A mother from Horsham is warning people to watch out after she was targetted by telephone scammers offering PPI compensation.
Suzanne Lewin was called at her home in Earlswood Close on January 3. The caller, who said they were working for HSBC, told her she was entitled to compensation for mis-sold payment protection insurance.
She told the County Times: “He said: ‘I’ve got £2,170 here for you, I can issue a cheque this afternoon.’.”
He even said he could have the cheque couriered to her that same day.
Mrs Lewin, whose CV includes working as a credit manager, and as an advertising sales manager for the Crawley Observer, thought that was a strange way of doing business.
However, the caller had a tactic for distracting an intended victim before they can get suspicious: “When they’ve got you talking about delivery, they then stop and ask: ‘Have you paid your administration charges?’” said Mrs Lewin.
The implication was that if the charges hadn’t been paid then Mrs Lewin might not be entitled to any money. The caller pretended to spend a few minutes checking their records, then came back and said that the charges had been paid and everything was okay.
Then came the inevitable moment when the people offering the cash windfall asked to be paid a fee in advance. In this case, they said Mrs Lewin had to pay VAT on the £2,170, and she had to pay them via a Ukash voucher.
Ukash is a way to pay money online. The customer buys the voucher from a participating shop - usually a newsagent.
The voucher has a 19 digit code number, which the customer can then give to the online vendor, usually by typing it straight into their website.
“You have to phone them when you’ve got the reference number,” said Mrs Lewin.
“The minute they’ve got that number, the money is theirs.”
Scammers tell their victims not to tell the newsagent what they are doing, because the newsagent will then try to get a 20 per cent commission.
Naturally, the real reason is that the newsagent is likely to warn the victim not to go ahead with the transaction.
“To me, it’s one of the most despictable things I’ve heard,” said Mrs Lewin.
“I would hate someone, especially in the New Year when we’re all down on our luck a little bit with the money that we’ve spent, to lose their money.”
She was particularly worried about single, vulnerable people who often have no-one to turn to for advice.
Ukash vouchers and the law.
A Ukash code number is a form of cash - the person who possesses the code owns the money - so Ukash customers are advised to protect code numbers as carefully as they would protect a banknote.
The Ukash system offers a way to make payments over the internet, even if you do not have a bank account, or are not prepared to submit your bank details to a website.