Beware: £20,000 Fraud: This Could be You

My daughter is a single mum. She works full time time and has been saving up for a deposit for her first house. Recently she decided to take the plunge; put in an offer for a small house to provide a home for herself and my granddaughter. She had her mortgage application approved and everything was moving towards completion on Friday 16th June.

On Thursday 8th June, she received an email from her solicitor with instructions to transfer her £20,000 deposit to the solicitor’s client account. This email was the last of a full trail of emails that had been going back and forth over several weeks; so there was no reason to doubt its integrity. BUT…..

Fraudsters had hacked into the solicitor’s email account and taken over the correspondence. The bank account details they provided were not those of my daughter’s solicitor; but she didn’t know that and had no reason to suspect that this was the case. She transferred the money and has now lost every penny to someone or some gang that could be anywhere in the world. We’ll now have to see if, as a family, we can find the money to enable my daughter and granddaughter to still have their own home.

My reason for writing this article is not to ask for sympathy. It’s our problem and we’ll solve it. However, people need to be aware of just how clever and professional these criminals are. My daughter is nobody’s fool. She has a maths degree and is a business analyst, working on the development of smart meters for the various utilities. She is acutely aware of on-line security issues; so if she can be fooled, then how vulnerable are all those people, who are less IT savvy.

Sadly, the response from both the police and the banks has been deplorable. The police don’t seem interested and said they may or may not follow it up. The banks are equally half witted. My daughter banks with Lloyds; and the fraudsters’ account was with Barclays. But they don’t talk to each other; it’s been left to my daughter to liaise between them and, as far as they are concerned it’s her fault. So neither the banks nor the police want to know.

Crime in the UK, with the exception of this type of online fraud, is declining rapidly and it’s not surprising. Cyber crime is much easier, more lucrative and less high risk than robbing a bank or other traditional forms of crime. And what are we doing about it? We’re calling for 20,000 more bobbies on the beat, whose contribution to this fast growing cyber crime will be precisely zero. What we actually need is a major investment in the recruitment and training of cyber crime specialists, who do follow up thefts of peoples’ entire life savings and who work with similar agencies all over the world. Banks also have a major role to play. They cannot continue to take no responsibility; if they allow criminals to open and use bank accounts for fraudulent purposes, they must be held accountable.

Crime has moved into an entirely new era and threatens to overwhelm us. We must now act intelligently, purposefully and with great determination to prevent that happening.

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