Trading Standards telephone scam warning

Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards is warning residents to be on their guard after unscrupulous telephone scammers attempted to con a grieving ex-serviceman out of half his savings.

Last month retired Royal Navy serviceman Stephen Burgess, 64, from Frome in Somerset, was called by someone falsely claiming to be from Virgin Media.

And he was on the verge of handing over £2,000 worth of iTunes vouchers before he became suspicious and severed all contact with the fraudster.

The attempted scam began when the caller told Mr Burgess that Malware - software specifically designed to damage a computer – had been found on his PC, and he needed remote access to his computer to remove it.

While Mr Burgess downloaded a programme, the fraudster kept him talking to distract him before telling him that an engineer would visit the next morning.

“He was very convincing,” said Stephen. “He used every trick in the book; flattery, legal threats, and even supplied me with a name and a number ID which I would have to ask the engineer for.”

The fraudster then promised £220 compensation for the inconvenience and asked for Mr Burgess’s account details.

A box appeared on Mr Burgess’s screen and the fraudsters asked him to type in the £220 he was claiming.

But before Mr Burgess had even touched the keyboard he received a notification that £2,200 had been paid in to his account.

“He made out that I was to blame even though looking back on it was part of the scam,” said Mr Burgess.

“I was by now in a state of panic and was incapable of thinking rationally. He told me I had to pay the debt and that I could pay by purchasing £2000 in ITUNES gift cards.”

Mr Burgess was told to go to two different supermarkets and buy £1000 in each, to take photo ID, to tell the supermarket staff that he was buying them for his grandchildren and to  take his phone and leave the line open.

“It was at this point I started to have doubts. I told the fraudster that I had to get a bus and he wasn't happy with that.

“First they offered an extra £100 for taxi costs and then he started to become very impatient.”

Once he realised he was being scammed he  returned home and switched off the computer and severed all contact.

He said: “I am still in a state of shock, I still can't believe it. It’s had a huge impact on me. The money was half my savings and now I’m scared of picking up the phone, using the computer or using internet banking.

“It’s been a difficult year and along with coping with the loss of my partner it has made it very difficult to think clearly.

“I’m concerned that there are vulnerable people who could also be taken in. These fraudsters take advantage of the vulnerable. I just don’t want it to happen to anybody else.”

Stephen Gardner, Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards Trading Standards Interventions Manager said: “We are supporting Mr Burgess in his efforts to have the money reimbursed from the supermarket.

“It’s important that people know that internet providers would never contact someone about a problem like this without writing to them first.

“It’s a common tactic for fraudsters to frighten the victim into believing they owe money and then coerce them into sending money by bank transfer or by purchasing huge sums of gift cards and supplying the code numbers such as in this case.

“If you get a phone call like this our advice is to just put the phone down.”

And if you need advice about scams or you’re worried that you may have fallen for a scam, call the Consumer Helpline on 03454 04 05 06.

For tips on improving your online safety go to:  https://www.getsafeonline.org/