Financial fraud losses involving payment cards, remote banking and cheques totalled £768.8 million in 2016. With the growth of the internet, anyone can now be parted from their money without much effort or without even leaving their own homes.
We’ve spoken to a lady who was a victim of on-line fraud, here she tells us her story…
"My story is one of using the Internet and going into the dark world of Financial Online Fraud. Cyber-fraud takes many forms and there are 120 types of fraud listed on the Action Fraud website.
"I live in Abergavenny and I'm a single, more mature, professional woman but I've have fallen foul of this crime.
"How I was defrauded…
"The sale of 'Binary Options' involves trading on whether financial assets - shares, currencies or commodities - will rise or fall over a specific period of time. The payoff is either a fixed monetary amount or nothing at all. Those who get involved see their money quickly dwindling away and their life savings can be lost before their eyes. Traders’ in call centres target anyone – young, old, employed, unemployed, retired - there are no boundaries to whom they are prepared to de-fraud.
"I had been looking on the internet for information about investing in shares, which I thought might be an added interest to my life. In mid-October 2016, I received an email about Binary Trading. I had no idea what this was, so I clicked on the message, agreeing to a telephone call from a Binary Trader.
"That evening, a charming young man who described himself as a 'Senior Trader' in a binary trading company, called me. He sounded educated and was very polite. He said he was calling from the trading floor in London. He asked a lot of questions about me and my interests and gave me some background on the company. He then asked me to open an account that evening, so I paid £500 with my debit card and gave him my personal details. He explained how I could log in to my account whenever I wanted to and how it could be used just like a bank, withdrawing and depositing my money whenever it suited me. He gave me the name of the shares he recommended and asked me to sleep on it, saying that he would ring me back the following evening.
"That evening I checked out the binary trading company and it had a very impressive website; very elegant designed in black and gold. I checked online for reviews and I did see some negative comments but they were mostly very badly written and misspelled so I didn’t really trust the reviews.
"I looked up information about the company he recommended that I buy shares in and of course the information was reassuring – the company was doing really well. I signed up to have the share prices sent to me at the close of business every day. I was excited at the prospect of having a new interest.
"The next day, everything went well with the binary trading company; they sent me my receipt for the £500 and an account was set up. The documents they sent for me to read and sign were very impressively produced. I couldn't fault them.
"The next day, as arranged, the trader called me and after a chat he asked for £10,000 for more shares. I was really surprised and said I didn't intend to spend so much, so early on but after talking it through, I agreed to £5000 and paid with a credit card. There was no pressure or no promises saying ‘I'll make you rich’ or ‘You'll be a millionaire’, just a pleasant conversation. He said he would be in touch again or if ever I wanted to contact him I only had to ring or email. He said all my money would be put into the shares that he recommended and that I could monitor them on my on-line account - of course I could – and did.
"The next day the receipt and the documents for the £5000 worth of shares came through promptly and I emailed him and said how delighted I was with his advice on the shares and I was impressed with how smoothly everything had gone and added that it was going to be a pleasure to work with him.
"I checked my share value most days. The shares were due to expire on 30th December 2016 and I hoped to put the money back into more of the same shares in 2017.
"Mid-December I emailed the trader to explain that I had decided to withdraw £500 from my account which now stood at a nearly £9000. I said I would like to chat about the rest of the money in my account and what I would like to do with it. There was no reply and because a message 'withdrawal pending' appear on my account, I tried to contact him again and again. I emailed two to three times a day and tried to call him but I couldn’t contact him.
"It was as that point I knew I had been defrauded!
"As a single person my finances are my own, but the feeling was like no other I have felt in the whole of my life. I had been polite, pleasant and kind to this young man, respecting his skills as a financial trader and the experience he said he had in the world of banking. I felt such a fool; humiliated; a stupid, naïve woman. The shame and hurt was tangible and my confidence plummeted. I knew that I couldn't tell anyone! How my friends would have laughed. I can hear them now – 'What, you gave someone you didn't know and couldn't see £5,500!’. I didn't sleep or eat properly for a few days. I knew I had to be calm and to think things through. Thinking straight was the last thing I could do but I finally decided to contact my bank.
"I didn't contact the police because I didn’t think it was a police matter. I have since been advised that it very much is. I had willingly entered into the trading agreement and the traders didn't take more money than I authorised from my cards; they didn't steal my identity or scam my bank cards. I felt I couldn't bother the police. I now know you should always contact the police because not talking about being defrauded can weigh heavily upon a victim; it plays on their mind; eats away at them and can take them to the very brink of doing something disastrous.
"I spoke to my bank and told them that I had been defrauded. The assistant was so kind and patient and then I fell apart and couldn't speak to her, I was so upset. My credit and debit cards were changed immediately. The feeling of relief and safety once again was unbelievable. I was then put in touch with someone from the banks fraud department. When I explained my situation to him he said, ‘I know this isn't going to make you feel any better but you won’t believe how many calls I get just like yours, every day’.
"Within six weeks in 2016, I had received two emails, two telephone calls and had been defrauded out of £5500 in the comfort of my own home - all very easy, very simple and very clever.
"In January 2017, I received an answerphone messages from a binary trader. He said that the shares had matured and there was now £14,399 in my account. I checked on-line and that was correct, but I didn't try to withdraw any money as it still appeared to be 'frozen' as it was in December.
"The next day a new trader rang me. I said that I would like to speak to the previous trader who I had dealt with and was told: ‘No, he's been transferred to Hong Kong. I'm your trader now’. Could I draw some money out then? ‘No! That isn't allowed’. Could I put the money in my account back into the same shares again? ‘No! That isn't allowed’. He then asked for £30,000 for another investment. Even though I said no, he said it was offer I couldn't refuse and that he would email all the information to me anyway.
"Next day the email arrived with information on a £30,000 investment. I emailed back and with some very carefully chosen words: 'Don't ever contact me again!' He was on the telephone immediately and then I blocked the telephone number.
"Although I had blocked their number they still had my email address and my personal details and I find that scary. To my surprise I could, and still can, access the account easily but the deposit/withdrawal area is just as 'frozen' as the last time I saw it in January. Within minutes of logging into the account, I had an email from a trader asking me to get in touch and start trading with them again. They knew I had accessed the account. Then again in June 2017, I had another email requesting to get in touch with them and this time from a new 'Senior Trader' who would like to get to know me and help me trade again. I ignored it. They just never give up!
"What a stupid, gullible and naive person I must have appeared; what a laugh they must have had at my expense! I can’t change what’s happened to me but I’m hoping by sharing my story, I can educate others and raise awareness of this destructive crime."
What should you do if you’ve been a victim?
- Report it to Action Fraud, the national fraud and cyber-crime reporting centre. You can do this on-line by going to http://www.actionfraud.police.uk/report_fraud or by calling 0300 123 2040
- If you’ve paid by credit or debit card for goods or services, contact your card provider/bank and explain that you have been a victim. They’ll be able to give you advice on how to cancel payments and protect your identity from being possibly stolen.
- We’re always here to help. You can call us on 101 or 999 in an emergency. You can also contact Connect Gwent, our victims hub on 0300 123 21 33 or by visiting http://www.connectgwent.org.uk/