‘I’ve lost my trust in the world’ - woman in 60s loses £60,000 to scammers posing as police
- Credit: Archant
A woman in her 60s was conned out of £60,000 by criminals posing as police - who convinced her she was helping with an undercover investigation.
Debbie, whose real name has been withheld at her request, fell victim to the increasingly common crime of courier fraud, which sees vulnerable victims persuaded over the phone to withdraw large sums of cash.
In the last two months, Norfolk Constabulary has received more than 100 reports about fraudulent calls from suspects claiming to be police officers.
Money is often collected by a fraudster posing as a courier, and Debbie, who lives in Breckland, had already handed over tens of thousands of pounds before realising something was wrong.
The 65-year-old was first targeted in September, when she received a telephone call on her landline from an unknown number.
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The caller claimed to be a police officer working at the Fraud Prevention Investigation Team in London.
Debbie was told her personal details had been stolen by someone in the capital, and therefore an investigation was under way into a case of stolen identity.
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At this stage, she had no idea the caller was planting the seeds necessary to commit a cruel and considered crime.
Debbie was even advised to hang up and redial 999 to verify their identity - but the phone line had been left open and she was simply connected to the fraudsters again.
“The way they talk is so detailed,” said Debbie. “They have every mannerism and every nuance of a police officer and you are pulled in.
“They never coerce you, they never talk to you in a demanding or threatening way. It’s all ‘we’re on your side, we don’t want the scam that’s going on locally to catch you out.’”
Debbie was told police required her assistance with an undercover operation into counterfeit notes being passed through banks, and would need to withdraw some money.
The cash would be collected by a courier from her home address and examined to assess its authenticity.
“At no point do you even see any red flags,” Debbie added. “They make you feel you are making a valid contribution to a genuine police operation.
“I’m of the generation where we have been brought up to respect police and they play on that. They treat you with courtesy and that’s what makes you think - especially people of my age - that they are real.
“Their attention to detail is phenomenal - they know how to manipulate you and tell you all the things you want to hear.”
Soon Debbie had handed over almost £60,000, all of which would be “reimbursed” as soon as police enquiries were complete.
But when she had reason to contact those she believed to be officers - using details they had provided - none of her calls were answered.
“That’s the point I realised something wasn’t right,” she added. “It’s an indescribable feeling - you feel completely sick.”
Coming to terms with her “devastating” experience has been a severe challenge for Debbie, whose quality of life is set to suffer having lost a large sum of money.
She no longer answers her landline and says her ability to have faith in others will not heal overnight.
“It has affected me financially and emotionally,” she said. “My children have been staying at the weekends because I feel so vulnerable.
“I’ve lost my trust in the world. It’s not even any one person - you don’t feel that you can trust anybody, and that’s going to take time to rebuild.”
Despite its inevitably long-lasting impact, Debbie is determined to harness her ordeal by warning others as police crack down on the sophisticated scam.
She believes anybody, especially those in a vulnerable state of mind, could be fooled by the tactics used to exploit victims who are simply willing to cooperate.
“If you answer and you’re not in a good place or you’re feeling down, you are playing straight into their hands,” said Debbie. “They can hear it in their voice and they can hook you.
“I consider myself to be a fairly intelligent and I would never have thought those sort of mind games would affect me, but you lose the ability to think as a normal person.
“That would be my big message: everybody is vulnerable to this, no matter who you are. Everybody can be taken in if they pick their moment.”
Courier fraud in Norfolk has risen sharply, with 315 reports from the public since February including 29 who have lost money.
That has resulted in a sustained campaign to raise awareness, led by Detective Inspector Mick Roxby.
“Debbie’s case is typical of praying on the trust and confidence people have in Norfolk police,” said DI Roxby. “That’s really frustrating because we have worked hard to build that trust and it is being exploited.
“These scammers are really convincing and need to get the message out there that this is happening.”
Police advice includes:
• Neither police nor your bank will: ask you to withdraw money; ask for your PIN, bank card or bank details over the phone; send a courier to collect money from you.
• If asked to telephone a bank, use a different phone to the one you were contacted on.
• Ensure you hear a dial tone before calling police or use someone else’s telephone.
• Do not rush into complying with demands/requests.
• If you provide bank details over the phone or give card details to a courier, cancel the card.