'Swines' meet their match when they try and con Sheffield woman, 94

A feisty Sheffield pensioner – whose home was bombed twice during the Second World War – didn’t let fraudsters win when they phoned her demanding £1,000.

Thursday, 16th January 2020, 11:10 am
Updated Thursday, 16th January 2020, 12:58 pm

Marie Whiteley, aged 94, recently received a phone call from a man claiming to be from NatWest.

He told her someone had fraudulently accessed her account and said he would send a taxi to Marie’s home to pick her up and take her to the bank.

Marie, of Beighton, told The Star: “They then told me I’d need to give them a grand – and that’s when I twigged on that they were up to no good so I slammed the phone down.

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Marie Whiteley. Picture: Scott Merrylees

“I’m not falling for those swines.”

Although Marie didn’t end up handing over any money, the experience still affected her.

She said: “I was upset and left thinking ‘how could anyone do this’?

“These people have no feeling whatsoever.”

Marie was targeted by so-called ‘courier fraudsters’ – and South Yorkshire Police is this week supporting a national drive called Operation Radium to combat the crime.

Courier fraud involves victims receiving a phone call from a criminal pretending to be from the police or another official organisation such as a bank.

The fraudster claims there is an issue with the victim’s bank account or requests their help in an alleged ongoing bank or police investigation.

Victims – many of whom are elderly or vulnerable – are then asked to withdraw a large sum of money which will be collected by a courier for ‘evidence’.

Other versions of the scam have seen victims told to withdraw large amounts of foreign currency or purchase high-value items such as watches.

This week, officers from South Yorkshire Police are supporting Operation Radium in a number of ways, including circulating courier fraud information leaflets in communities and also raising awareness among the region’s taxi drivers, who may unknowingly become part of the scam by driving a courier to a victim’s home or a victim to the bank.

Andy Foster, the force’s fraud protection officer, said: “The victims of courier fraud tend to be elderly or vulnerable people, who are left heartbroken that someone has betrayed their trust in such a cruel scheme to steal their money.

“These fraudsters are heartless.

“They’ll pick a victim and reel them in – they’re very good at what they do and they’re making a lot of money from what they do.

“I’ve been helping one man, an 84-year-old, who has been left very badly affected after being targeted by courier fraudsters and losing a lot of money which he was going to use for his funeral.”

Mr Foster added: “Residents in South Yorkshire are no more or less likely to become a victim of courier fraud than people anywhere else in the country, which is why the word needs to be spread far and wide to ensure we can protect ourselves and each other.

“I’d ask everybody to be extremely suspicious of unsolicited phone calls from your bank or the police – and don’t think it is authentic simply because the person on the other end of the phone knows basic personal details about you like your name or address.

“If you think you are on the phone to a fraudster, hang up the phone straightaway and then call back your bank, or the police, on a different phone line or mobile. If you can’t do that, wait at least 30 minutes before calling and use the telephone number on your bank card or call police on 101.”

Reports of courier fraud should be made to Action Fraud on 0330 123 2040 or online via www.actionfraud.police.uk