The Victim’s Story: what is it like to be a victim of financial crime, and how might we better respond?
Chair: Martin Gill
Neil Postins – Service Delivery Manager at National Economic Crime Victim Care Unit (UK)
C – Victim of fraud
S – Partner of victim
C picked up an answerphone message asking to call back a number about a tax payment that was due. He didn’t call back but received a follow-up call. The caller seemed authentic, discussing a fairly routine matter. The caller explained that letters had been sent albeit there had been problems with the post. Already two issues were coming together. C did have a query with the tax department, which alerted his interest, and he had had problems with postal deliveries. The caller, the fraudster, was getting lucky.
The fraudster then started to go through letters that had been supposedly sent, and queried why no payment had been received. The fraudster made it clear court action was now pending as there had been no response to the letters. The fraudster stated that he could not take payment adding authenticity to the call and said he would escalate to the next level to get advice. He mentioned the names of people and badge numbers and asked C to write these down.
The fraudster – having argued that he had consulted a senior – called back and claimed that the tax department was taking court action and yet again made it difficult to discuss payment. C pressed to know what the penalty was but the fraudster focussed on taking court action and gave him numbers to ring.
C did call the numbers, but they each went through to answerphones, one was for the Crown Court. This was all part of the fraudster’s script. C called back the fraudster, who once again appeared reluctant to take a payment.
The fraudster hit another bit of luck, at this time C was busy, also his phone was on low battery, awkward distractions. In the end, C paid the money thinking he was averting court action; in fact two payments were made. The fraudster also set up an appointment at the tax office for two days later and provided a list of documents to bring with him.
C had been vulnerable because:
- He had a genuine query with the tax office which rendered the call from the fraudster in principle genuine
- He had had problems receiving post; there was some credibility to the claim that the letters had been sent but had not arrived
- At the time of the call he was busy and distracted, and because he was out and about could not easily check what he was being told
- The fraudster was convincing, a good actor, and his apparent hesitancy to take a payment fed the idea this was genuine
- The fraudster’s story was rehearsed, later online investigation identified other victims who had been duped by the same routine
S is C’s partner. She had overheard part of the scam and had been suspicious, more by the tone of the fraudster. It was not until the evening that they sat down to discuss the incident and then she was clear, this was a scam. She rang back the fraudster who answered, and she made it clear she knew the scam, but that descended into a bad language exchange. The matter was reported to those who managed the payments – many were unreachable but the bank responded immediately and were sympathetic – and the police. Later two police officers visited and were also sympathetic but they have not heard anything since and it is six months later now.
Neil Postins of the National Economic Crime Victim Care Unit helped put the fraud in perspective. Criminals are good at convincing people, and it helps when they are distracted. C and S were right to report the matter to the police and to the bank. His unit helps victims where cases are not going to be allocated to police forces for investigation. A key role is helping victims to get their confidence back and to prevent them becoming repeat victims. You will hear him reference evidence that the work has been effective and also provide insights on how they collate data on frauds and sometimes can help victims get their money back.
What has happened to C and S since?
Remarkably little in the six months that has passed. C is advised regularly that the bank is still looking into the case, but C and S want to know what is happening, what can be done to stop the scam. S wants justice, the authorities have the script, it has been used before. They are not hopeful of getting the money back. Their advice is as follows:
- When you get a call demanding a payment be suspicious
- Don’t panic or feel the need to act immediately
- Talk to someone else about your suspicions
- Be prepared to challenge
We are grateful to S and C for sharing their story and we hope others can be alerted.
18th May 2021