An elderly couple that had £8,700 stolen by scammers pretending to be from TalkTalk say that more should be done to help vulnerable customers. Barbara and Harold Manley from Rochester, Kent, were left thousands of pounds out of pocket after being conned last month. Do your parents know what to do if this happens to them?
The incident, in which they ended up handing over control of their computer and logging into their online banking account, took place the day before the latest TalkTalk hack, but follows a similar pattern to other phishing attempts made by fraudsters.
The couple – who are both in their 80s – are set to appear on tonight’s Panorama program, How Hackers Steal Your ID, on BBC 1 at 8:30pm to talk about their experience. The Manleys, who live in Rochester in Kent, received a phone call early on a Sunday morning last month from someone claiming to be from TalkTalk. Harold, 83, a retired engineer asked them to call back at a more reasonable time.
On Tuesday morning they received another call. Barbara, 82, took over the phone and began relaying the conversation to her husband, who suffers with hearing problems. The couple were not asked to complete a security check but were told that their computer had been subjected to a hack. Barbara said: ‘They said the router had not been working and they were going to compensate us. It sounded very feasible.’
The scammers then asked to take remote control of the Manley’s computer and informed the couple they would be crediting them with £200.00. They asked them to log into their online banking to accept the payment. ‘On the screen a statement appeared with a £5,200 in credit. They said they had made an error and needed to debit £4,900 and the rest could be kept as compensation.’
‘I’m not into computers so I don’t know how they did it but it looked so genuine’, Barbara said. The couple then received an automated call from their bank, Lloyds bank, to authorize the payment which they did under the instruction of the scammers.
They then told the Manley’s that they needed to leave the phone off the hook with the line connected as they needed to fix errors on their computer. During this time the fraudsters managed to transfer a second amount of £3,800, with the couple completely unaware that they were victims to a scam.
The call lasted from 10:30 in the morning until around 4:30 in the afternoon. The scammers would regularly put messages on the screen asking for the couple to put their phone back on the hook so they could reconnect and ‘continue fixing the computer’.
‘It’s a complete fiasco. We are ruled by computers. TalkTalk said they sent us a warning via email but that was in February earlier this year. We had no idea’, Barbara told This is Money. The Manley’s were unaware that they’d been a victim of fraud until Barbara called into her local Lloyds bank branch, some five miles away in Gravesend, to check that the refund had gone through.
She said: ‘I couldn’t believe it. The account balance had gone down to £82. I spoke to a staff member and I was moved into a separate room so they could contact the fraud team.’ After an investigation, Lloyds refunded the couple the second payment of £3,800 but not the first initial payment of £4,900, as they said that the Manley’s had given authorization for the payment.
After the Manley’s reported the fraud Lloyds tried to contact the bank where the scammers had transferred the money, to see if the funds were still there, unfortunately the money had already left the account. A spokesperson from Lloyds Bank told This is Money: ‘Where a customer is a victim of fraud, we look to refund them, provided the customer has taken reasonable steps to keep their own security information safe.
‘In this case, while we sympathize with Mr and Mrs Manley’s situation, they gave the fraudster remote access to their computer and online banking accounts, and the bank made the first payment in accordance with Mrs Manley’s properly authorized instructions. ‘Therefore we are unable to refund this first payment. However, as Mr and Mrs Manley had no knowledge of the second payment, we have refunded this in full.’
TalkTalk has admitted that almost 157,000 customers have had personal details accessed in its most recent hack, with almost 16,000 of those having bank account numbers and sort codes compromised by scammers. It said that it will contact those customers affected to let them know what information has been accessed and what their next steps should be. TalkTalk also told This is Money that Mr and Mrs Manley’s financial details were not compromised in a previous hack, although other details such as their names, address and telephone number may have been. For this reason it would not be able to help with reimbursing the Manleys for the second payment of £4,900. TalkTalk says that it communicated with Mr and Mrs Manley via email to warn them about phone scams. However, the Manley’s – now in their 80s – say that they do not regularly check their email account.
In an email to the Manley’s daughter Sarah, who has been helping her parents with their complaint, from TalkTalk’s chief executive’s office, the company explained the reasoning behind this. The email said: ‘Even if your parents had been affected by the earlier data breach, none of the details stolen from TalkTalk included any bank details or information to enable the scammer to access your parents bank account. It is important to keep this in mind,’ It continued: ‘In the circumstances we do not believe that we have responsibility to reimburse them for the money stolen since that theft would not have occurred if your parents had not provided the scammers with further information relating to, or access to their banking details.’
The Manley’s with the help of their daughter Sarah are now preparing to take their case to the financial ombudsman. Barbara added: ‘I don’t know what we’d have done without Sarah. But not everyone has a Sarah. What do those people do?’.
URGENT CALL TO PROTECT VULNERABLE CUSTOMERS
On average, eight scam calls are placed every second from fraudster purporting to be from the likes of banks, energy firms and even HMRC, according to recent data from the Money Advice Service. More must be done by companies to protect vulnerable customers and stop the rise in scamming.
What can you do?
If you, or a relative, is a TalkTalk customer and worried about the scam you can visit their help page. If you receive a suspicious call then you can ring TalkTalk and report it on 0800 083 2710. You should also report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.
TalkTalk, like many other firms, allows customers to appoint a ‘nominated user’ – someone who can discuss various aspects of a customer’s account including balance inquiries and call charges, and also make payments. A nominated user is not liable for the charges on the account. The account holder can set this up by filling in this form and sending it back to TalkTalk.
If you have a friend or relative you think may be vulnerable to a scamming attack then it may be useful to remind them at TalkTalk, and other firms, will never:
-Ask for bank details to process a refund
-Call and ask you to download software to your computer, unless you have
previously contacted the firm and discussed and agreed a call back for this to take
-Send you emails asking you for your full password
Original article by This is Money can be found here.