An elderly woman was tricked out of £7,000 within a matter of days after conman used an iTunes scam to drain her of cash.
Now Hartlepool’s trading standards officers have urged people to cut off unsolicited phone callers who prey on the vulnerable and use their persuasive skills as they fleece victims out of their savings.
Hartlepool Borough Council has issued the plea following the “shocking case” they handled, when a woman from the town, aged in her 80s, was targeted.
The scammer, slammed for their “cunning and devious” tactics, asked the woman to pay by iTunes vouchers, as these provide a quick, convenient and virtually untraceable form of payment.
The vouchers can be bought with cash from shops and the unique codes printed on the cards can then be re-sold via the internet for the card’s face value.
In the latest case, the iTunes codes were given to the scammer and will then be sold to the general public via various popular re-sale websites – converting the codes back to cash.
This is a callous attack on a vulnerable pensioner who has been preyed upon by heartless strangers who care for nothing other than making money.Ian Harrison
Ian Harrison, the council’s trading standards and licensing manager, said: “This is a callous attack on a vulnerable pensioner who has been preyed upon by heartless strangers who care for nothing other than making money.
“This case also is a reminder of how careful people must be when they receive unsolicited phone calls.
“Scammers can seem extremely believable and will invent stories designed to build trust and confidence in them.
“In addition, the victim will often be told that their friends can no longer be trusted and that they should not discuss financial matters with them.
“This keeps the scam a secret and allows it to go on long enough for money to be obtained.
“This particular incident is not unique and similar scams have involved payment via high profile web-based organisations. “Sadly, as the transferring of money has become more convenient it has also become more dangerous for the unwary.
“Extremely large sums of money can be lost forever very quickly.
“Our advice would always be to hang up on cold callers and never provide financial or personal details.”
A Cleveland Police spokeswoman said: “Anyone that is not sure who they are speaking to on a telephone should never give any of their personal details to them or arrange to send money or vouchers to the person on the other end of the line.
“If a caller claims to be from a specific organisation then one way of checking their identity is to call that organisation to ensure that they are genuine. “If a member of the public thinks that they have been a victim of such a scam, they should contact their local police on 101.”
Anyone concerned about a call received, or would like further advice, can call the Citizen’s Advice Consumer Helpline 03454 04 05 06 or the council’s trading standards officers on (01429) 523362.