Three victims of fraud have come forward to support North Yorkshire Police’s new Freeze on Fraud campaign.
The campaign is designed to reach a whole range of residents by stressing the very real dangers of being actively targeted by fraudsters on a daily basis who claim to be from utility companies, high street department stores and even dating websites.
It has also been timed to coincide with the January sales and when New Year’s resolutions - particularly for those searching for love - can make people vulnerable to fraudsters,
These residents, who wanted to remain anonymous, have come forward with their stories and offer advice with the painful benefit of hindsight, in a series of interviews with North Yorkshire Police.
Alex was a victim last year and said: "I received a phone call from a gentleman who told me he was from TalkTalk and he said that I have been having computer problems, which was true.
"He got me to log-on to a website. What I didn’t know was that they would be able to control my computer from their end.
"The gentleman said to me that because of the problems I had been having, TalkTalk were going to give me a refund and he asked me to go onto my bank account to check if this refund was showing.
"As soon as I had logged into my account I could see the money in my current account, and then it moved to a savings account, and then it was just gone. The amount that was taken from my bank was £5,000.
"I was really upset, angry, and just devastated by the whole thing. Luckily for me, the bank located the money. The fraudsters hadn’t managed to transfer the money to their account.
"If there is any advice that I could give, it would be if somebody rings you say to them ‘I will ring you back’. And if they try to do an online transaction, then just turn it off or pull the plug.”
His case was echoed by Lynn who realised in January last year she had been conned out of £800 by hackers who accessed her bank account.
She said: "I got an email from John Lewis advising me that I had purchased an iPhone, which I hadn’t done. I contacted my bank who confirmed the transaction of about £800 had come out of my bank account.
"I was shocked that fraudsters had been able to access my personal details form this online high street account. I am always so careful with my online activity.
"If there is anything that I can recommend for people to do after my experience, it is to regularly check their accounts and change their passwords, and put in as little personal on the internet as possible.”
Paul, aged 65, was conned out of almost £90,000 in less than three months by a woman he met on a dating website in December 2016.
He recalled: "I was approached on Match.com. She was allegedly an art dealer based in the UK and had got a contract to supply art work to the value of a quarter of a million pounds to a new development in South Africa.
"I was persuaded to her to help with some travelling expenses. I was also asked to fund transport and customs charges involved in the shipment of the art to South Africa.
"On the day that she was due to come back, I got an email saying she had been involved in a serious car accident, and at that point I realised I had been badly scammed. Over the course of about two-and-a-half months, I lost nearly £90,000.
"Even though I was doing a lot of checking and so on, I was probably ignoring things that were making me suspicious. My feelings were being over-ridden by my feelings for her and my wish to help, and that just over-rode all my instincts for what should have been a very obvious scam.
"My advice is that you meet somebody online, you must meet before you do anything further and certainly not get involved in any financial transactions.”