A nurse has lost thousands of pounds after thinking she was sending her son money to pay his bills.
Toni Parker, 53, was targeted by a scammer who claimed they were her son, and had got a new phone number because he had dropped his phone down the toilet.
The mum-of-four, who received the messages on July 9, believed she was talking to her eldest child who is currently serving in the RAF.
Toni, from Wolverhampton in the West Midlands, said: ‘The first message came at 8.20am and I was excitedly packing for our long awaited trip to Cornwall.
‘It was general chit chat at first, but then the messages went on to say they needed to borrow money and had no access to their account.
‘I asked what it was for and I even asked why I couldn’t send it to him directly and he said he had no internet banking because of his broken phone. They were very convincing.
‘I love my kids and if they text me in need I will help them, who wouldn’t help their own children?
‘These scammers know this and I think they are purposely targeting mothers because it is our natural instinct to help.’
She sent across two payments of £1,980 and £450.
Toni added: ‘The messages were very believable and these scammers are using an emotional connection to catch you off your guard.’
It wasn’t until she and her husband Doug were travelling to Cornwall later that morning that Toni told their younger son about the messages.
The 17-year-old quickly became concerned it was a scam, and when Toni checked the WhatsApp messages had disappeared.
She immediately contacted her bank but they told her there was nothing they could do.
‘I feel really let down by their response,’ Toni said.
‘The bank account I paid in to was emptied within minutes so they can’t reverse the payment – or trace it.
‘These scammers are very clever but I am angry the banks allow people to get away with this, opening and closing accounts so easily that they can’t be traced.’
She claimed Halifax told her she ‘should have been more careful’.
‘They told me I should have known it was a scam and they declined my refund,’ Toni added.
‘I do feel stupid but due to his job, my son is hard to contact so the messages didn’t seem that odd.
‘The bank asked why I didn’t call my son to check, but you can’t just call people in the RAF whenever you feel like it.
‘In my line of work, I don’t refuse to help people who have hurt themselves, I wouldn’t call them stupid or tell them they should have been more careful.’
She said although the couple still went on holiday, it affected their enjoyment of it.
Toni said: ‘I was in bits, I felt sick to my stomach but our holiday was paid for and we would have lost that money too, so we decided to carry on.
‘We had to be thrifty with our spending money as there was absolutely nothing we could do about our lost cash.
‘I know we have lost the money and it makes me feel very upset but by talking about it I have realised how common these scams are now.’
She posted online to warn others and was shocked to find a couple just streets away from where they live had fallen victim to the same scam.
Toni said: ‘It may not be a lot of money to some people, but it is to us. I have worked so hard, especially during the pandemic and we were saving for a new boiler and someone stole our savings in less than 10 minutes and got away with it so easily.
‘It has been such a distressing time for us all and I want to share our horrible experience to stop it happening to other people.
‘It is an international scam and the banks are aware of it and I think they need to do more to protect their customers.’
She warned: ‘If anyone you know sends you a message and tells you it is their new number, ask them to tell you something they would know. Be sure you know who you are talking to because it could cost you thousands.’
A spokesperson for Halifax said: ‘Helping keep our customers’ money safe is our priority and we have a great deal of sympathy for Mrs Parker as the victim of a scam.
‘We fully investigate each individual case and unfortunately she did not take any steps to verify that the message she received from a number she didn’t recognise was genuine.
‘She went on to authorise the payments despite receiving a “confirmation of payee” warning that the account details provided did not match.
‘It’s crucial for people to remember that fraudsters can easily pretend to be someone else to trick people into sending cash from their bank accounts.
‘Treat any cold calls and messages with caution and take care when making payments, especially when checks say that details don’t match.’
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