Mum loses life savings after bank staff transfer £170,000 to scammers with ‘no questions’
Cath Mulalley says that she suffers panic attacks and does not know what to do after scammers stole £170,000 from her while she was in a New Zealand bank branch. After bank employees assisted in transferring £170,000 of her pension to a dubious investment scheme, a firefighter mom claims she has lost her “life savings.”
In 2008, Cath Mulalley, 55, relocated to Nelson, New Zealand with her husband Carl after quitting her career as a firefighter with the London Fire Brigade. However, the couple believed it would be good to obtain life insurance and put some of their assets into investments for their 10-year-old daughter Eva after Carl became unwell and was unable to work.
It came as no surprise to Cath when she received a call from a man posing as an investment advisor from Citibank in New Zealand a few days after submitting an online form for life insurance coverage in June.
Cath claims that no questions were asked when she visited the Bank of New Zealand (BNZ) branch in Nelson to make the transfer of $325,000 NZD (£170,000) to her new Citibank account.
She was dubious, though, when the con artists called her to claim that the money had not been received despite the fact that her bank account appeared to be empty.
She stated to ChargebackPros: “I felt it was unusual, so I checked my account, but none of my accounts had anything.
“When I called BNZ to ask them where the money was if it wasn’t with Citibank and wasn’t in my accounts, they kept moving me and putting me on hold.
I kept calling and demanded information until a man said he would call me back.
“Two days later, he finally contacted me back and said he had reported it to his boss because he felt something wasn’t right.
“Several days later, they informed me that it was a con.
“Except for pure panic, it’s difficult to express how I feel.
“I just don’t know what I’m going to do, therefore I get panic attacks.
I was in shock in the days that followed and worked consecutive day and night shifts up until I had a major breakdown and was sent home.
Only $67,000 (£35,000) was recovered by BNZ after tracking down the recipient account, which showed out to be a real company account in Australia that had been hacked.
Despite failing to recognize the scam during the transfer, Cath claims that BNZ has now asserted that “there is nothing they can do” to reimburse or recover the remaining funds.
The transfer on the branch iPad was made with assistance from one of BNZ’s bankers, according to a letter to Cath obtained by Us.
When Cath presented her UK bank, Halifax, with the fake documents she had been handed by the scam artist, staff members told her there was “no way they would have transferred the money.”
She uttered: “He said after taking a quick glance at the documentation that there were so many warning signs that they would never have gone through with it.
“Although it wouldn’t be clear to a customer, he said that the bank staff would have been immediately suspicious.
“Even though I’ve sent sizable sums of money before when we left the UK, I felt anxious about transferring such a sizable sum this time.
“I expected the bank to check the transfer and account details because that’s what you would expect from any bank you trusted with your money,” the customer said.
Friends of Cath have now started a GoFundMe in an effort to support the family as they deal with the Cost of Living crisis in total limbo.
Carl is still too sick to work as a result of an unfavorable neck surgery reaction, and the family claims that their house is disintegrating.
“I don’t know when Carl will be able to work again, and I’ve lost almost all of my pension from the London Fire Brigade,” Cath added.
“Because I knew we would eventually renovate the house, I had always managed to live there, but now we can’t afford to.
I once saw a light at the end of the tunnel, but it is now gone.
Cath reported the scam to the New Zealand police, who claim they are looking into a number of well-known and sophisticated scams that target bank accounts in Australia and New Zealand.
Officers informed Cath that her case was the greatest sum ever stolen from a single victim in the nation.
According to a BNZ spokesman, significant effort was made to retrieve as much of Cath’s money as possible.
The spokesperson stated: “We have carefully examined the events that gave rise to this fraud and have met with all requirements set forth by New Zealand banking rules. We do not feel we could have done more to prevent it.
This type of scam relies on people believing that these looking genuine online relationships are what they claim to be. “This complex and elaborate fraud was launched when the customer unknowingly connected with a con artist during an online search for financial services.
“Unfortunately, before coming into our branch and asking our staff to help her finish the transaction, our consumer was naively bent on entering into a financial agreement with a scammer.
“The intended transaction was initiated by the customer, and neither the information and paperwork given nor the dialogue with our staff in the bank revealed any indication that it was a scam.
“Term deposit transfers like these are quite frequent within the banking industry as the transfer was being conducted to a valid New Zealand bank account number and a valid bank branch address was supplied.
The consumer “relied on the contact information and relationship already formed during the scam and called the scammer to validate the account” when our staff instructed the customer to call Citibank to confirm the transaction.
No organization is immune from impersonation, they continued, adding that these investment scams rely on people’s faith in well-known brands and closely resemble investment firms and banks.
“Anyone looking for financial services must contact investment firms through their official New Zealand-based websites and never via unauthorized Internet contacts, emails, links, phone numbers, or other information supplied to them directly.”
The best way to avoid impersonation fraud is to be aware of the red flags.
Here are some tips on how to prevent scams:
-Always check the sender’s name, email address, and phone number. If it looks suspicious, do not respond to it.
-Be careful of emails that look like they are from a company you know but actually aren’t, you can check their domain name in your browser’s address bar to make sure it matches their official website URL.
-If someone is asking for your personal information, Never share personal information over email, social media, or text message.
-Be very careful when sharing your bank account or credit card details with anyone online.
-make sure you’re always logging in to your accounts from a secure network
-Don’t trust anyone who contacts you out of the blue with an offer of money or other rewards, especially if they ask you to send them money first.
-One way you can protect yourself is by using two-factor authentication in addition to passwords. This means that when someone tries to log into an account, they have to provide a second form of identification like a text message with a code in order for it to work.
– Use common sense: if something seems fishy, it probably is!
This reveals that, while banks are trying to be as helpful and customer friendly as possible, the security protocols in place to prevent potential fraud are still not perfect.
It’s important to be aware of the risks of impersonation fraud when you’re conducting business online. Impersonation fraud occurs when a scammer pretends to be someone else, usually the owner of a company to secure payment for goods or services. If you suspect that someone has attempted to impersonate you or your organization, report it immediately to Chargebackpros. This will help us keep track of fraud trends and make sure that we can protect all of our customers from this type of scammer.