A Burton woman has told how her 19 grandchildren would have gone without Christmas presents this year had she fallen victim to a frighteningly convincing scam which made her think she was talking to her daughter.
Christine Morgan, from Stapenhill, has warned others saying she was almost duped into selling her diamond engagement ring after a scammer posed as her daughter, sending a series of friendly texts over a number of days, before texting saying they were in desperate trouble and needed money urgently.
Mrs Morgan, 68, admits at first she was convinced she was talking with her daughter Marie but it was in fact a scam artist who pretended to be Marie after tricking her into revealing the names of her children. 'Marie' went on to say they were in trouble and needed to pay a £1,200 bill that same night and could she help.
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Mrs Morgan said she received a series of texts. The first one came from a number she did not recognise, but convincingly said: "Hey mum, this is my new number. You can delete my old number".
Mrs Morgan then replied, asking which of her children it was contacting her? The scammer cleverly replied: 'Who do you think?'. And unsuspectingly Mrs Morgan named all five of her children asking which one it was texting her, which applied the scammer to pick a name, saying they were 'Marie'.
In a flurry of friendly 71 texts between the pair over the next few days, Mrs Morgan thought she was speaking to her daughter. The scammer would seemingly innocently ask how she was and it all appeared plausible, she said looking back.
They then sent a text saying: "I can't make any online payments because of this temporary number but I need to pay an invoice today it must be done today. If it's not too much to ask could you please make that payment then I'll just pay you back on Monday." The scammer later said the bill was for £1,200.
Mrs Morgan said she replied apologising saying she had nowhere near that amount of money and questioned her 'daughter' about why she would need to pay a bill on Saturday night as businesses were not open at that time?
The scammer asked if Mrs Morgan had a credit card, which she did not. The grandmother thankfully did not hand over any bank details and the scammer did not contact her again at this point.
A few days later, Mrs Morgan texted the number asking how the bill had been paid the weekend before, but did not receive an answer. Instead, the scammer asked how much money Mrs Morgan had, saying she needed £1,000, adding they could not make calls and needed to buy a new phone.
Mrs Morgan asked why they did not use a pay phone and even said she could try to get someone else to help. But she was abruptly told by the scammer to '**** off'.
Concerned Mrs Morgan then got in touch with Marie's son and was told she had not texted her at all.
After looking online, she realised it had been a scam and many other people across the UK had fallen for it.
She said: "It was such a clever con. If I had £1,200 I would have sent it over.
"If we sent it over it would have taken weeks or months to catch up again. It would have wiped us out.
"I have 19 grandchildren and they would have all gone without Christmas presents this year."
Mrs Morgan has now contacted Staffordshire Police and Action Fraud.
What to do
If you receive one of these text messages stop and think before taking immediate action.
If your child or loved one was in hospital, they would never be forced to use another person’s mobile phone as staff would easily be able to contact you.
Don’t send any voucher code top-ups or money and don’t reply with any personal details or information.
One easy way to check if the text you receive is a scam is to just contact your child or loved one directly on their normal number. Chances are they will pick up their phone or text you back.
If you’re still unsure you might want to call the unrecognised number, or ask for more information and try to get the fraudsters to trip up on their own lies.
To report a fraud and receive a police crime reference number, call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.
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