our money rather than getting a job and earning their own way in the world! Sadly, you’ve learned a valuable lesson for this, the 21st century, but on the bright side … it could have been so much worse! Your bank staff seem to be kind, friendly and on top of things, so that’s a plus, too. I’m glad it worked out okay in the long run, though I’m sure you were getting ulcers in the meantime. Hugs, my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

      • In view of how good they were to me I think that might be a little harsh on the bank I’ve been with for fifty years! I’ve checked my account on a daily basis since I had my card cloned twice in six months around 12 years ago, so I think I’d spot any unusual transactions pretty quickly.

        Liked by 1 person

    • It was terrible but mercifully short – just 21 hours from beginning to end – and with a good outcome. There have always been people who make their money by preying on the rest of us, and the internet has opened up so many new possibilities for them. I couldn’t fault the bank at all – they were so good.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Our account was hacked several years ago. Turned out that it was actually a bank employee who had hacked a couple hundred accounts! Funny thing, though … we reported it immediately to the bank and to law enforcement. The Sheriff’s office sent a deputy here who came in with a swagger, looked at my granddaughter Natasha, who was around 12 years old at the time, put his hand on his gun and said to her, “Did you steal the money?” I told him to get the hell out of my house!!! He did, then sat in front of our house in his cruiser for a good half hour. We got every penny back plus $50 to reimburse us for our angst. Yes, it sounds like your bank is right on top of things, as was ours once they figured out what had happened.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. First off, thanks for having the courage to share this post. The thing about being scammed is that many don’t want to admit they’ve fallen prey. We think it could never happen to us and then feel embarrassed when it does.

    Someone started using our credit card for transactions this past week, and I’ve been racking my brain to think about how I may have inadvertently given this number out. It’s been a significant pain, but we’ve finally got it straightened out, and it hasn’t caused us anything financially, as we were able to stop the charges in time.

    I tend to be overly skeptical about things that show up on my phone or email unprompted, but the scammers are good at hitting us with things like family situations.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Pete. It took me two weeks to decide to do this but I did it both for myself, to exorcise a few demons, and to act as a warning to others.

      I’m glad to hear your card problems have been resolved, as those can sometimes be difficult to pin down. From my own experience – being hacked twice in six months some ten years ago – it doesn’t have to have been you that gave the card details away: paying in restaurants when they take your card off to the till is a good way to get your details copied!

      The apparent family connection was what did for me in this, but I’ll be much more aware of that in future. We all need to be!

      Liked by 1 person

      • They hit us where we’re most vulnerable. Before I was in tune with how Facebook Messenger worked, I used to answer those “How are you doing messages?” that seemed to come from out of the blue from friends I hadn’t talked to in some time.

        Liked by 1 person

    • One cloning of my card was (I thought) from a dodgy garage out in the Essex wilderness many years back. Since then there have been a couple I couldn’t identify, so I now use one card for online transactions only, although I prefer PayPal when available (and if not, why not?) I use a diffferent card for face-to-face things like shopping. The telephone transactions generally get that one too – maybe I should use a different card for those, but you generally know who you’re paying on the phone (such as heating oil purchase and insurance renewals). Been OK for a while now… (touching wood).

      Liked by 2 people

  12. Well, good news that you had a positive outcome with the bank. I must get a scam attempt at least once a day! I only wish these seemingly very smart people would take their talents and apply them to doing some good.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Bernadette. I don’t get that many which I think is one of the reasons this one caught me off guard. With their talents for duping people coupled with an inability to close off the task I think they should be Conservative Party MPs here 🤣

      Liked by 1 person

  13. These scammers are getting more sophisticated in their approach so it is not surprising people re being taken in. Great that you got your money back. We have received some interesting messages but because our phones are so old and not smartphones, text messages received don’t make sense so we delete them….. the usual Amazon and someone trying to access our account, or delivery for something when we are not expecting anything, etc. No kids so that one would definitely be easily identifiable. A good post of warning Clive.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Well that blog started with repulsion at what someone had done to you, but ended with the overall feeling of optimism that people, including those at your bank, would be so helpful and genuinely pleased to see you have a positive outcome.

    Thanks for sharing, this really could happen to anyone when trust is the first instinct, which really isn’t a bad trait to have. Hopefully your faith in human nature was restored.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Paul. I hadn’t realised it read like that but you’re right, it does! That was my problem, I think: a natural trust in people and the belief that I was helping one of my daughters out of a hole. I’m not sure about my faith – it has taken a bit of a knock, but I was hugely impressed with the way the bank dealt with it. And I’ve told my daughters that if they ever need any help from me they should ask by phone not text or WhatsApp!

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Reblogged this on Stevie Turner and commented:
    Scams get more sophisticated as time marches on. As Clive says, we must stay alert and always remember to phone a friend/relative first before parting with any money. Luckily for Clive the bank replaced his money, as they did five years ago for me too when I fell victim to some scammers operating from the Grenadines. As with Clive, my bank also told me to contact Action Fraud, but whoever they are, they are useless. I gave them mobile numbers that the scammers had used and also email addresses, but nothing was ever investigated as I hadn’t given them enough information. I think it might be the bank’s way of passing the buck…

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Clive, I completely understand your anger about yourself. I too think that something like that could never happen to me. But I also laughed about people who mixed up break and gas pedal… until it happened to me🤦‍♀️ Those scam artists are getting more and more skilled and I was close to falling into their trap once too…. good for you that these were dillitants in the end.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think it is very easy to assume that we know exactly what we are doing, until that moment arrives when we realise we don’t!

      The people at the bank told me that there were so many scams popping up every day. I was so lucky that they hadn’t moved my money on: the scam was good, but they fell short on the overall plan, thankfully.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Thanks for sharing your story. These scammers are everywhere and trying everything to get us. It’s really hard to have to be on constant alert and suspicious of all messages. I’m glad your funds were recovered!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. I shared it as a reminder that we can all become a victim, even if we think we’re too clever to fall for them. We do have to be on constant alert, don’t we. I was so relieved to get the money back – I’m not exactly a pauper but it would have been a significant loss.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Ouch! But good to hear the bank managed to get your money back from the account the scammers had set up, Clive.

    I had a similar text message last week, which I shared on Twitter. The first two words were ‘Hi Mum’, so I had my suspicions straight away. The person sending the text claimed they had smashed their phone, were contacting me via a friend’s phone (which was about to die) and asked me to send a message back on WhatApp to their new number (which they duly gave)

    Needless to say that I blocked the number it had come from and attached a screenshot to a tweet as a warning to others. The grammar and English were also poor, so it stood out as a scam.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Hugh. I can’t speak highly enough of the bank. I’ve been with them for fifty years and feel safe with them.

      Sounds like yours was a similar scam attempt but you were given a clue that wouldn’t have worked for me either. Sadly, mine was too easy to fall for, and the English phrasing was fine until the very end. We live and learn!

      Liked by 1 person

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