A 22 year old woman was scammed out of £85,000 after falling victim to a ‘romance’ fraudster on Snapchat, the popular photo sharing app.
Speaking to This is Money, Amanda (not the victim’s real name) tells us a scammer befriended her in November after adding her on Snapchat, where they started talking.
Not long after, they began speaking on the telephone and after developing a relationship, Amanda felt comfortable enough to send him private pictures.
However, the scammer then started threatening and blackmailing her, telling her if she didn’t give him money, he would leak her personal photographs.
A woman has been scammed out of £85,000 after falling victim to a fraudster who she met on popular social media app Snapchat and sent private photos too
Ultimately, in a panic, under great mental strain and coerced by wicked con artists, Amanda ended up transferring £85,000 of her father’s money from his account to her own before sending this to the fraudsters.
Amanda had access to her father’s bank account and his details in order to make the payments – but she was not named on his account.
The tale is warning that young adults are also susceptible to fraud and how quickly fake online relationships can develop, which can ultimately end in financial ruin.
After receiving the threats, Amanda was firstly told to make a payment of £500 from her father’s account to hers.
Romance fraud in numbers
The average ‘relationship’ sees victims of romance fraud making payments for two months (62 days) – and a third of cases start on Facebook, according to new data from TSB.
It says that romance fraud almost doubled during the pandemic with a recorded increase in losses of 91 per cent compared to pre-pandemic levels – and an average loss of £6,100.
Sam Owen, a relationship coach and psychologist, said: ‘The past two years left people craving human connection, especially if they’d been living alone and feeling lonely whilst the rest of the world seemed coupled-up.
‘Sadly it was the perfect storm that would inevitably result in a significant increase in digital fraud cases.
TSB found that female customers made up two thirds of its cases and they typically lose £6,300, compared to £4,600 for men.
Paul Davis, director of fraud prevention at TSB, said: ‘Dating sites and social media can be a great way of meeting people and staying connected during the pandemic – but they’re also riddled with scammers, hoping to break your heart and your bank balance with cruel and complex tricks.
‘When interacting online, it’s important to remain on guard. Don’t put your trust in people you’ve never met in person – and if the conversation ever moves on to money, then it’s time to stop.’
She was then told to transfer that amount to a bank account with the word ‘family’ as a reference as she was told this would look less suspicious.
After this, Amanda was told to make multiple payments of £4,000 and £5,000 to various accounts, which she did after, again, moving the money from her father’s account to her own.
The amounts progressively increased to payments of £10,000 and £14,000.
Overall, she ended up taking £85,000 – her father’s life savings – from his account to her own and transferred to fraudsters.
Throughout this, she was continually being threatened that the photos would be leaked if she did not comply.
She said: ‘I was so scared I didn’t know what to do. I was suffering with anxiety and my mental health was really bad. I didn’t sleep for days or eat anything.
‘I wasn’t in the right state of mind. I was frightened of him leaking my pictures. I would have been so ashamed.’
While making the transfers, her bank, HSBC, blocked her account twice.
However, she was told by the fraudsters she must unblock it. In order to do so she went to her local branch and claimed it’s her money to distribute as she pleased.
Initially, the bank asked where the funds came from so Amanda panicked and left but was forced by the fraudsters to return the next day and say she was a family member of those she was transferring the funds to.
She was made to add her father had been saving for a wedding and had given her the funds to pass on to other family members.
Amanda said: ‘I was told to make sure the bank don’t get suspicious. He added I had to smile at the people in the bank so they think anything wrong is happening.’
After an online relationship developed, the victim sent private photos and was then blackmailed – coerced and under severe mental strain she sent £85,000
The staff member at HSBC dealing with Amanda’s online banking went through all the payments individually and she had to agree that each one was of her own doing.
The bank then authorised the transactions as she had given her explicit permission for them to do so.
However, after this, the fraudster continued to ask for more money, of which there was none.
At this point, knowing there was nothing more she could do, Amanda plucked up the courage to telephone HSBC and explain the whole situation.
HSBC said it would do its best to help her but just two days later, it got in touch to say it was unable to help as the money had been moved out of the beneficiaries accounts already.
Unfortunately, one person at HSBC advised they could reverse a payment of £10,000 but then Amanda was told this wasn’t actually possible and it should now be considered a police matter.
She said the misinformation raised her hopes in thinking she would be able to claim the funds back.
However, after being persuaded to contact the police, Amanda was advised that each bank has different protocols.
HSBC ultimately said as this was an authorised pushed payment (APP) it is not possible to recover the funds.
It once again said the police should deal with the matter as it is a case of fraud and blackmail.
Amanda’s father is currently unaware of the whole situation and does not know his daughter has been scammed out of nearly £100,000.
A HSBC spokesperson said: ‘We are sorry that Amanda has been a victim of blackmail. As this case highlights, there are unscrupulous criminals who use a range of techniques to exploit their victims.
‘This is a situation where the customer willingly authorised several payments and wasn’t deceived into doing so, as such this does not meet the criteria for either fraud or a scam. This is a police matter and the customer was right to get them involved.
‘Given the circumstances, we are not able to provide a refund for the payments that were made willingly. There is a legal process where the authorities can attempt to confiscate assets that are proceeds of crime. It would be for the CPS to decide on that matter.’
HSBC also confirmed that as the account holder was Amanda’s father, he would be held liable for any issues.
Unfortunately, Amanda is just one of thousands who fall victim to these sort of scams every year with clever criminals tricking people out of their life savings and it highlights that it can hit those young and old.
Whilst she is unable to recoup the money she has lost, This is Money reveals below what this specific scam consists of and what others can do if they are affected by one – and to always treat people you ‘meet’ online with extreme caution.
Scam: HSBC was unfortunately unable to return the money as it had already been moved away
What is an APP scam?
In authorised push payment (APP) scams, criminals trick you into sending money from your account to an account controlled by them, according to UK Finance.
Criminals use a range of tactics to try and steal money. Typically, they pose as a genuine individual or organisation, for example your bank, government department, utility company or delivery firm, and may contact you via the telephone, email, online or text message.
Intelligence suggests that criminals are increasingly using social media to carry out this type of fraud.
The fraud is often very sophisticated and convincing and you will likely be told that your account has been compromised.
The criminal is trying to panic you and, pretending to help, will ask you to transfer money to a safe account.
But the account is not safe and is in fact controlled by the criminal who will then look to quickly transfer the money to numerous other accounts, often abroad, where it is then cashed out.
In the first half of 2021, a total of £355.3million was lost to authorised push payment scams – an increase of 71 per cent compared to losses seen in the same period in 2020.
The number of cases rose 60 per cent to 106,164.
In the first half of 2021, a total of £355.3million was lost to authorised push payment scams
What to do if you’ve been affected by an APP scam
You should contact your bank or building society as soon as possible if you think you have fallen victim to an APP scam using the number on the back of your debit, credit or prepaid card or by visiting their website.
You should also report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or Police Scotland.
UK Finance urges customers to follow the advice of the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign and remember that criminals are experts at impersonating people, organisations and the police.
They spend hours researching you for their scams, hoping you’ll let your guard down for just a moment. Stop and think. It could protect you and your money.
· Stop: Taking a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or information could keep you safe.
· Challenge: Could it be fake? It’s ok to reject, refuse or ignore any requests. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you.
· Protect: Contact your bank immediately if you think you’ve fallen for a scam and report it to Action Fraud.
In May 2019, the banking and finance industry introduced a voluntary APP scams Code.
If you fall victim to an APP scam and your bank or payment service provider (PSP) is signed up to the Code, you should be fully reimbursed, provided you did everything expected of you under the Code.
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