A WIDOW was conned £159,519 out of her life savings in a sick scam revealed to be a fake shares company in Indonesia.

The 'vulnerable' victim, who has not been named, managed to have more than £140,000 recovered with the help of a fraud victim support office based in Berkshire.

This is the second time the 82-year-old has been scammed after she fell victim to courier fraud by scammers purporting to be police officers.

Her life savings were recovered by Malcolm Philips, a Public Protection Partnership fraud victim support officer who helps residents in Bracknell Forest, Wokingham and West Berkshire.

The scam first started with a cold call to the victim with regards to selling some shares. The total value of the shares was circa £1,000, however the victim was led to believe the value she could return, working with them and their ‘client’ would be circa £52,000.

READ MORE: The faces of 14 dogs stolen from Berkshire

The victim was keen to sell the shares, and was told by the scammers that there were ‘warrants’ attached to the shares and she was able to purchase additional shares at a discounted rate.

She fell victim to this, sending a payment of £5,292 but was initially blocked from paying the scammer from HSBC, who believed it was 'fraudulent activity.'

The bank, who she has been a customer of more than thirty years said they wanted to discuss the transaction with the Fraud Team and she explained she was selling shares.

The Fraud Team explained that they thought it likely to be a scam as she was sending the money to Indonesia (although the victim believed the scam ‘shares’ company was based in the United States).

ALSO READ: New burger takeaway opens next to Aldi in Bracknell

The victim at this stage, groomed by the scammers with whom she had built trust, told the bank she felt they were a legitimate company, so HSBC released the funds into the Indonesian bank account.

Following the successful first transaction the scammers subsequently bombarded her with additional requests and fake documents to sign.

The PPP said HSBC did nothing further and never questioned her transfers again, even when she sent amounts of £31,000 in October 2020, £10,954 in November, £18,860 in December, £17,063 in January 2021 and £18,140 in February.

In the end, she transferred all her money to a total of £159,519.

The case was successfully brought forward after the PPP discovered that HSBC knew the victim was a 'vulnerable customer'.

Once her life savings had gone the victim was too ashamed to tell the family directly what had happened, and instead wrote to them.

She also confessed she’d borrowed an additional £2,800 from her nephew to fund what she hoped would be the final payment to the scammers in order to release her funds.

Initially HSBC rejected the complaint raised by the victim (and her family), that as a vulnerable person, who had banked with them for over thirty years and had never previously made an overseas payment was allowed to continuously transfer funds to a known fraudulent account in Indonesia.

It was after this rejection by HSBC that the victim’s family got in touch with Malcolm, the PPP Fraud Victim Support Officer.

Malcolm had been recommended to them from someone they knew, who he’d help recover money from their bank following a scam. Although the victim, in this case, does not live in the area PPP covers Malcolm could not in all conscience do nothing.

So he gave the family some advice and forwarded the family a letter to HSBC, written on their behalf, that they could edit and send on. The letter directly held the bank responsible for the losses.

The family also got in touch with a financial journalist who made contact with HSBC. Within twenty four hours of the family sending the letter from Malcolm to HSBC the bank had responded and accepted responsibility and put £145,000 back into the victim’s account.

The family believes it was the combined pressure of the contact from the journalist and Malcolm’s letter that led to the bank having a change of heart.

The family, and the victim, hope that sharing this story will make more people aware of how these scammers work. They build a rapport and trust with vulnerable people and lead them to believe their claims. The family also hope that it will raise awareness of how banks need to take responsibility for their customer’s funds, especially known vulnerable customers, and have the correct safeguarding checks in place and processes followed.

If you think you have been a victim of a scam then you can contact the following for help:

Public Protection Partnership - Malcolm Philips Fraud Victim Support Officer - 01635 519930 or email tsadvice@westberks.gov.uk

Citizens Advice Bureau - You can get advice from a Scams Action adviser by calling 0808 250 5050.

Action Fraud - Action Fraud team on 0300 123 2040 or use their online reporting tool here