A Swansea mum who fell for a HMRC scam paying out nearly £1,000 has spoken about her experience to warn others, saying “I thought I was too switched on for it to happen to me, but it did.”
The Swansea mum who was in her mid-thirties and who Police have named Sarah as she is too frightened to be identified – has warned how she was caught off-guard by a caller who was persistent, convincing and who preyed on her fears of losing her children.
Out of the blue during the school holidays, the Swansea Mum received a phone call from a man with a local accent claiming he was a sergeant from her local police station and that he was calling because there was a warrant out for her arrest, due to unpaid taxes.
She was told that she needed to phone the number he gave her straight away, which would put her through to HMRC. Sarah explained: “I was told if I didn’t do it straight away I’d be arrested and my children would be taken off me. My children are my life, so at that point I was obviously really worried.”
Feeling pressurised and scared that her children would be taken away, Sarah did contact the number given to her that she believed to be HMRC, where she tried to get things sorted, “I tried to tell the caller that I didn’t owe any tax – I was confident about that – but he kept saying that I hadn’t replied to letters and calls and that it was now urgent. “I was told that I had an hour to transfer the money or the police would be arriving to arrest me.”
The mum in a panic drove to her nearest branch to draw out the money demanded – just a few pounds short of £1,000. Sarah says: “He was very persistent and pushy,” Sarah added. “He insisted I deposit the money at a certain bank, but the nearest branch was in Llanelli, so he made me stay on the phone to him while I drove there.”
After she had deposited the money at the bank, the caller then insisted that any proof of the transaction was posted to him. This was the point when she thought something wasn’t right, however not wanting the caller to think she was suspicious of him she continued to play along, confirming she would send proof to him once she got home. It was at this point she hung up and called the police.
Surprisingly the fake caller did actually call Sarah back the following day, when she told him she was onto him and that the police were now involved. Although this as didn’t seem to faze him as Sarah explains: “he wasn’t even bothered, he still carried on with the same lies. Even though I knew I’d been scammed he was so convincing again that I was starting to doubt myself again. “That’s how good these people are at what they do. You hear a lot about people falling for these scams, but you always think it will never happen to you because you’re switched on and not vulnerable to it. But my experience just goes to show, if it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone.”
South Wales Police are currently investigating Sarah’s case, and have confirmed that this Swansea Mum did eventually manage to get her money back.
South Wales Police Offer Advice about Fraudsters
Detective Constable Lyndsey Rice said: “Sarah’s case proves that there is no such thing as a typical victim; these fraudsters are well practised and are extremely manipulative and convincing.
“Victims of these scams often feel embarrassed that they’ve fallen for them, but the fraudsters concerned are calculated and, as in Sarah’s case, often prey on specific fears and vulnerabilities.
“It is perfectly understandable when victims believe these calls to be genuine, but I’d urge everyone to familiarise themselves with some of the most common scams and remember some key advice and tips, making sure they also pass on the message to their loved ones.
“It’s also crucial that anyone who is the victim of a scam – or who believes they’ve been contacted by a fraudster – reports it via 101 as a matter of urgency.”
Police Officers have issued the following advice to anyone who is contacted by a possible fraudster:
- Obtain details of caller – including name, rank, collar number and station if they claim to be police officers
- Note any contact details from caller display or via 1471 after the call has concluded
- Terminate the call advising you will contact the force control room directly to confirm their identity and be put through to them internally
- Ring a family member first to ensure the line has disconnected from the initial caller
- If anyone calls at your address following on from this communication, call 999.
- Provide any details of bank cards, account numbers, financial circumstances or personal details
- Agree to make purchases or obtain funds from accounts to hand over to couriers
- Hand over your bank cards or account paperwork.