One morning in February whilst Paul Chase, 72, from Prenton, was at work, he received a phone call from a man claiming to be from the Fraud Department at Santander. This man then told Paul that he had identified some suspicious activity on his debit card. The supposed Santander representative identified himself as “Clive” and told Paul that before the conversation could begin, he had to ask him a few questions regarding his account. These questions consisted of Paul confirming his date of birth, the first and third numbers of his passcode and a couple of examples of direct debits that had been recently paid out.
Paul said that the man had sounded “professional” and that he was “patient, and understanding” when it came to Paul’s understanding of technology and that he was given no reason to doubt “that he wasn’t whom he said he was” so co-operated.
Paul was told that payment of over £ 300 had been attempted on Amazon and after confirming that this was not him, Paul was asked whether he had received a text message from Royal Mail lately.
He told Express.co.uk: “I then remembered that I did get a message from Royal Mail a few days earlier and I did fill out the details to pay the delivery fee, but I didn’t think anything of this as I was waiting for a parcel from America.
“Now, looking back, I know that this was where the scam started.”
Clive then turned the scam up another notch and told Paul that there had been a “sinister development”. He said that there had been an attempt in a local branch to move £ 25,000 from Paul’s account to a building firm.
Clive then identified Paul’s local branch adding in bits of information which solidified his character as a Santander employee.
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Paul said: “He told me which branches had been permanently closed in my area and which ones were open. It was all subliminal confirmation, I couldn’t doubt that he was genuinely from Santander as who would instantly know things like that except a Santander employee? ”
“Clive” began constructing scenarios to scare Paul, he suggested that he may have had his passport stolen and instructed Paul to drive to his home and check.
Paul said: “I was anxious, I was stressed, what was being threatened was my life savings, my security pillow which I had worked very hard all my life to put away to supplement my pension when I can’t or don’t want to work anymore.
“Anything that could threaten this alarmed me, got my adrenaline pumping. I was going to stop it and I would’ve done anything to. ”
Clive then told Paul that he had access to the CCTV from the Santander branch and began sharing an elaborate back story to attempt to scare Paul further.
He told Paul that Santander had actually launched an internal investigation into this site as there had been 14 attempts to fraudulently move large sums of money through this branch in the last month.
According to Clive, Santander suspected that the branch staff were involved with a gang smuggling operation and that they needed Paul’s help to try and find out who was colluding at the bank.
Clive persuaded Paul to make three transfers totaling £ 65,000 to three dummy accounts and as Paul did, Clive talked him through what to say to the verification officer who would authorize the payments.
Paul said: “He told me that if they were acting properly they would draw to my attention the failed attempt to remove £ 25,000 from my account earlier that morning. If they didn’t mention that, then they were clearly in on the scam. ”
After moving his money, Clive told Paul that he had helped identify three individuals at the branch who were involved in the scam and that the police would call him later that evening in order to give a statement of the events.
Paul agreed to do so, but never heard back from Clive nor did he receive a call from the police. This was when Paul began to suspect that he had been scammed and reported it to Santander’s official Fraud Department.
Paul said: “They played on my anxiety and this whole experience has left me feeling violated. It’s honestly as if someone took control of my brain.
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“I’ve got to take my hat off to these guys as they’ve really worked it out, I was manipulated, my insecurities were manipulated, and my age and lack of knowledge with all things digital were truly taken advantage of and they were successful in trying to isolate me make me panic. ”
Once Paul had reported the scam, Santander had originally refused to refund the entirety of the money that was stolen as Paul had authorized the payments.
Santander stated they had not given Paul an “impactful warning” for the first payment, however, stated that Paul should’ve done more to ascertain that he was talking to the bank and that the blame in this instance was 50/50.
As a result, they originally said they would only repay half of the first £ 25,000 payment.
They then stated that “adequate warning” was given for the further two payments and they were not entitled to pay this back.
Paul said: “I couldn’t believe it, I asked them so am I to blame? There was no empathy from them and there was no understanding and I didn’t believe that they were interested in resolving what had happened.
“I can only describe the level of empathy as being similar to someone unplugging a life support machine to charge their phone.
“I knew that they wouldn’t help me so then I had to prepare myself for the battle. I kicked up a fuss on Twitter first and I didn’t get much then so I then went to the Financial Ombudsman Service, who were truly incredible. ”
Paul collected and provided the Service with a detailed account of the event, a medical history which highlighted issues which could heighten the stress Paul felt, and a psychologist report which noted how he was vulnerable in this situation.
A few weeks later, after several lengthy conversations with the Service, they confirmed to Paul that his appeal had been successful and that Santander was going to refund the entire £ 65,000 that was lost, as well as include compensation.
Paul said: “The sense of relief was just, I can’t even explain it. I was so thankful to the Ombudsman Service for their support, as I couldn’t have done it my own.
“I could not understand why Santander was blaming me, the victim, you wouldn’t blame the victim of a mugging?”
Paul highlighted the increase in this type of scam, urging banks to step up to support people who are being targeted.
He added: “Banks have pushed everyone online now and by doing this, they have created new opportunities for the most callous kind of criminal and have exposed, particularly their older customers to a whole new world of risk.
“If they’re going to do that then they need to stand behind their customers when the risk goes wrong.”
A Santander spokesperson said: “We have the utmost sympathy for Mr. Chase and for anyone who falls victim to the criminals who carry out these scams. Upon receiving additional information on the customer’s individual circumstances after the FOS review, we refunded the customer in full.
“Protecting customers from fraud is a top priority for everyone at Santander. People should be advised that their bank, the police or any other legitimate organization will never contact them and ask them to move money to a ‘safe account’. Even if the number looks genuine, it will not be.
“We invest heavily in prevention and detection and were one of the original participants in the Contingent Reimbursement Model (CRM) code and continue to fully support its purpose. This year we have given a full or partial refund to customers in over 95 percent of cases and 76 percent by value. ”