‘Families must be aware’ – Thieves steal £50,000 from man with dementia in ‘complex’ scam
- Credit: Archant
The son of a 75-year-old man who had more than £50,000 stolen in a complex gift card scam has made an appeal for families to be aware of the “widespread” con.
Graham Wynn has seen much of his life-savings disappear after being targeted by the scam, which is believed to have been carried out by a call centre in India.
Mr Wynn, who suffers from dementia, was initially contacted by the centre in July last year and over the following 12 months has been asked to hand over thousands in gift card vouchers.
Mr Wynn’s son, Ian, who lives in Kesgrave, said that his dad has received calls from more than 50 numbers which all appear to be from the same group of people.
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The group claimed they were organising a number of different insurance and funeral plans, applying online with real life companies.
They would demand a premium for their work and would ask Mr Wynn to buy vouchers for a variety of different companies such as Amazon and Google Play.
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After buying the cards, which would sometimes be worth £1,000, Mr Wynn would be asked to scratch off and read out the specific code on the back to them over the phone. The scammers would then place these codes on auction websites for them to be sold, freeing up the credit as cash.
The group would continuously call up Mr Wynn, offering a range of different products until his daughter found vouchers worth around £2,000 when she visited him at Christmas 2019.
At one point Mr Wynn had 79 different real-life insurance accounts worth more than £1,500 a month in direct debits.
The family reported the incident to the police and thought that the issue had been resolved, however, when lockdown began the calls intensified.
This time, the scammers had told Mr Wynn that he was owed £20,000 by his bank for a PPI claim.
They told him that, to receive the cash, he would need to again pay them through vouchers.
They would tell Mr Wynn, who lives in Lincolnshire, that he would need to wait for the cheque to be delivered to his home, but when it did not arrive they gave him an excuse, which involved him paying more money.
Due to his dementia, Mr Wynn would go to sleep and forget about the previous day and so this patten repeated for several months. In total, his son thinks that he has definitely lost more than £54,000 to the scam.
But the true amount, which he said will never be known, is probably “well above” £60,000.
‘Families need to be aware of this’
Ian Wynn is now hoping to raise awareness about the scam, which he believes is widespread across the UK.
He said: “The way they get to the elderly and vulnerable is they ring them up, befriend them and groom them. They gain their trust and then exploit it. It is a complicated, sophisticated scam and they must be earning millions from it.
“The point we need to drive is to get families aware of this scam.
“Its even more difficult when you aren’t there and that’s why it was continuing to happen during lockdown. Families need to be aware of this. This is so widespread. It isn’t just happening in Lincolnshire it’s also happening in London and in Suffolk.”
He is also asking for measures to be put in place by retailers to ensure that people like his father cannot be allowed to continuously purchase the vouchers.
A number of stores have already taken action, bringing in limits for the amount that can be bought on gift cards and the number of cards that can be bought per person.
“Most importantly, the retailers are the ones that are facilitating this scam,” he said.
“It makes my blood boil. There needs to be measures in place to stop this happening because people are losing a lot of money to these scammers.”
What have the police said?
Lincolnshire Police told the BBC this week that they are investigating the case.
Sgt Cherry Kelly from the Economic Crime Unit said cases like Mr Wynn’s were “vastly under-reported”.
“I think the reason is the fact that people don’t initially realise that it’s a scam that they are involved in and then when they do know, they’re embarrassed about the fact they’ve been drawn into it, so they are failing to report it to us,” she said.