Biographical Non-Fiction posted May 26, 2023

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A public shaming!


by Debbie D'Arcy

It was May 16th, our wedding anniversary. I had a lovely bunch of flowers, the weather was balmy and we had nothing much planned for the day which was quite welcome. Unbeknown to me, however, someone else did – a total creep and complete stranger - had been doing a lot of planning, intent on his own celebratory gift – one at our expense!

I hadn’t thought I was that naïve and gullible, especially having been a Probation Officer for twenty-five  years! But this day proved it in spades. The evening before, I had belatedly opened a text, purportedly from my daughter, in which it said:

“I’m having a bad day phone’s broke, please text me on this number……”

I did just that, enquiring if she was now ok. My thinking had been – crisis probably over by now; she's good at resolving issues. It should be noted here that things had been a bit tense between us over the  preceding days and I was relishing a bit of calm. So I didn’t ring her (first mistake). Obliviously, by responding to the text, I’d just been hooked– all softened and ready for the big catch!

The following morning – our wedding anniversary day – I checked my phone. Another text:

“Yes, I’m ok (smiley face) glad you messaged me not had a good day yesterday.”

Then, shortly afterwards:

“I’ve had all my bank accounts blocked, I tried to update my number online and they’ve blocked my number saying that I have to go into the branch to confirm it’s me so I’ve booked an appointment but it’s not until 3.00 p.m. I have to pay a bill today and it’s for £840 worried I’ll get overcharged. Could you pay it if I send you the invoice now? I’ll have it sent back to you Thursday x”

This sounded strange. If such a crisis and with a less myopic response on my part, I should have realised that she would have contacted me by phone. But I still didn’t ring my daughter (second mistake). I know, Dear Reader, you’ll be pulling your hair out at this stage and I deserve all the abuse you might wish to sling at me. There was no excuse. Even saying I was busy and distracted (which I was) and she has a tendency to panic (which she  does) seems so utterly tame now when I think about the money involved. And I replied:

“Course I can.” (Third mistake)

The bait had been well and truly swallowed. There must have been a whoop of delight as the rat dared to realise the imminent success of his plan.

 “Thank you I’ll send you the invoice now x”

And so he did. Interestingly, his name was Charlie Scannell – so close to scammer you couldn’t make it up! But no bells rang for me (fourth mistake). I enquired:

“Is it personal and, if so, what for?”

It seemed uncharacteristic that she was paying an individual a bill. But not unusual enough for me! I was overruling all sound rationale in favour of resolving the issue as quickly as possible. (fifth mistake) Rat was now getting worried, hence more urgency and spelling error in text (noticeably passable grammar had preceded):

“Yes it’s personal and I borrowed of him a few months ago I need to pay it today.”

I was now on the banking site with the usual precautions being outlined but I overlooked them, utterly convinced I was communicating with my daughter (sixth mistake). I enquired:

“Is this ok Kate? Bank wants details, doesn’t recognise the account as a business one so is querying this. But I can proceed.”

“Yes, it’s ok I promise.” (slight detection of pleading introduced)

I texted: “They’re being super cautious and checking for a scam. I may use another account  if a problem.”

At this point, the rat was definitely getting worried that, just when he thought this job had been constructed with ease, could this now throw a spanner in the works?  In addition, he interpreted my text as meaning that he was the one who would have to provide an alternative bank account.

More impatience from him followed:

“What do you mean? I don’t have another account I’ve paid him before with these details.”

Within seconds, the transaction went through and I texted: “All done!” ‘Done’ being the operative word here for me! Not content with this, he texted:

“Okay thank you can you send me a screenshot so I can confirm it with him?”

That screenshot never got sent. Well, at least, not to him. I texted to say it had gone to Kate’s email address which immediately alerted him (if not me yet!) to the fact that our little cosy exchange was now about to be exposed. He had no time to lose! When Kate subsequently rang me totally bemused by her email, the realisation that I had been scammed hit me like a ton of bricks. After all I thought I understood about this despicable practice, I had just become one of that multitude of victims who you always think should have known better!

So this has been an extremely embarrassing (if slightly cathartic) confession for me. Public shaming of oneself, by its very nature, isn’t a comfortable experience and, personally, right now, I’d call for the stocks to be brought back so that the job could be done properly. You see, there’s a double whammy here: not only have you just been robbed of a significant sum of money but also you have beaten yourself up to a pulp in the process for being so utterly. incontrovertibly foolish! But I suppose there’s always a chance that my account might prevent a similar scam being carried out on someone else and my experience will not be entirely in vain. I sincerely hope so.

The bank, Santander, has been amazingly supportive and assured me that this kind of criminal activity tends to target parents with grown-up children, accustomed to their role of Bank of Mum and Dad. Scammers know this and, often disturbingly, as in my case, the age and circumstances of the children. That said, my failure to ring my daughter over so many opportunities and verify the facts was brainless and ultimately key in allowing this fraud to be perpetrated.

The issue with the screenshot for these fraudsters is an important one because beneficiary banks (in the UK)  have a duty to investigate any suspicious amount paid into an account and, without the screenshot, the fraudster would not be able to give the bank the necessary details, if asked, concerning the provenance of the payment.  Fortunately, that screenshot was never received, more by luck than better judgment!


Fortunately, for me, some  six weeks after this scam, the bank reimbursed me my total loss, a large  percentage having come from the offender's account. It was, of course, a huge relief, although I'm now left feeling deeply suspicious of every message received, which is probably the right way to be. I'm in the process of trying to challenge with the bank what is inevitably a punishment for being victimised in this way. They have put a limit on all bank transfers which means that, in order to pay my tax, I was obliged to do it in 9 separate transactions, each requiring a banking code. The system then blocked me, unhappy with the number of payments going through! As if a fraudster would go to all that trouble to pay off the government. It seems  computers, in their wisdom, can't make certain exceptions. I remain on a 2 year probation period!

Happy Anniversary eh?


Share Your Story contest entry


I know that probably much of the above will be patently obvious to a lot of people but I just wanted to convey my experience as clearly as possible just in case it might prevent just one similar fraud. I repeated the text messages verbatim to help in that aim, not least because of the way these fraudsters will inevitably adapt their textspeak to fit the person whose identity they are assuming. Hence, the disturbing reality that they may know far more about the person concerned.
Lastly, another reason I wrote about this incident - and of course there are far worse crimes and experiences than mine - but I've always found it helps to distance yourself from something unpleasant in this way and almost become a third party.
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