“Hello, hi there, and thank you for taking our call this afternoon. This is Dave from the bank.”
It was Monday lunchtime and my friend – a youthful widow of seventy or so summers – hadn’t been expecting a call, but the voice on the other end of the line was friendly and polished.
“Hello,” she replied.
“I just wanted to talk to you about your account,” said Dave from the bank. “It’s just we’re looking here at some transactions which may or may not be anomalous.”
“Yes,” said Dave from the bank, sounding concerned. “I’m showing here €450 has just been taken from your account. Can you confirm, please, that you authorized this transaction?”
My friend replied – with some alarm – that, no, she most certainly had not authorized any such transaction.
“Oh,” said Dave from the bank. “Oh dear. Well, it looks like that €450 is gone from your account, and I’m very sorry, but there’s nothing we can – -“
“Taken?” asked my friend.
“Well, yes, taken. It’s gone, I’m afraid.” Dave from the bank sounded sad.
“It looks like you’ve been the victim of a fraudulent attack on your account. Now, that could be a phishing scam or some other form of online fraud, but — Oh! Oh, I’m just showing a fresh transaction. Yes, it looks like another €2,000 is about to be taken via, it looks like, yes, via Western Union.
“But, if you’re saying you haven’t authorized this payment …”
“No,” said my friend, “I haven’t authorised anything.”
“Well, in that case, do I have your permission to block the transfer?”
“Absolutely you do,” said my friend.
“Excellent,” said Dave from the bank. “That’s excellent. Very good, I’m blocking that transfer right now, and I’ll just need to ask some security questions to finalise.
“Now, if I could just ask you to confirm your account details.”
“You’re calling from the bank and you want me to confirm my account details?” asked my friend, with almost no sharpness at all to her tone.
“Yes,” said Dave from the bank, perhaps just the very slightest fraction of a second too quickly. “Now, if you could just confirm to me your account number, please?”
“How do you mean, ‘confirm my account number’?”
“Oh, that’s just a simple matter of routine,” said Dave from the bank, smoothly. “If you could just tell me your bank account number and sort code, I’ll be able to confirm a few security details and cancel that €2,000 withdrawal.”
“There was silence on the line. My friend said nothing. Dave from the bank may or may not have held his breath. Eventually, he broke.
“Em, look, er, it’s just that I need your account number so we can stop this €2,000 transfer from your account.”
It was at this point that my friend became a little upset. Maybe her voice got a bit trembly. Maybe she began to sound a little confused.
“I wouldn’t really be good at all with that computer stuff,” she said with a certain hesitancy. “It’s – it’s just that I don’t really understand…”
“That’s quite okay,” said Dave from the bank, perfectly calmly, “I promise you I can stop this transfer and save you €2,000. All I need is your bank account details.”
“My bank account details?” My friend started to sound rather faint.
“Yes please,” said Dave from the bank. “Please, I just need your bank account details. First of all, if you could just confirm to me your account number. ”
“It’s just… It’s just, well,” she said, “It’s just that I usually leave that kind of thing to my son.”
“Your… son?” asked Dave from the bank.
“Yes,” said my friend. “My son. You see, my son handles all my accounts.”
“Yes, my son. He’s a Garda.
“Actually, Dave, he’s here now, as it happens. I’ll just put him onto you.”
Funnily enough, it was at this point that the line went dead.
This happened last week in Cork, but calls like this happen pretty much everywhere. Clever, ruthless and downright nasty criminals are constantly trying to scam innocent people. If you get an unsolicited call or email – hell, even if you get what sounds or looks like a solicited call or email – asking anything about your financial details, always, always, always assume it’s a trick.
The thing to remember is this: the bank will simply never, ever, contact you and ask for your account details over the phone or online. Why would they? They’re the bank. They have your account details right there in front of them.
If there really was an issue with your account, they will err on the side of caution and freeze it in a second.
From the section of the AIB’s website warning on fraud: “The bank will never request you make payments from your account. The bank will never request your security details.”
Anyone who contacts you asking for your account details is – quite simply – scamming you.
By the way, my friend does not have a son who is a Garda. She’s just really smart and has great presence of mind.
Please tell your loved ones to be careful.