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Retired cleric and wife lose savings to telephone scam

23 October 2015


A RETIRED clergyman and his wife have lost about £21,000, as a result of fraud, after they were refused a refund from their bank, The Sunday Times reported this week.

A former Rector of St Aldate’s, Oxford, Canon Michael Green, and his wife, Rosemary, who are both in their eighties, were conned out of the money from a joint Barclays account over the phone in April. Barclays have denied a refund of £20,800 because the couple authorised the transfer — a disaster for victims of fraud.

The same day, Santander, with whom they also have an account, blocked a second payment of £7000 after spotting the fraud and informing the Greens. None of this second payment was lost.

Though both banks detected fraud, Barclays did not contact the Greens directly, but sent a text message to confirm whether they had authorised the payment.

The Times recently reported that the Financial Ombudsman Service had received the highest number of fraud complaints from Barclays customers. The report suggests about 3700 of the bank’s customers have complained in the past five years, four times the number logged by HSBC.

Canon Green, who was an adviser to the former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey, said he that answered a call from a man claiming to represent Barclay’s fraud-prevention team. The man — who went by the name of “Ian” — said that the bank suspected fraud on their joint account, and that they should transfer the money immediately to another “safe” account.

Canon Green, who is 85, passed the phone to Mrs Green, 84, who usually deals with their online banking, and who then authorised the transaction at the Abingdon branch after receiving a text from Barclays asking her to confirm the payment. She believed she was following instruction from the bank’s fraud protection team.

Later that day, the couple received a call from a second fraudster claiming to be from Santander, and in contact with Barclays over the same fraud case. He asked her to transfer £7000 into the same “safe” account — a Lloyds account.

Santander told The Sunday Times: “When speaking to our security centre, the customer explained they had been cold-called, leading our telephone adviser to immediately identify this as part of a well-known ‘safe haven’ scam.

“As we had not allowed the payment to leave before it was validated by the customer, we were able to cancel it without any loss to [the Greens].

“The customer was also advised to immediately contact the other bank as this was a scam.”

Barclays said that while they “sympathise” with the situation, Mrs Green was responsible for making the payment, despite their contacting her to flag the payment as “suspicious”.

Barclays said that the Financial Ombudsman found that the bank had “acted appropriately” and in line with Mrs Green’s instruction.

Lloyds defended the mystery account, saying that it had gone through “appropriate verification and identification checks”. The account was blocked by Santander after the payment from Barclays had already gone through.

The charity Victim Support said last week that the elderly were particularly at risk of cold-calling scams: one in three victims of fraud was aged 65 or over. The campaign group Age UK said banks need to “do more” to raise awareness of fraud tactics.

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