Nationwide employee recalls ‘red flag’ used to defraud pensioner of lifesavings

Bank prevents customer from losing £90,000

A Nationwide Building Society employee was able to prevent her 80-year-old customer from losing £90,000 as she suspected the man she was with had groomed her and was attempting to fraudulently obtain her cash.

Staff can ignore customer requests by enacting the Banking Protocol which allows them to stop transfers and question customers if they suspect fraud.

Around £55million of fraud was prevented last year by bank and building society employees who ignored customer instructions to transfer their money to people who were trying to defraud them.

On BBC Money Box, A Nationwide employee explained how she was able to save her customer a fortune last year after enacting the Banking Protocol procedure.

Sophie Williams explained to reporter Dan Whitworth that the victim was a regular member who would frequently come into her Nationwide branch in Bromsgrove.

However, one day she entered with an unrecognisable man, and “alarm bells” started to ring as he was asking her to withdraw £90,000 for an investment he had.

Sophie said: “The more I spoke with them I knew she wanted to help him.

“He had groomed her; he had been to her house and been through her belongings.

“By the time she got to me, she was quite happy to give him this money which is the sad thing as he was going to take her life savings and leave her with next to nothing.

“She is in her 80s, what if she needed care? She wouldn’t have been able to afford it. It was alarming that she would be happy to give it to him.”

Sophie said it was a strange encounter as the man “knew too much about her [the victim]”.
She continued: “If you take your mum and your aunty to the bank or shopping, you don’t necessarily know the figures of what’s in their bank account.

“The biggest red flag for me is that he spoke for her and I knew her so she would speak to me anyway and he did a lot of the talking.

“I feel like he didn’t realise how good of a relationship she had with us.”

The scammer came in with pictures of land he planned to invest in with the victim’s money. He wanted the victim to lend him £90,000 for his investment.

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Sophie continued: “£90,000 – that’s a serious amount of money given the amount that was actually in there and what it would leave her with. That was a huge concern of mine.”

She knew something was not right so to “buy some time”, Sophie asked the scammer to bring in relevant ID before they could make the transfer.

Sophie spoke to her manager, and they flagged the victim’s account to alert other Nationwide branches of the potential fraud that could take place in case they tried to go elsewhere.

The next day when the scammer and victim returned with the relevant documents, Sophie started the banking protocol as she didn’t feel comfortable giving the customer the £90,000 for the man’s investment.

By enacting the Banking Protocol, the police were called to investigate the situation.

After hearing the situation, the police stated the man had to use his own money for the investment, not the customers.

The Banking Protocol was launched in 2016 and since then has prevented over £258million of customer money from being lost to fraud.

Episodes of Money Box are available on BBC Sounds.

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