How the fraudsters got me...

10 April 2008
Having read with great interest Hannah Ricci’s blog further down the page I thought I’d share my experience of fraud.

It was late 2005 - I had just moved down to London to take up my first ‘proper’ job since finishing university. One evening, two days after my first pay packet, I had decided to go out with a few of my friends to go see the infamous (read idiotic) Pete Doherty perform a last-minute or so-called ‘guerrilla gig’ in a dingy pub in Seven Sisters.

Now being originally from the quaint picturesque city of Norwich, where a cash machine is on virtually every corner, this part of the big smoke seemed devoid of any reputable bank. With my funds running low that evening I had decided (rather stupidly) to nip across to the local newsagent and use one of their cash machines – you know, the ones that you see in pubs. I accepted the £1.50 charge and carried on with my evening, but was about to find out that this was just a miniscule dent to my hard-earned finances that night.

Three hours later I received a call from HSBC’s fraud department. After confirming my details they asked me if I had been on the internet that night. “No, I’ve been out with friends….can I ask why?” Turned out that in the space of 45 minutes, someone with my card details had made 50 £50 bets on a gambling website called GalaCoral. My first pay packet and my complete student overdraft had been wiped to the tune of nearly £2500.

My heart sank. I was told to stay calm, to go to the police station first thing and get a crime reference number. The fraud department immediately extended my overdraft by £2,500, and said that after investigation all money would be returned...eventually. Despite reassurances not to worry I really was in a state of shock, angry at myself for being so stupid and angry at the person who’d skimmed my card.

To cut a long story short the bank returned all the funds within 6 weeks, and I learnt a major lesson: Never use a cash machine that isn’t either inside a bank, or watched with CCTV, regardless of how desperate you are – it’s not worth the risk. Even today I’m still a ‘victim’ of fraud. My card got swallowed a few weeks ago because the bank thought it had been ‘tampered’ with, and for every direct debit set up on my account I get a nice letter informing me so – just in case.

With instances of fraud occurring by the day, it seems the banks have a real job on their hands to bring the levels down. Still, not leaving customer’s details in bins outside branches, or not losing CDs with their details on may be a step in the right direction!