A student has been jailed and four others have been sentenced over a £67,000 phone fraud. The judge in the case said the defendants acted as money launderers for a gang who defrauded a care home owner out of her entire life savings and destroyed her life.

The scam caused the victims business to fold and left her an emotional wreck. Judge Stephen Ward said: “If it were not for people like you, serious criminals would find life a lot more difficult”.

The victim was contacted in June 2017 by scammers posing as Barclays Bank to say her personal and business accounts had been hacked. She was then convinced to transfer her £104,000 savings into three secure accounts. The cash was transferred into bank accounts belonging to the defendants and withdrawn in small amounts.

In a victim impact statement, read to the court, he victim explained how she had considered killing herself when she realised what had happened. She went on to explain how she had worked hard, at times working three jobs to support her family. The scam has destroyed her health and her business has folded as a direct result of this crime.

Although the true masterminds behind the scam have not been found, the defendants were handed down prison terms and community orders for their part in laundering the money obtained by the fraud gang. Judge Ward told the defendants: “None of you is the person who telephoned the victim to persuade her through skilful manipulation that they were calling from her bank. None of you knew her or that she was having her life savings taken from her when you helped the fraudsters. It didn’t matter to you. You were all prepared to get involved for what was a modest sum for yourselves. But you will have known that you were part of something more important.”

What you can do to protect your money.

It is not solely a bank’s responsibility to keep our money safe, we must also take steps to protect ourselves adequately. Most people think they wouldn’t fall for a fraudulent text or email and are too savvy to be scammed, but criminals are more sophisticated than ever. When it comes to your money, always think twice. Have you received an unexpected call, email or text asking you to provide personal information? Just because someone knows some of your personal details it does not mean they are genuine. They may know your full name, address, maiden name etc, but they could be a fraudster looking to extract more information from you in order to gain access to your bank account and your money.

Stay safe from financial crime and remember:

1. A bank or trusted organisation will never contact you asking for your PIN of full password, or to transfer money to a ‘Safe Account’.

2. Never give out your personal or financial details unless you are 100% sure who you are talking to.

3. Never automatically click on a link in an unexpected email or text. This could give a fraudster access to your personal details.

4. Always question people who contact you through cold-calling. Under new legislation brought in this year, it is now illegal to cold-call and individual unless you have given your specific consent for them to do so.

5. If you are in any doubt about who a caller is, end the call. You can always call the company back when you have obtained the company’s number from a legitimate and trusted source.

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