A CHURCH in Newbury whose back account was defrauded four times, to a total of almost £3000, is raising awareness of scammers who are preying on vulnerable people.
The Rector of St Mary’s, Shaw-Cum-Donnington, the Revd Marion Wood, explained that fraudsters had used fake names to pose as church officers and set up standing orders from the church bank account. The church banks with TSB.
Three standing orders of between £100 to £150 were set up to three different accounts labelled variously as Age UK, West Berkshire Council, and BT — all fake. Two of these standing orders were set up over the telephone, and one in person at a TSB branch. The money, including upfront payments, was paid over several weeks before it was spotted by the church treasurers. Another standing order set up by telephone was spotted by the bank and stopped before the money was stolen.
TSB has reimbursed the church for the lost funds from two fraudulent standing orders, Mrs Wood said. BT reimbursed the third. “We are just a bit annoyed that [the bank] won’t investigate,” Mrs Wood said. “There are criminals out there who just keep trying.”
A TSB spokeswoman said that the bank carried out investigations on every fraud case reported; but, unfortunately, fraudsters were becoming increasingly sophisticated. Customers should be vigilant for fraud and phishing scams, and never give away personal passwords, PINs, or card details. The bank would never ask customers to email or text these details, she said.
“Our number-one priority is protecting our customers’ money, and we work really hard to make sure they don’t become a victim of fraud, whether they bank with us in-branch, online, or via the telephone.
“We’re really sorry for the experience the customer has had and the inconvenience this has caused them. We have compensated the customer under our Fraud Refund Guarantee, and given them advice and guidance so they can help protect themselves against fraud in the future.”
Mrs Wood is setting up a project, Protecting the ELVs, to raise awareness of fraud among the elderly, lonely, and vulnerable in the church and wider community. It is due to be launched in September.
“Several members of our congregation were also scammed in this way, and, after that, we felt like we had to do something about it, because it seems to be a constant threat to everybody,” she said.
Mrs Wood will invite members of the church pensioners’ lunch club, bereavement-counselling group, and others in its network to listen to presentations on fraud awareness from Neighbourhood Watch, police, and banks. This includes email, online, and cold-calling scams, to which her congregation have already been prey, she said.
The church will also circulate leaflets with information from charities and other organisations with up-to-date advice on the subject. “We want to say that if it has happened to you, you are not alone. It has happened to many people. We will help people go through the process of reporting to banks, the police, and possibly helping people to go to court. We are there to help people along the way, to ease the stress that comes when you feel you have been invaded.”
Churches had an opportunity to form partnerships with charities and organisations to raise awareness in the wider community, she said.