'We lost £60k to a scammer we genuinely thought was our son, then the bank - then the police'

4 July 2024, 07:38

Gary and Kate Linke were scammed out of nearly £60,000
Gary and Kate Linke were scammed out of nearly £60,000. Picture: Supplied
Fraser Knight.

By Fraser Knight.

A couple who lost almost £60,000 in a scam have told LBC that fraudsters are getting too clever, as concerns are raised that new regulations won’t go far enough to protect victims.

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Gary and Kate Linke, from north London, were deceived into sending huge sums of money to another account by scammers pretending to be from both their bank and the police.

They claimed their identities had been stolen.

The couple said they thought they were clued up on the signs of scams, but over 24 hours in February, thousands of pounds from inheritance funds, some of which had been saved to pay for their autistic son’s care, had been lost.

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Despondent caller explains the ‘stupidity’ she felt after she was scammed online

Kate said: “My father died six years ago, and everything was left with my mum and then she passed away in July and now I’m just absolutely heartbroken by it because that’s money we would have used to make memories of her.

“We would have really kind of thought of her when we did things with the money.

“It’s put a massive strain on our relationship because we both feel guilty, humiliated, angry, responsible and we’ve had to on so many occasions just say to each other ‘stop, we can’t talk about this tonight’ because we’ve got other things going on in our lives.

“You have to actively make such a superhuman effort to think about other things. When I go to the gym, let me tell you that the gym bag has taken such a pounding as I visualise these faceless sods that have scammed us.”

This caller was scammed through a dating site, after a man took her number and posed as her bank

Just the night before scammers approached them, Kate’s other teenage son had broken his phone and told her he was planning to go to a shop to buy a new one.

The coincidence made the approach from the fraudsters even more believable.

“They were massively convincing, I genuinely thought I was talking to my son, and jumping forward 24 hours when the penny had dropped, we were absolutely floored.

“We had two police officers in our house who we were reporting this crime to, and they said it’s highly likely that on any of these scamming teams, there will be a couple of people who have worked in banking for many years and have decided they can make more money doing this.

“In my head, that certainly made sense because the lines that they were saying, they knew what they were talking about. When I sit here and relive it all, my head is just reeling again.”

Since the scam, the family has been in an ongoing battle to reclaim their money and have made complaints to the financial ombudsman about the banks involved.

Over convincing phone calls, they were persuaded to move money from their First Direct account to another that they held with Revolut.

The deceiving criminals - acting as fraud experts - then told them to deposit the funds from there into accounts they had set up with HSBC, under a different name, telling them that doing so would stop the scammers from getting access to the cash.

Instead, they funnelled £59,100 straight into their pockets.

Kate’s husband Gary told LBC: “We couldn’t even talk about it because the scammers had told us we couldn’t - saying it was a Metropolitan Police investigation.

“They were very, very convincing and we were right in the grip of their hands.”

In October, regulations will change for banks and payment companies, requiring them to reimburse victims of authorised push payment fraud - when someone is duped into sending money to another person.

Just now, because the account holder ‘authorised’ the payment, some banks say there is little they can do about it.

The Payment Systems Regulator says the new statutory rules will mean service providers split the cost of reimbursement between the one the money is sent from and the one which receives it.

There are concerns, though, about the lack of detail around so-called ‘Me to Me’ fraud, when criminals begin their action by asking account holders to send cash to another of their own accounts - as happened with Gary and Kate.

Janine Alexander, a partner at Gunner Cooke LLP, told LBC: “By the time a customer gets to the point where they’re sending money to a second service provider, often the only reason that’s happened is because they have been taken in by the fraudster.

“Anything that happens from there on it, the evidence is that they’re already under the spell of the fraudsters where the first lot of transactions were made between accounts for the same person - as happened with Gary and Kate.

“I think that is where an opportunity is being lost to stop this in its tracks by having someone call up and say we’ve noticed you’re moving money between your accounts.

“In the meantime, the fraudsters seem to have moved on so we’re in a position where we’re closing the stable door when the horse is long gone.”

When contacted by LBC, First Direct and HSBC said so-called ‘me-to-me’ fraud - when funds are transferred between two accounts in the same name - falls outside of the contingent reimbursement code, which the bank signs up to.

A spokesperson did say, though: “We are really sorry that Mr and Mrs Linke were victims of an impersonation scam and for the distress this has caused. Fraudsters will use a range of techniques to steal money without any concern for the impact this has on their victims.

“We want all our customers to know that if you receive an unexpected phone call asking you to move money, it’s very likely to be a scam. Your bank will never ask you to send money to a ‘safe’ account, whether that is to another account at the same bank or through numerous accounts at different providers. If you receive a call of this type, please hang up the phone immediately and call your bank on a recognised number.”

A spokesperson for Revolut said: “We are very sorry to hear about Mr and Mrs Linke’s case, or any instance where our customers are targeted by ruthless and highly sophisticated criminals.

“We deploy many different interventions that are designed to break the spell of scammers and fraudsters. Mr Linke was provided with a number of targeted scam specific warnings when these transactions were identified as potentially fraudulent.

“Despite multiple attempts by Revolut to intervene, our warnings were not heeded, and the customer provided false information in order to continue with these transactions. We subsequently processed the transactions in line with our legal obligations and our customer’s instructions.

“We urge our customers to always take stock of our warnings and respond to any interventions truthfully, as they are there to help protect their money.”

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