Hitchin woman’s quick thinking foils con callers but warns others to be aware

Joy Bennett with the scam letter and her two dogs, Digger and Hugo

Joy Bennett with the scam letter and her two dogs, Digger and Hugo - Credit: Archant

A Hitchin woman’s quick thinking helped her thwart phone scam callers – and now she’s warning others to be aware of the fraud after others in the town were also targeted.

Joy Bennett’s caller claimed to be acting for a fake government department called the Claims Advisory Service – and similar calls have been made to other numbers in the town.

She was told she was eligible for a chunky cash rebate relating to bank charges – but only if she first stumped up an admin fee of 10 per cent of the total she was ‘owed’.

Joy told the Comet: “It was a London number, they said I was entitled to £3,600 – but only if I paid them a 10 per cent charge first.

“A man with a strong Indian accent claiming to be called Terence Robinson said I had to pay the cash to them through a MoneyGram transfer at the post office.

“I played along and went up to Highbury Post Office – but only to see if anyone else had been through a similar experience.

“They told me at least five or six other people had been contacted this month and asked to pay cash through a MoneyGram transfer, too.

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“They’re very good and stopped anyone from paying a penny.

“I then went back home, and called this so-called government department back – but this time with police officers next to me.

“The fraudster said: ‘Have you got the receipt number of the payment?’ I pretended to get confused and gave them a false number.”

On realising the number Joy gave him didn’t work, he then asked her for the exact exchange rate she was supposed to have received for her £360. Quick-thinking Joy kept them talking while the police officer told her the correct figure in Indian rupees for £360 – which then satisfied them.

Joy then handed the phone over to the police officer, and when he started asking questions the caller cut the line – but “not before being very rude to the nice officer,” she said.

She added: “I want to raise awareness of this scam. I knew straight away, but older people may be taken in by someone pretending to be from the government.”

Highbury Post Office manager Peter Day said: “We knew it was a scam and no-one has lost any money.

“We want to stop anyone in Hitchin falling victim.”

For more information about how to spot scams and how to avoid them visit www.herts.police.uk/PhoneScams.

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