Some weeks ago, at 8.30am, my landline rang. The phone didn’t recognise the number so I left the answering system to deal with it as a likely nuisance call. However, it wasn’t going to be quite so simple.
Throughout the morning I was, literally, bombarded with further calls all of which went answered only by the answering system. No voice message was left. Additionally, there were text messages to my mobile telling me to get in touch immediately with my bank about a suspicious transaction on my account. They even provided the number to call, God bless ‘em! Aye, right, as they say. I got the full treatment.
Eventually, I was left with no option but to contact BT and go through the rigmarole of blocking those landline calls via Call Protect, the first occasion I ever had to block any phone call. I recorded the origin of the calls but otherwise forgot all about it. Again, however, it wasn’t going to be so simple. I had made the mistake of doing nothing.
Fast forward to 2 October and the monthly bank statement arrived. It is easy to spot amongst the mail and normally is simply put aside to be filed away later, unchecked. Unusually, I checked it, still not thinking about those phone calls and texts of weeks previously.
A superficial glance revealed the routine debits: Amazon, Paypal, Online This, Online That, supermarkets – the usual pandemic suspects. However, a closer look revealed more than two pages of debits, something I had never clocked up previously. A series of six transactions, for exactly the same amount of money on the same day, took up more than half a page.
On 18 September some Russian had been very busy with my card. He, or she, had managed, somehow or other, to pass him, or her, self off as me and divest my account in six identical transactions of £10.38 and convert a total of £62.28 into rubles – not bad for a small sideline or, for all I know, even 10 minutes’ work.
Along with non-GBP transaction and purchase fees – which had alerted me to the transactions given the space they took up on the statement – the total depletion to the account amounted to £67.14. Small beer, I know, and it could have been worse, much worse. Had the statement entries been simple one-liners, I don’t suppose I would ever have noticed.
What I would like to know – and am most unlikely ever to find out – is who provided this fraudster, or fraudsters, with my bank and phone details in the first place. As I write, I am awaiting a new debit card but my faith in such cards, so essential in this pandemic, has taken a bit of a battering.
Is security better, by any chance, with a credit card? I don’t know, but what I do know now, through experience, is that it is essential, however inconvenient it might be at the time, to cancel and replace a bank card after every suspicious activity, and, equally important, to check bank statements line by line the moment they arrive on the doormat.
That will certainly be my modus operandi from now on. It may avoid a lot of bigger problems later.
John Macaulay, Glasgow