Thursday 26 January 2023
4.1 C
Nottingham

Warning from Nottingham mum ’embarrassed’ after being told by fraudsters to buy £700 Google Play gift cards

"They asked me to stay on the phone and not put it down. I had to get changed, as well as get my baby ready with them still on the line."

An embarrassed Nottingham mum has warned others to be wary of fraudsters after she was scammed out of hundreds of pounds following a call from someone pretending to be from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

The exhausted mother was up all night feeding her young baby when she received the random call from a fraudster last month.

The conman told her that her National Insurance number had been compromised and that she was being linked to a drugs incident.

“I was instantly panicked. I hadn’t had any sleep the night before as I was looking after my baby and the call woke me up. I was being told I was involved in some sort of crime. It was really stressful,” she said.

“He then asked me if I had been away recently, clearly trying to make it sound legitimate that I had money taken off me and I needed to do something about it quick.”

The frightened woman was urged that she needed to change her National Insurance number straight away or she would lose her savings.

She was first asked by the fraudsters to send her provisional driving licence on WhatsApp.

Then she was asked to go to her local supermarket to buy gift cards, a familiar tactic used by scammers as they can’t be traceable and used anywhere in the world.

The 24-year-old wasn’t dressed or ready to go out. She explained: “They asked me to stay on the phone and not put it down. I had to get changed, as well as get my baby ready with them still on the line.

“It was a very stressful situation, I was so tired and so nervous, that I just went along with it.

Off we went to the shop with my pram with the phone still in my hand. They asked me to purchase seven Google Play Cards.

“I’d never even heard of them, but I did what I was instructed to do. I bought the seven gift cards and put £100 on each.

“The cashier looked at me and kind of glared at me, probably knowing I was being scammed, but again I was instructed what to do and say and I just told them that it was for personal use.

“Eventually I got out the shop and was asked to read the code on the cards to them outside.

“I kind of thought that would be it and I would get some sort of instruction to find out about my National Insurance. But no, I was asked by the conman to go back in and try to back five more cards.

“I queued up again and it was the same cashier. Thankfully my card was declined. My bank had noticed something dodgy going on.”

The ordeal hadn’t ended there though. The fraudsters demanded the woman go to another supermarket and try to purchase more gift cards.

The woman tried to explain that her nearest shop was miles away. The fraudsters became more aggressive and persistent on the phone.

She added: “I was already very tired at that point and they become more and more pushy and rude. They said to get a taxi to another shop. I was fuming to be honest. I just didn’t think twice if this was real or not. I stupidly went ahead with it.

“So I made it to the next shop, miles away, and the caller asked me to try to buy more gift cards.

“Straight away the staff knew what was going on. The store manager pulled me to the side and said to put the phone down immediately. He was really kind and explained that I wasn’t in any trouble.

“I had a whole mix of emotions. I was shocked, embarrassed, I felt guilty and I was so angry. After a couple of hours being told what to do by the fraudster it finally clicked in my head. I felt such an idiot. How could I fall for it so easily?

“I rang the police straight away and they were great. They really supported me. I’ve spoken to them since and they’ve checked up on me and my family. They gave me some great advice which I’ve shared with my close friends and family too. I hope no one goes through what I went through.”

In the end the woman lost £700, but it could have been so much worse. She still hopes to be able to get the money refunded.

Officers are now warning others to be extra vigilant when taking calls from people claiming to be from the HMRC or any unexpected call from any organisation, and end it immediately.

Police have also asked individuals to help their vulnerable elderly relatives or friends keep their finances secure and ensure they are aware of potential scams.

Fiona Price, a fraud protect and prevent officer at Nottinghamshire Police, said: “Fraudsters are always looking to exploit people and in this case, it is fortunate that Rachel raised her concerns with us straight away.

“The conman on the phone pretending to work from HMRC was so convincing and no one should feel ashamed of falling for scams like this. The people behind them are very clever and deceiving.

“It goes to show the vital work that our key workers play not just in keeping the country going during lockdown, but spotting exploitation and reporting it to us.

“We are now working closely with the victim to make sure there is appropriate support for them moving forward.”

If you are a victim of fraud, report it to Action Fraud via their website: www.actionfraid.police.uk

In an emergency, you should always call 999.