Mims' Musings

Credit Card Scam Alert: The Conman and the Courier.

Posted on: 16/05/2012


 

My Mum is an extremely cautious person. Telesales are lucky if they get more than 10 seconds on the phone with her.However, yesterday she fell victim to a credit card scam which was extremely well thought through. In hindsight there were several clues which would have alerted her to it being a scam, but it was executed in such a way that it played on her confusion, and manipulated her psychologically so that it seemed like a convincing situation. I’ve decided to write about it here in case anyone reading this finds themselves in a similar situation.

Yesterday afternoon, Mum received a phone call from a man who called himself ‘Martin Benton’. He claimed that he was from her bank, and alerted her that two large transactions had been attempted using her card. He asked her if she had used her card that day, then said that someone had used her card to spend £245 in Argos, and that the bank had stopped a further £500 from being taken by a camera website.

Here’s the clever part, he then told Mum to call the number on the back of her card, and gave her an extension number which would bring her straight to his direct line at the Fraud Department.

Mum called the number straight away, another man answered, he asked her for the extension number and then ‘Martin Benton’ came back on the line. He told her to cut her card in half and put it in the envelope, and gave her a reference number to write on the front of the envelope. He then said that they would send a courier to pick it up and bring it to the Hertfordshire headquarters where they could then investigate what had happened.

The next part I didn’t hear about until a few hours later, but as soon as Mum said it alarm bells rang VERY loudly in my head:

‘Martin’ said that in order to verify the card, Mum should enter her pin number in the phone keypad. He told her to leave one second between each button press. Once she had done this, he said that the courier was nearer to our house than he thought and to look outside. Mum confirmed that there was a silver car outside and Martin said that it must be the courier.

A heavy set man with thick dark hair, who looked mediterranean in ethnicity, approached our house wearing a leather jacket. He was reluctant to come close to the door. Mum tried to hand him the envelope, and he said ‘What’s this?’ Meanwhile ‘Martin’ was still talking on the phone, distracting Mum from how dodgy this all seemed. She asked the man at our door if he was the courier, then ‘Martin’ asked to speak with him on the phone.  Mum passed the phone to the courier, who then nodded at whatever ‘Martin’ said, and took the envelope and drove away.

The more we thought about it, the more the whole situation seemed suspicious. I started googling if this was usual protocol for Natwest. Meanwhile, Mum started seeing holes in the whole situation. Firstly, Mum and Dad hold a joint account, with the exact same card number, yet the man on the phone had insisted that Dad’s card would have a couple of digits different, and evaded any of Mum’s attempts for him to deal with Dad instead of her. Secondly, he had used the name which Mum is known in informal sitatuions, it’s a contraction of her official name which appears on her bank card.  Thirdly, she realised that he hadn’t identified himself as being from Natwest, she soon realised that through clever questioning she had given him all of the information he needed. As soon as she ran through the events again in more detail, and mentioned entering the pin number on the keypad, it suddenly became very clear,

The whole situation had been a construct, one huge hoax to get hold of Mum’s card.

After some further Googling, I found an article about credit card fraud which listed the exact thing which had just happened to Mum, you can read it here: http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/saving/article-2045512/Conmen-send-couriers-collect-bank-cards-nabbing-PIN-surge-phone-fraud.html

Unfortunately by the time we had realised this for definite, it had been 3 hours since the courier left. The only reason we hadn’t realised earlier, was that we couldn’t work out how someone would have intercepted a call to the official number on the back of Mum’s card. We later realised that all that the conman would have to do is stay on the line whilst Mum called out again.

Mum called the Fraud Department at Natwest straight away. They refused to deal with anyone apart from Dad as he’s the account holder. This confirmed in our minds that it was a credit card scam. Once Dad spoke to Natwest, they confirmed that someone had attempted two withdrawals of £300 at a cash machine in a post office in Euston. Luckily their transaction had been blocked. We called the police straight away, they booked an appointment to send an officer over at 8pm the next day. Mum typed up a full transcript of what had happened, and we explained the situation to the officer, who said that he hadn’t heard of anything like it in this area.

We are lucky that no money was taken from us, but the whole thing has left our family shaken. The more we think about it, the more we see signs where Mum should have realised this was a scam, and she is quite weary of everything.

I urge you to report it straight away if anyone calls you and attempts a similar scam. I hope that writing this article at least helps you and your friends to avoid being conned in the same way. Please spread the word and make sure people like this don’t succeed in preying on vulnerable people.

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