‘Scam gang shattered our trust in phone banking’

Feezan Hameed Choudhary

Feezan Hameed Choudhary

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A FARMER has said he has “lost all trust” after being duped out of tens of thousands of pounds in an elaborate fraud scam linked to the Capital.

The man and his wife were caught up in the UK-wide racket after “plausible” fraudsters made them believe they were calling from the bank.

They are among hundreds of victims of ruthless scammers suspected of stealing at least £60 million. The News revealed last month that ringleader Feezan Hameed Choudhary had evaded capture in Edinburgh during a Metropolitan Police-led operation in Abbeyhill.

Choudhary, who is from Glasgow but has links to the Capital, is still at large.

Police Scotland has been working with the Met and other police forces south of the Border to crack down on the fraud ring.

The victims, who run a Borders farm, spoke to the News in the hope their story would spare others from the scammers.

The couple, who asked not to be named, said they had lost a “five-figure sum”. “It was a huge amount for our small business,” they said.

They had only recently agreed to online banking, fearing it would not be as secure as using cheques.

The farmer’s wife said the scammers were “extremely plausible” and very professional-sounding.

She said: “I believed entirely that I was speaking to legitimate bank staff. They knew who we banked with and their local knowledge took us in completely. The ‘security questions’ were entirely in keeping with what I was subsequently asked by my own bank.”

They have been left traumatised. They said: “We no longer trust people and are reluctant to speak on the phone. It’s been a very lonely experience and we feel bitter.”

The couple have sadly not managed to recoup any money through their bank, despite being hit with a further legal fee in trying to do so.

It is understood the scam has been so far-reaching that banks and building societies are struggling to refund victims.

“[The bank] allowed payments far in excess of any previous amount and at a time we would never normally be online, to sail unchecked from our account,” they said. “There had been no visible or indeed verbal warnings of this type of scam prior to us being targeted.”

They urged other customers to be “very wary” and not to volunteer any information over the phone or internet.

When the scam first came to light last summer, the gang was cold-calling and telling victims to ring back on the number on the back of their bank cards, while the crooks stayed on the line to record the numbers. They then “evolved” to use an app which disguises where a call comes from.

The scammer tells the victim they are from a bank and have detected fraud on their account and their cash needs moved to a secure account.