An MP is urging victims of a Santander bank scam to come forward after a Fife couple lost nearly £300,000 last month.
The professional couple, who wish to remain anonymous, fell prey to an ‘authorised push payment’ scam on July 12 and approached Lesley Laird, MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, for help.
Lesley said: “This is a particularly shocking case and clearly demonstrates that these criminals won’t think twice about stealing someone’s entire life savings.
“Moreover, I’m led to believe that this incident could be just one of a number of similar frauds which took place in the Kirkcaldy area in recent months.”
“I’m urging other victims who have not yet contacted the police to come forward and report it now.”
The fraudsters contacted the couple using a text which appeared on a genuine Santander message thread, asking the recipient to call back and verify recent transactions on their accounts.
“It looked 100 per cent authentic and they sounded 100 per cent authentic – especially given they were aware of genuine transactions on my account made over the previous few days,” the victim said.
“They then mentioned two other transactions which were not authorised and advised that several overseas companies had attempted to set up direct debits totalling over 100,000 euros.
“Because the companies were overseas, I was advised by ‘Santander’ that they were unable to safeguard our funds and they would have to be immediately transferred to a ‘safe holding account’.”
The Kirkcaldy victim, who described herself as being in a “state of shock”, was persuaded to stay on the line and authorise the transfer of fourteen cash instalments, worth up to £20k each, to a fraudulent account set up in her name.
The criminals banked a total of £278,000 – the couple’s entire pension fund – in just over an hour.
She added: “I said to them several times that I wasn’t comfortable but they kept stating it was a matter of urgency.
“I asked to put through to the head of the fraud department and was transferred to someone who gave me his name, contact number etc. He appeared to be very authoritative and reassuring at the same time.
“I even received genuine one-time passwords from Santander for each transaction by text.”
A visit to the Santander branch in Kirkcaldy later that afternoon confirmed her worst fears.
“I just felt numb. I couldn’t believe what had happened,” she said.
“How can these people sleep at night?”
Incredibly, she received another text from the fraudsters last week, prompting a warning to other Santander customers to be on the look-out.
The case has been reported to police and an investigation is ongoing but Lesley Laird MP fears the true extent of the scam is not yet known.
She said: “I fully understand victims may feel embarrassed but this was a sophisticated fraud and any information which could help Police Scotland’s investigation would be welcome.
“Be careful. Fraudulent texts are still being sent out and I urge constituents to remain vigilant.”
Detective Chief Inspector Scott Cunningham said: “Robust inquiries are being conducted into this incident and our officers are committed to conducting a thorough investigation into the full circumstances.
“These type of scams can be extremely convincing and fraudsters use a range of tactics to convince you that they are genuine. I would stress that no bank or building society will ever contact you and ask you to transfer money into an external account.
“If you are ever in doubt of the authenticity of someone claiming to be contacting you from your bank, do not be afraid to query them and never give out any personal details unless you are sure you are speaking with the legitimate company.
“Anyone with any information about fraud can contact Police Scotland on 101, Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or make an anonymous report to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”