PSNI warns of online scams after woman swindled out of £45,000

Victim’s bank account accessed after software was installed on computer, police say

PSNI Chief Superintendent Simon Walls urged the public to be vigilant for online and phone scammers.

PSNI Chief Superintendent Simon Walls urged the public to be vigilant for online and phone scammers.


Police are investigating the report of fraud in the Craigavon area of Armagh after a woman in her 70s was swindled out of almost £45,000 through software that gave a fraudster access to her bank account.

PSNI Chief Superintendent Simon Walls said that at about 4.20pm last Friday, police received a report that the woman had tried to access her email the previous Monday, but that she kept getting a message telling her she was typing in the wrong password.

“On Tuesday, January 8th, the victim contacted their telecoms provider in a bid to resolve the issue and, after a short time, she could access her email,” Chief Supt Walls said.

“Not long afterwards, however, the victim was phoned by a man claiming to represent the same telecoms and internet provider. He asked her to complete a number of things on the computer, claiming it was all part of checks he was conducting.

“Among the instructions the fraudster gave the woman was to log on to her banking app. It appears software – TeamViewer – was subsequently installed giving the fraudster remote access to the victim’s computer, her bank account and the ability to transfer close to £45,000 from her account,” he added.

“This is an absolutely despicable crime. The woman has lost her hard-earned savings and this has left her extremely distressed.”

Chief Supt Walls said it was unfortunately not the only report of fraud received by the PSNI last week.

“On Friday, January 11th, we received a further 11 reports of fraud, including reports of people being targeted by scammers claiming to represent HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs).

“While the majority of people did not fall victim to scammers, there was one person who did,” the senior officer said.

Facebook message

The second fraud victim last week responded to a message on Facebook that she believed was from someone she knew informing her she had won a competition. She unknowingly passed her personal details to the scammer and lost £2,000.

Chief Supt Walls said this was sadly “just another example of how easy it is for scammers to fool people”.

“This is why it is so important that people become scam aware. Families also need to keep an eye on their loved ones, especially older members of their family. Have the conversation; sit down and talk about these types of scams and what they need to do to protect themselves online, on the phone and post.”

“While it’s reassuring some people are able to spot these scams, and they are picking up the phone to report them to us, other people are being still being caught out,” Chief Supt Walls said.

“I would continue to urge members of the public to always err on the side of caution with any text, call, email or letter asking for payment or personal details in order to release money, refund fees, pay lottery wins or supply a holiday, giveaway or service.”

He recommended that if people became at all suspicious about a call they received they should hang up and phone the organisation the person is purporting to represent to check their authenticity. Guarding personal banking details was “essential”, he added.

Chief Supt Walls also said service providers would not seek payment details by mail or live chat and they would “never call out of the blue and ask for remote access to your computer or other devices”.

“If you have received any calls asking for any of these details or are concerned by the intent of unsolicited calls, emails or letters then please report it to Action Fraud via their website or by phoning police,” the police officer said.