Fraudsters swindle 80-year-old out of £30,000 of savings

Monarda is a long standing campaign that aims to tackle doorstep crime. Picture: TSPL

Monarda is a long standing campaign that aims to tackle doorstep crime. Picture: TSPL

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A NIECE has made an emotional plea for others to be extra vigilant after her elderly uncle was swindled out of £30,000 in a telephone scam.

Chartered surveyor Lesley’s 80-year-old uncle was fleeced by fraudsters, believed to be operating from overseas, in an elaborate so-called Vishing con.

The retired accountant, who lives alone in Wester Hailes, was duped into withdrawing cash and wiring it abroad to pay for bogus computer software.

“They’ve preyed on him. Absolutely preyed on the fact that he’s got no idea about this sort of organised crime,” said Lesley, 40.

Fraudsters called the pensioner claiming to be from a large, respectable organisation selling anti-virus computer software.

They convinced him to withdraw ever-increasing amounts of cash from his bank account – up to seven in all between January and March this year – before wiring it to them.

Police are now examining the paper trail in a bid to catch the crooks in an ongoing investigation.

“He lives alone and is very independent. He just gets on with stuff himself and there wasn’t any vigilance in terms of monitoring his finances,” said Lesley.

“For the old and the vulnerable, even if you don’t think they’re vulnerable, we should be checking and just asking questions, being more vigilant, even though we’ve got busy lives.

“It got up to £30,000 and would’ve been £40,000 but the police and trading standards stepped in and managed to stop the last £10,000.”

Lesley now has power of attorney over her uncle’s affairs as his only living relative, 
enabling her to put a cap on his withdrawals.

She was speaking at the launch of Operation Monarda, targeting both online and telephone scams, as well as bogus workmen knocking on doors.

“I just broke down in tears when I found out. It wasn’t about the money, it was because somebody had taken advantage of him.

“He still believes he’s going to get the money back because he thinks it was a large organisation.

“That’s the thing, older people have a different perception of crime – they can’t comprehend it. They’ve done such a job on him, it’s totally upsetting.

“It’s easy to get caught up in life and not pay as much attention. I feel guilty for not being more vigilant.”

Edinburgh trading standards manager, Colin Baxter, said cold call-free zones and trusted trader schemes were helping take the fight to fraudsters.

Chief Inspector Gill Geany advised homeowners to check callers’ IDs, avoid keeping large amounts of cash in the house and to call 999 with anything suspicious. “If in doubt, keep them out,” she added.

Yesterday’s launch and stall was held in the Yorkshire Building Society’s Hanover Street branch where switched-on staff rumbled another attempted scam.

A cashier raised the alarm and foiled the bid earlier this month after a 94-year-old customer from Corstorphine came into the branch to withdraw £9,000 for suspected telephone fraudsters.

“It’s just looking out for people and chatting to our customers so we know what’s going on,” said branch manager Jamie Brophy.

andy.shipley@jpress.co.uk