A mum raised in the local area has spoken of a sophisticated scam that virtually cleared her bank account.
Sarah Wood, 39, who was raised in Kirkcaldy, was conned out of almost £400 last Saturday night after a conman rang her and claimed to be from the Royal Bank of Scotland.
After RBS refused to pay her back the stolen cash, Sarah issued a seven-minute video on Facebook that has attracted more than 138,000 views and 2,400 shares so far.
Mum-of-two Sarah, who now lives in Edinburgh, received a call at 6pm from a male who claimed to be from RBS.
She said: “He said he was from the RBS fraud department and told me to check his number on Google so I did, and it was the same one that came up.”
To allay any concerns, Sarah asked to call him back and it went through to RBS then she hung up and the man called back so ‘she would not need to wait in a queue’.
“They put me on high alert, saying someone had tried to take £160 from my account but told me not to worry and that they would help me so the money would not get taken,” she recalled.
“But they just needed to ask a few security questions so they could put a stop to it.”
While talking to the male, Sarah received a text message from RBS containing a secure code. The male on the line asked for the secure code to cancel her mobile digital app and prevent fraudulent transactions so she gave it to him.
“When I received that text message while talking to him on the phone it made it seem more legitimate and allayed my fears. I even actually said to him: ‘It’s fine, I trust you’.
“This guy sounded really legitimate. He had my name, address and knew I was a RBS customer and I thought, ‘how else does he have this information?’
“I gave him the information and he said he would process it. The line went dead and it was horrible.
“I tried to call RBS to see what had happened. I had a horrible feeling of dread and went into my mobile app and saw my account wiped clean of all money.
“I had £400 in my account and now have 76p to feed two children.”
Sarah, a government communications manager in Edinburgh, says she was caught on the hop.
“I am an educated person who would not normally fall for this thing. It is the sort of thing you would expect to read in the papers about poor vulnerable pensioners being picked on.
“It was dinner time and I was distracted by the kids so this guy knew I didn’t have a lot of time.”
Sarah reported the incident to the police, who believe it was a three-person operation involving one person phoning, one person hacking and sending the text message/or fraudulently posing as Sarah to RBS, and someone at the ATM machine swiping the money.
RBS says that two separate thefts took place – £130 from a cash machine in Leicester, and a £246 mobile payment.
However, the bank has only paid back £50 to “apologise for any unintentional inconvenience caused”.
A complaint specialist wrote in an email to Sarah: “I am unable to treat this as a fraud matter because you have voluntarily made this transaction.”
Sarah has received numerous Facebook comments in support of the video she made about the incident.
She added: “This guy has wiped my money completely from my account. I feel so stupid. My pride has been hurt.
“I just feel really embarrassed but I wanted to do the video to warn other people.
”The money was withdrawn from Leicester but I am in Edinburgh. An hour after the crime took place I went to my local Scotmid and used my credit card, so people can see I was in Edinburgh. I can’t be in two places at once.
“I don’t want someone who has £10,000 in their account to lose their life savings. I am in the process of selling my flat and I am thankful it didn’t happen when I had all of the savings in my account. I would have been left destitute.
“This happens to people and banks are not refunding.
“Banks need to get better at informing their customers about this.”
A Royal Bank of Scotland spokesperson said: “Scammers are using software that enables them to impersonate our genuine phone numbers.
“Scammers try to fool you into believing it is your bank calling in different ways, such as, they may tell you that they have noticed suspicious transactions on your account or that someone is trying to withdraw money from your account and they can stop it.
“We sympathise with our customer and appreciate this has been a distressing experience. This was a sophisticated scam which lead the customer to disclose security information.
“Our fraud department will never ask for a mobile app passcode or a mobile app activation code. In instances like this we will always try and get the money back for our customer but this is not always possible.”
He added: “In instances like this we try to recoup the money but if it has been transferred to another account a lot of the the money is withdrawn quickly. We are trying to see what’s possible.
“A mobile app activation code should only ever be entered into the app to complete registration and should never be disclosed verbally to anyone.
“If you receive a call asking for these details, hang up immediately. Clear your phone line by calling a friend or family member, then phone Royal Bank directly for help.
“Or use a completely different phone to the one the fraudster phoned you on.”
A Police Scotland spokesman said: “Police in Edinburgh are investigating a telephone banking fraud, which was reported on Sunday 21st January.
“Inquiries into this matter are continuing.
“Members of the public are reminded that banks will never contact you to request your account information and anyone who receives a call of this nature should hang up and contact police or the Action Fraud helpline.
“Police Scotland has a range of useful crime prevention advice available on our website at www.scotland.police.uk.”