Soon after lunch one Saturday, my phone went. “No Caller ID”.
‘I am James Eames from the New World Building Society’s fraud investigation team. There have been some suspicious dealings with your debit card recently. So, I am calling to ask if you’ve given your card details to anyone lately?’ spoke a smooth cultured voice.’
“Hi. Let me think. On Monday I had an e-mail from DVLA saying I needed to update my card details to pay the road tax in time. So, I did.”
‘Right. So, that’s how they’ve got you. But, don’t worry. I have been doing this job for the last 17 years and I get to work every day, including sometimes a Saturday morning just so I can help people.’
“A bit like me then. For years I worked at least 2 weekends every month.”
‘So, I am just going to send you a text message with a code, just to verify your identity. When you get that could you read out your code to me?’
‘So, I see that you have recently made a few purchases from Argos.’
“No. I have not.”
‘Ah. It must be them. We are liaising with the police to get to the computers they are using and that’ll help us catch them. So, don’t worry. This is very helpful. Could you read out the code to me?’
“Yes. It is ——.” I feel so stupid. How could I trust a random e-mail like that? I checked the site and it looked so proper – just like a government website.”
“They are very clever. You must check the sender’s e-mail address by pressing reply. You should also look out for e-mails claiming to be from DPD and Royal Mail.”
‘Gosh. It must be hard for you to keep ahead of the game with this kind of fraud, especially nowadays when everyone is banking on-line. It’s just a battle of wits. Isn’t it? And they are so smart. These youngsters.’
“Yes. We must stay sharp and we have very good security systems in place. So, that helps. I see that you move money regularly to Tina. When was the last time you did that?”
‘About 3 months back.’
“Can you trust her?”
‘Yes. Completely. She’s been a friend for 10 years.’
‘Yes. He passed away a few years ago.’
“Oh. So sorry! It seems these guys have set up a standing order in Tina’s name for 2000 pounds.”
‘Can’t you stop them?’
“Yes. We are working on that. In the meantime, can you ask your friend Tina if she has received the money? We might need to close your account and set up a new one for you.”
‘I’ll try.’ I go downstairs to get the handset of the landline and call her.
“Hi Tina. So sorry to bother you. Do you have a few minutes to speak? My bank is on the phone with me trying to sort out some stuff I need your help with.”
She confirms that she has got 2K from me. I am relieved as I know she will help me sort this out.
“Dr Mahajan, do you have a card reader?”
“Okay. If you get that and put your card in, I will give you a number to enter. Remember not to speak out your pin aloud please.”
‘Why do I need to do this?’
“To make sure that your card still works for you. If you put your friend Tina on the phone with me, I shall guide her on how to transfer the money back to you.”
Text from Tina – I just got 8,000 from you! Something is wrong. I am worried.
‘Tina says she has got 8,000 from me. I don’t even have that much money in my account. How are they doing this?’
“They might have moved money around from your savings etc. Don’t worry. Put her on the phone with me and I’ll take care of it. I have 17 years of experience in this kind of thing.”
I give Tina’s phone number to James.
I text her: James is trying to help us. He’ll call you soon. Please talk to him. Thank you!
She replies: Send me a picture of your card and I’ll transfer the money.
I do that.
James calls back, “Has she moved the money?”
‘She’s doing it. Please wait. There is no need to rush her.’
“Can you really trust her?”
‘Implicitly. She is highly talented and very hard working. She doesn’t need to cheat anyone.’ I say.
“I found her to be quite difficult. I am trying to help but she is being obstructive.”
‘Well, she has every reason to not fully trust you. You’ve only spoken with her for a few minutes. I have been speaking with you for nearly an hour now. So, it’s easier for me than for her to place her trust in you.”
“That’s right. I didn’t think of that. I can learn a few things from you. Are you doing something nice this weekend?”
‘Gosh! This is so nerve-wracking! Thank God I have a singing lesson in a little while. That’ll help calm me down. Thereafter I might watch a film on Netflix. Do you have a recommendation?’
“Yes. ‘The invisible Guest’ is in Spanish and it’s excellent.”
‘Ok. Thanks. I can recommend ‘Malcolm and Maria’ for you. It’s different. Intriguing. When do you finish work?’
“7.30 pm. I’ll probably get a pizza and watch the football.”
‘Great. Have fun when you get there. What happens now?’
“Can you check if Tina has moved the money?”
‘I don’t want to be so pushy. Let me send her a text.’
Any luck? I ask her.
She replies: I am on the phone with my bank. Nearly there.
“Shall I log into my account and see if the money has come back?”
‘No. We are working on it. So, you won’t be able to access it now.’
“Okay. I am really tired now. Can we please finish this call? I am sure she will move the money back to me.”
‘I am tired too. Shouldn’t take long now.’
Text from Tina: That guy called you was fraud because when you just put your card in your card reader, just then was transferred money. 8000. He give me other account numbers. But I move money to what you give me.
“How do I know that you are calling from New World?”
‘Can you read the name of the sender of the texts?’
“Yes. They are from New World.”
‘That is your proof. That cannot be faked.’
More codes arrived, the card reader was used a couple more times. Finally, James was happy. He said it was all sorted. Gave me a reference code and signed off.
Later on when Si came home, I told him all about it and we looked at those text messages from New World. Each of them said –
“Never share this code with anyone. Only a fraudster would ask for it.”
I held my head in both my palms and broke into a sweat.
Once my breath returned, we phoned the fraud squad at New World and they told me that all the money that had been transferred out had been moved back into my account. A few purchases were attempted which did not get through:
(PS: Based on true events)