Hartlepool pensioner’s bank accounts cleaned out by scammers

Fraudsters cleaned out a Hartlepool pensioner’s bank accounts after he fell victim to a phone scam.

George McKie, 83, has been left out of pocket by more than £7,000 and says he is “devastated”.

George McKie lost his savings of �7,200 after falling victim to a phone and computer scam

George McKie lost his savings of �7,200 after falling victim to a phone and computer scam

He received a phone call claiming to be from his telephone provider and believed he was upgrading the security of his account after being told it had been hacked into in 15 different countries.

But the instructions George followed on his computer over the phone enabled the criminals to empty his Santander bank accounts of £7,200.

He and son James are warning other people to be aware so they do not get caught out in the same way.

James said: “They have done it so easily, it’s just unbelievable.”

George McKie holding a letter from his bank Santander after his fraud.

George McKie holding a letter from his bank Santander after his fraud.

George received a phone call claiming to be from his phone provider last Wednesday afternoon.

He said: “They said your computer and phoneline have been compromised in 15 countries would you like to upgrade your security?

“They asked me to switch on my computer so I did. They told me to type something in and all my details came up; where I was born, what street I lived in, my mother’s middle name.

“There was a little lock in the corner as though it was all legal and above board.

The letter George McKie received from Santander about his fraud.

The letter George McKie received from Santander about his fraud.

“They asked me to type different numbers in and said ‘this is all for the security don’t worry’.

“They asked me for my bank details.

“I don’t know much about computers and that’s how they got me. I’m devastated.

“Everything looked that kosher.”

Criminals tricked George McKie into setting up an online bank account before cleaning him out.

Criminals tricked George McKie into setting up an online bank account before cleaning him out.

James became suspicious when George told him about the phone call and said he had given his bank details.

He contacted the phone provider who confirmed they had not contacted George.

James said: “What they have been doing is setting an online bank account up.

“They transferred his savings to his current account and wiped the whole lot out.”

Since then, George and James have been contacting his bank, the council and Citizens Advice to try to get George’s money back.

The matter has also been reported to the police.

George, a former shipwright and watch and clock repairer, added: “We just want other people to be aware. It is old people mainly that is getting hammered.”

In a letter sent to George yesterday Santander said they had investigated his fraud claim but had declined it.

It said the payments were authorised after correct details were entered into a Santander online bank account.

A Santander spokesman added: “We are sorry to hear that Mr McKie has been the victim of fraud and, while we are unable to discuss the detail of this case, we offer all our customers the following advice to keep themselves safe:

* Never share your Santander One Time Passcode (OTP), PIN number or online banking password with another person, not even Santander staff;

* Never download software or let anyone log on to your computer devices remotely during or after a cold call; and

* Never enter your online banking details after clicking on a link in an email or text message.”

People urged to protect themselves from fraudsters

Hartlepool Trading Standards officials are reminding people how they can protect themselves from scams like the one George has fallen victim to.

It stresses anyone who suspects a telephone call is a scam should never reveal personal or financial information to a cold caller no matter who they claim to be.

A spokesman said: “If you feel that a call may be a scam, our advice would be to end it immediately.

“Don’t let a caller talk over you or keep you on the line and don’t feel as though you are being rude by hanging up.

“Contact the organisation a caller claims to be from by using a telephone number you have sourced yourself.

“For example, if a caller claims to be from your bank use the number on the back of your card.

“Never call an organisation on a number given to you by a cold caller.”

Telephone handsets which have caller ID where you can see who is calling you is another tip.

But Trading Standards warned: “It is, however, important to understand that criminals do sometimes use a tactic known as ‘spoofing’ which makes their telephone number appear to be the same as that of a genuine organisation.

“Another option would be to buy a nuisance call blocker. These are very successful and can be purchased from the majority of major retailers.”

Householders can also add their phone number to the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) for people who do not want to receive unsolicited sales and marketing telephone calls.

“This should reduce the number of cold calls you receive but it may not necessarily block scammers,” said the spokesman.