Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

Last Saturday I went to Lord’s to watch the third day of the England New Zealand test match, which was neatly wrapped up by England on the following day. Well played, Broady!

I was sitting with three old friends, and one of them — let’s call him David, as he values his privacy — told me this astounding story of how he had been scammed out of some £4,000. David is an intelligent and sophisticated man, a successful corporate advisor and business planning consultant. He is nobody’s fool. This, in his own words, is what happened to him:

I was sitting at my desk in London on the evening of Thursday, 9th May, when my telephone rang. A man introduced himself as DCI Harris from Holborn Police Station. He gave his number as EK 457. He said that two Eastern European men had just been apprehended on the suspicion of credit card fraud. They had details of various people that they might have been targeting and I was one of them. He gave me an incident/crime number (No. 29121575665) and advised me to get in touch with my credit card company and have a block put on my account(s).

I rang off and then looked at the back of my Barclaycard Visa debit card for the Barclaycard Customer Services contact number. I dialled the number and got through to a Customer Services lady (who later said that her name was Louise White) and I told her about DCI Harris’ advice. She took the details of my Barclaycard debit card and then proceeded to ask me some questions to verify that I was who I said I was. Among these questions were my date of birth and my mother’s maiden name. She also asked me to give details of a direct debit on my account, including the payee, the amount paid and the time of month that it was paid.

She appeared satisfied about my identity and then asked when I had last used the card. I said that I had withdrawn £100 from a bank in Essex on the previous day. She said that she could see that transaction, but she then mentioned four further transactions that had taken place that evening near to Oxford Circus. I said that these certainly were not my transactions. She said that my card must have been compromised.

She then said she was going off to see if she could get hold of DCI Harris to see if these might be transactions carried out by his suspects. She said that it was important that I stayed on the ‘phone while she did this, so that she was sure of my whereabouts. She returned a little while later to say that the police thought that they might have a suspect who was actually using a card with my number on it. He was later reported to have got away.

She then asked if I had any other credit or debit cards. I said that I had a Barclaycard Visa credit card and a Barclaycard Mastercard credit card. She asked for details of these cards and she looked up the activities on them. She read out a list of recent transactions on them and these were in the West End that evening. I said that none of them were anything to do with me. She asked me if there was anyone in my household who could have copied my cards. I said that there was only me, my cleaning lady and my brother, who had stayed overnight recently, and I was sure that they wouldn’t have done anything.

She then said that she must speak to her boss and again said that I must stay on the line while she was away, emphasising that I might be considered to be a suspect in a fraud. She came back to say that a special team in Surrey was working on this sort of fraud and they wished to have my cards to examine and contrast them with some counterfeit ones. They were going to send a courier to collect them. She would therefore put a block on my cards and would then ask me to put them in a sealed envelope for collection – it was important that only my recent fingerprints were on them.

She then went through the process of putting a block on each of the cards – this ended with me having to tap my pin number on to my telephone keypad. During the time that the courier was coming up from Surrey, she asked if I had any other credit cards and I said that I had an American Express card. She said that she would be able to ask American Express if there had been any recent activity on that card. I therefore gave her the card number and she came back with a list of very recent transactions. These had nothing to do with me. She therefore advised me to put a block on this card as well and went through the same procedure. She suggested that this should also be sent to the Surrey experts.

There then followed a period during which the courier was coming up from Surrey. While we were waiting, the Barclaycard lady said that she needed to write a report on this whole event for her boss. She asked me which phases I could remember and we constructed a report together. The courier then arrived in uniform, collected the envelope of cards and left. I didn’t get a view of any vehicle.

The Barclaycard lady wanted me to stay on line in case there were any further queries. I inadvertently dropped the receiver a short time later and was planning to ring the lady back, but couldn’t find her number. Without her pressure, I was able to think what I had done and realised that there could well be a scam here (although I had never doubted the ‘Barclaycard’ lady during our conversations). I thought that I would go down to Notting Hill police station and ask whether DCI Harris existed. They were very busy with other things at the station, but they took time to tell me that I was undoubtedly the victim of a scam and lent me their telephone to call the real Barclaycard. My respondent there confirmed that money had been withdrawn from each of my Barclaycard accounts in the last hour or two. I then realised that I had been completely hoodwinked.

I now realise that the key element in the scam was my telephone. When I rang off initially, the ‘policeman’ stayed on the line and the scammers were able to create a dialling code when I lifted my receiver and appeared to get through to the ‘Barclaycard’ lady. She kept my attention and confidence very cleverly throughout the rest of a very long conversation.

If you get a call like this, call your card company on a different phone, as per the last paragraph. If this can happen to David, then it can happen to any one of us. Fraudsters used to be relatively easy to spot — Dere valued Natwest customer pliz give me yore pin numbre now, yours in the Lord — but now they are getting smarter than us. David got his money back from the banks, of course, although American Express seem to be reluctant to settle. And the scammers have got away with £4,000 plus. And the banks will want to recover that somehow, so gradually they’ll get it back from us, in higher costs.

We all suffer.


Add your comment


38 Responses to “A Sophisticated And Interesting Scam”

  1. Brenda Skinner says:

    Holy cow! How perfectly horrifying! Thanks so much for the heads-up.

  2. Annie says:

    A sophisticated set-up indeed.

    Perhaps the first phone call should be to the police station to check that the policeman/crime number actually exists.

    • Unfortunately, even if you did that you’d still get the crooks as they’re holding the line open.

      This fraud depends on the fact that with some telephone systems the line stays open until the originator of the call disconnects. The receiver of the call can’t close it.

      The telecommunications companies could change this pretty easily if they put their mimds to it.

  3. Chris says:

    I’m sure this could only apply to landlines.

    VoIP and mobile phones disconnect the call when either party hang up.

    For those still using old fashioned landlines… beware!

  4. Vic says:

    Salutary advice – we all think we can not be scammed.
    My bank says never, never give your pin number to anyone.
    Thanks for the heads up.

  5. Michael Reed says:

    Thank you for that it is amazing what can be done by crooks via the modern technology. Mike

  6. David says:

    I would have thought that when you ‘ring off’, you would hear a dial tone while making the next call. That is certainly true in the U.S. I don’t see how the scammers could create a false dial tone, short of being directly connected to one’s phone. That said, I agree the next call should be to the police. In a vaguely similar situation, I was called by an ‘FBI agent’ regarding a matter and he indicated that he had a special office in the NYC Police HQ. Being suspicious of this, I called the police and indeed confirmed that there are no Federal agents in their building (state’s rights and all that). You can’t be too careful (and I fully sympathize with your friend), but it is rarely necessary to act instantly. One should take at least a few minutes to think out a strategy, locate your cards, etc. In the U.S., the banks and insurance co’s (if you have coverage) will reimburse your losses.

    Finally, please use another name when you want to make someone anonymous.


  7. lucia leon says:

    I do not own a Barclay card. Unfortunately.
    As of the fraudsters, if they will find this amount of money on my debit card, what can I say? Poor me, lucky them!

    P.S. I am sorry for your friend who was a victim of a fraud, that’s terrible.
    To me, sophisticated and interesting are not the right words to describe a scam.
    Thank you for submitting the story.

    • Gwyn Headley says:

      You mean “fortunately” in this case, surely!

      • lucia says:

        Actually, I wrote what I meant.
        We must admit that banking security system
        is limited (otherwise it would not need any improvement and fraud would be impossible),
        and the Barclaycard lady did her best to be of assistance, reaching around with limitation of movement.
        I do not have a dog either, but I find the
        “Barclaycard PayWag – Contactless Payment Device for Dogs” a simple and bright idea for almost any animals owners.
        Have a peaceful weekend.

    • lucia says:

      Hi, again. Your story made me leaf through some recent Barclaycard TV ads. The “Toy Kingdom” caught my attention, take a look at it, please:
      and always choose carefully the bank where you want fotolibra to pay your for your pictures,
      for instance.

  8. Ellen says:

    Thank you for posting this.

  9. miguel says:

    What I don’t understand is how he got through to the fraudulent customer services woman if he dialed the number that was on the back on his card … surely that number would be legitimate?

    I don’t trust anyone as it is! shame.

    • Gwyn Headley says:

      The scammers were playing a recording of a dialing tone. “David” remained connected to them, so it didn’t matter what buttons he pressed on his phone, the call continued to be live and the “woman from Barclaycard” would simply take the call over from “DCI Harris”.

  10. honnor says:

    as a point of interest, crime number always start the numbers that contain the date followed by the incident number which will be the number of the phone call in that que,

    example being todays date then a number as follows 23050336

  11. peta says:

    That is a shocking story… I find the best thing is to answer the phone a little as possible. I highly recommend from personal experience a TrueCall box really is money well spent. I have no interest in the company, and this is not spam.

  12. Lois Bryan says:

    Holy smokes!!!!!!!!

  13. Lois Bryan says:

    That is frightening … we can’t trust anyone anymore!

  14. Phil Smith says:

    All banks say “we will never ask you for your pin under any circumstances” and not only do they say it they hammer the point home in any leaflet you get from them. As David says, stop think and don’t bow to pressure. Thank you for posting this

  15. David Williams says:

    Am very sorry for your friend and you are right to bring it to our attention (and I feel myself already shot down in flames!) BUT is this not a blog for Fotolibra about photography and images and associated issues?

    I want us all to sell photos and discuss how to do that and improve that for everybody involved – if I want to read about frauds and scams I assume there is a blog somewhere for that!

    • Dave Lochhead says:

      I think this is the perfect window for such blog posts – the wider the word is spread, the greater the level of public alertness to such scams.

      In this case, I think alaem bells would have started to ring when I was able to speak to an adviser immediately, without having to go through several automated menu levels and then wait for 15 minutes to be connected 🙂

      • David Williams says:

        I agree – great effort to spread the word and that is very welcome but the fact still remains we are here to talk about and to sell images!

        Surely we should be all trying to improve our key wording, make sure all images are in categories and work out ways to promote and sell images?

        • Gwyn Headley says:

          Yes, you’re right, and I agree with you. But I thought short and soft about posting it on my personal fotoLibrarian blog, which is read by Jacqui Norman and a sheep, or putting it on the fotoLibra Pro Blog, which attracts a rather wider audience. As I felt this scam would have caught me out, I wanted to warn as many people as I could. I hope you don’t mind too much. I promise the next post will mention photography.
          David — you’re right, the more images that are in catagories, the more outlets we’ll be able to find!

  16. lucia says:

    I mean, a real Barclaycard professional,
    who happens to be a lady, really did her best to be of assistance to a client who was frauded.

    According to your friends, the phone was the key of the fraud. If one phone is not secure enough, why should we believe that two different phones would be? Any of the telecommunications providers always need to improve their security systems, as it is obvious that fraudsters keep “improving” their scamming techniques.

  17. Shan Bache says:

    Thank you Gwyn for this cautionary tale. Very glad to know the details.

  18. Mike Mumford says:

    We all need protection from the growing threat from spammers. By passing on good advice to each other, we can fight back. This is what happens everyday. I get 100-1000’s of emails, 80 % spam and rubbish is removed. To manage so many emails I use for a small fee. This software can be set to protect and sort out the spam with manual help from your self. Keeping 50 protected email addresses, most genuine emails will be delivered safely. The 80% spam is directed away and blocked. All these emails can be inspected and now controlled before any get into your Inbox.

  19. Barrymor says:

    He actually tapped in the numbers of a credit card/s! Big
    (obvious) mistake

  20. […] « A Sophisticated And Interesting Scam […]

  21. Peter Clark says:

    A Bank will never ask: “please enter or tell me your PIN now”
    The skill of the criminal never ceases to amaze.

  22. Andy says:

    As an Ex Met Police officer, I read this with interest .. I have been out of the job now for 8 years but was still trying to figure out how they did it till I got to the end of the Story’ .. We all have to be on out toes for these Scammers.. Appreciate Sharing this one.. !

  23. Gwyn Headley says:

    Andy’s comment has reminded me that my friend ‘David’ got in touch again last week:

    “You might be amused to hear that the scammers had another go at me the other day, while I was sitting at my kitchen table with Peter. The telephone rang and the voice at the other end explained that he was a police detective operating in Hammersmith and Fulham. Apparently they had a couple of suspects who they thought were cloning my credit cards. I said ‘Look, you’ve done me already and I don’t want any more of this shit’. He said ‘Fuck off you white bastard’ and rang off. Peter was mildly surprised to hear one end of this exchange.

    “When we last spoke, Barclaycard had agreed to refund the money that I had lost due to the scam, but I was unsure about American Express’s willingness to do so. In the event, both Barclaycard and American Express refunded everything, so I was very lucky,

    “Not bad cricket results recently!”

  24. Martin says:

    This is very scary. One thing that is becoming more common is the ‘mother’s maiden name’ security question is falling out of use. many organisations allow you to select your own security queation, or at least to select one from a list provided. The downside of this, however is that you have to remember the question as well as the answer. I pride myself on being pretty sharp, but I’d have fallen for this one.

  25. Joan says:

    They are still at it. I got a call from DCI Harris allegedly from Holborn police station a couple of days ago. I hadn’t heard of this scam before but was suspicious so I called Holborn Police station from a different phone to check it out. Fortunately I did not give away any details

  26. […] just a matter of time. My friend David was taken in by an early appearance of this now well-known scam, and as sure as eggs is eggs there will be a scammer with a higher IQ than mine plotting my […]