For Love or Money: Widower Rachel scammed by man she met online
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Scammers were able to deceive 76-year-old Christopher Short into parting with his personal details by telling him he had been in close contact with someone who had tested positive for coronavirus. He received a text message purporting to be from NHS Track and Trace and did not doubt the authority.
Having recently attended a packed meeting and with an immunocompromised wife, Mr Short, clicked on a link in the message to order a testing kit.
However the website it took him to was fake.
The criminals had made a convincing but fake NHS site and instructed Mr Short to fill in his personal details and pay for delivery of the non-existent kit with his credit card.
This gave the scammers enough to allow them to immediately start using his credit card.
These criminals used Mr Short’s card at Argos and other stores, purchasing items worth more than £1,000.
But it didn’t stop there — they then phoned Mr Short pretending to be from his credit card company and obtaining text codes from him to allow them to authorise the purchases.
They even tried to get him to transfer all the money in his current and savings account to their own bank details.
Mr Short is warning others to beware of such cruel scams.
“I know it probably makes me look stupid because I never, ever click on an unknown link,” he told Wharfedale Observer.
He continued: “But a couple of days before I had been to an inside meeting for the first time during this Covid period.
“My wife has rheumatoid arthritis and the drugs she takes suppress her immune system, and for me to get Covid and pass it on to her would be catastrophic.
“My brain just didn’t click into warning mode because of this.
“There were so many triggers I should have recognised but I’m afraid that at 76 years old you just aren’t as sharp as you used to be.”
It was while talking to the scammer who was purporting to be from his credit card company that alarm bells began to ring and Mr Short said he was going to call his bank on the official number. The scammer hung up.
By the time he realised it was a scam, Mr Short’s card had been charged for several items from Argos and other companies.
Mr Short said: “This team, and it must be a team for the work that has gone into creating the NHS site and hacking into something to get the phone numbers, needs locking up.
“I’m sure the Government said it was going to crack down on this type of fraud. People have lost tens of thousands of pounds, indeed their whole lifetime savings because of people like this.”
Which.co.uk found many examples of this scam with slightly different wording and web addresses, however the premise remains the same.
- It says one needs to order a Covid test
- It includes a dodgy link to a fake NHS website
- People asked to pay a delivery fee of around £1-£2
The copycat NHS website looks seemingly legitimate, but the scammers can be skilled at copying the branding, style and format of genuine websites.
However, their website states that the big giveaway is the web address itself, which isn’t the real NHS website.
As an extra safety measure, credit card companies and banks use these days operate two-factor authorisation, which means authorisation codes are sent to a person’s phone to make sure internet purchases are being made by the card-holder.
Because the scammer phoned Mr Short as they were making the purchases, they were able to have him hand over the text codes that were being sent to him, and therefore authorise the purchases themselves.
Mr Short is now in negotiations with Barclaycard, which operates his credit card, to try to claw back the money the scammers spent on his card.
Fraudsters pretending to be from the NHS have become a common problem during the Covid pandemic as many people did sign up for text alerts on the official NHS Track and Trace system.
Barclays UK has warned Britons to “stay alert to coronavirus related NHS scams”.
“If you receive an email, SMS or call and follow the Take Five guidance to Stop, Challenge, Protect.“
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