Pensioner Carole Pearson, a former wages clerk, had spent years putting aside money when she could, to see her and her husband through retirement.
There was more than £14,000 saved up for the odd weekend trip, for holidays. To pay for funerals. Within the space of a few days a conman, who hacked into her computer and took pictures of the pensioner through her own webcam, had cleared them out.
“It was all the money that was to last us,” the 64-year-old said. “We’ve got a state pension, but we’re just living day to day.
“It’s been nearly two years, I keep being reminded about it. It was my fault really, for giving him my bank details. But I didn’t know, he seemed so genuine.”
Mrs Pearson, of Cleckheaton, was targeted by a professional conman. He had called her up, pretending to be from Microsoft, and asked for access to her computer. She had explicit content on the system, he said, and to fix the problem she must pay him large sums of money. And Mrs Pearson, reeling from the revelation earlier that week that her husband of 43 years was suffering from dementia, did as she was told.
“He told me to go to different post offices, and I was to send the money to Thailand,” she said. “He kept ringing me. I was to call him back and say it was there. My husband was very ill at the time. I was all over the place. I just did it.”
Mrs Pearson made three cash deposits totalling £14,108 through different Post Offices, not knowing this was a ploy to avoid rousing suspicion.
“I gave him all my different numbers,” she said. “I genuinely thought he was from Microsoft. His name was Harry. He sent me his picture, he gave me his phone number and reference cards – his email was a Microsoft address.”
‘Harry’ had been calling her early every morning for a week. He was putting enormous pressure on her to speed up deposits.
“I was supposed to go to the bank and give him another £5,000,” said Mrs Pearson. “He was photographing me on the webcam – saying ‘why haven’t you done it yet?’. Then he asked for another £10,000. It was my husband that realised it was a scam.”
Mrs Pearson is now resigned to what happened. Her niece and nephew have told her she should have asked for help, but she didn’t want to admit what was happening. And she blames herself for not realising sooner.
“I shouldn’t have done it, I realised that after,” she said. “I’ve lost £14,000 which was my pension. That was our savings, for funerals and things like that. I thought that money would cover us.
“I’ve tried to get it back but I haven’t been able to. The police tried their hardest, but they can’t catch him at all. They traced his email but it was abroad. They couldn’t do any more.”