Suspicious clerk saves the day after conmen demand money from pensioner

Fraudsters tried to con an 89-year-old woman out of £1,500 – but were thwarted by quick thinking building society staff.

The victim, who lives on her own in the Hastings and Rother area, was asked for the exorbitant sum by conmen carrying out minor work on her TV aerial.

They drove her to a branch of Nationwide – but a suspicious clerk refused to hand over the cash without a valid invoice for the work, which couldn’t be produced.

A spokesperson for UK Finance, which represents the banking industry, said the victim appeared muddled over details and descriptions of the workers.

“It is highly suspicious that suspects have quoted an exorbitant price and have not carried out the work that is required,” they said. “She was provided with support and safeguarding from police officers and Victim Support.”

The spokesperson told Hastings-in-Focus that the woman had gone to an appliance store for help with the aerial that wasn’t working.

“When she got home, two males she believes were in the shop at the time, attended her address in a white, unmarked van,” said a spokesman. “They offered to fix the aerial.”

However, they didn’t provide a quote before starting work and only went on the roof briefly, before returning the next day.

“They have told her they had filled in some holes in her roof with cement and re-placed some chimney pots,” said the spokesman. “They said they needed a part for the aerial and that payment of £1,500 was required to complete the work.”

The incident is among an incredible £816,917 of fraud in Sussex that was stopped in the first half of the year by police and bank staff, thanks to the Banking Protocol. 

This is a UK-wide scheme that enables bank branch staff to alert their local police force when they suspect a customer is being scammed.

PC Bernadette Lawrie, financial abuse safeguarding officer for Sussex and Surrey Police, said: “Bank branch staff do incredible work in flagging suspicious transactions to us and preventing the elderly and vulnerable falling victim to such dreadful scams.”

For more information about Operation Signature and how to protect yourself from fraud, see the website here.

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