Stevenage scam victim conned out of £23,000 warns others to be vigilant

Stevenage's Karen Oak was helped by fraud worker Elaine to get her stolen money reimbursed. Picture:

Stevenage's Karen Oak was helped by fraud worker Elaine to get her stolen money reimbursed. Picture: courtesy of the Hertfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner's office - Credit: Archant

A woman whose family business was close to collapse after a conman stole £23,000 is raising awareness to help prevent others falling victim to a scam.

Karen Oak, from Stevenage, received a call from somebody purporting to be from her TSB bank, concerned her personal account had been breached.

Karen, 57, said: "The number that came up on my phone was my bank's number, so that gave me reassurance.

"He asked me to do some security checks and I asked him to do the same. I asked him if I had any standing orders and he told me what they were. I don't know how he knew that."

When asked, Karen confirmed she also has accounts with Barclays bank, so he offered to look into the full extent of the infiltration and rang off.

Karen said: "I waited 20 minutes and a man saying he was from Barclays called. I was told three out of my four accounts had been breached.

"He was very chatty, knew a lot about my accounts, and even chatted about the high level of fraud these days.

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"He got me to open three new accounts and transfer money."

It wasn't until Karen went into a Barclays branch the next day that she realised she had been conned, with £500 stolen from her personal account and £22,500 from the business accounts.

While her banks investigated, Karen couldn't eat or sleep and was physically sick with worry.

On advice from the new Fraud Hub at Herts police's Beacon Victim Care Centre, Karen wrote to Barclays' chief executive and was fortunate to have the stolen money swiftly reimbursed.

Karen, who together with her husband and three sons owns Longacre Garden Services in Stevenage, said: "If I hadn't got the money back, what would have happened to the family business? It could have easily broken us."

Warning others, she said: "Don't trust anybody on the phone. If somebody calls saying they are from your bank, call your bank from a different phone - and find the number yourself."

Hertfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner David Lloyd created the Fraud Hub with a £150,000 Ministry of Justice grant and it is the first dedicated scheme in the UK. Every Herts victim who has lost money is contacted and offered support.

Mr Lloyd said: "I am delighted Karen got her money back and our new Fraud Hub was pivotal in achieving that."