'They were very good with words': How fake cop tricked Telford woman out of £3,800
"I don't trust people much. I double check myself all the time now. I'm not stupid, but you can redirect people with words and they were very good with words."
Within just a few minutes, one Telford woman went from being told by a 'police officer' that she had been a victim of a crime to seemingly finding herself at the centre of a conspiracy involving fake bank notes.
The rollercoaster conversation rang alarm bells, but soon she found herself handing over nearly £4,000 in cash to a courier at her gate.
The woman, who is in her sixties and asked not to be named, said it was easy to think you couldn't be fooled, but that the criminals taking advantage of people every day were experts at manipulation.
She is not alone in falling victim to a scam. West Mercia Police said there has been an increase in fraudsters pretending to be from emergency services, including the fraud squad.
"I answered the phone and someone who said his name was DC Alan Nash said there had been activity on my bank account and that someone had used my details to buy a television," said the victim.
"I always trusted the police. I've had dealings with them before and they've always been helpful to me. I just did as he said."
'DC Nash' was very thorough and very supportive. He talked her through what had happened and advised her in detail as to what would happen next.
He even offered proof of who he was. He gave an officer number and, when she asked him for further proof before talking about her bank accounts, he offered an easy solution.
She was told to call 999 and ask to be put back through to him. After the phone went dead, she called the number and seemed to be put through accidentally to a woman in the ambulance control office, who rediverted her back to the police.
But the original call had never ended, and the fraudsters were just passing around the phone.
When she was back with the 'police', the conversation gradually took a twist.
"He told me he didn't want my PIN," she said. "He told me I must never give out my PIN. He was trying to make me feel safe.
"I checked the cards, and they were all there. He asked me to check my bank, to make sure all the money was there. I was literally shaking – I thought someone had stolen my money."
Through subtle questioning, DC Nash not only found out how much money the woman had, but how many bank accounts, whether she owned jewellery or bonds, all under the guise of being helpful.
While questioning her, he started to convince her that something was going wrong at the banks in Wellington and that she would be the ideal candidate to help.
The banks were issuing false bank notes, they told her, and by going undercover she could help prevent others from being scammed.
"I thought it was all legitimate," she said. "He told me there was a group of people taking money and targetting people at the bank, and he led me to believe I was going undercover.
"I asked him how I knew I wasn't going to get attacked. He told me they'd be with me every step of the way, that I was helping him and therefore helping society. They really just wanted me to get the money."
It was a long walk to the bank. Without actually saying anything, the scammer had his victim paranoid about everything around her. She was constantly looking over her shoulder, egged on by DC Nash, who was listening in via her mobile phone. He never said anything, but stayed on the line "for her protection".
She visited two banks and withdrew a total of £3,800. Neither bank questioned why she was taking out so much money.
Once she was home, DC Nash told her to read the serial numbers off each note. She did, although he offered little feedback and no explanation.
She was told to separate out the different notes and put them in a plain box for a courier to pick it up. She was still having doubts, but knowing the man could arrive at any minute, didn't know what to do.
He came, he collected the cash and left with barely a word. The victim barely slept that night, and called the police the following morning.
The experience has left her worried about new people, and second guessing even those that she is close to.
Even a year and a half after it happened, she still does not feel she has fully recovered.
The culprits have not been caught.
Today she said she wanted others to learn from her mistakes and to stay safe.
"I don't know how they sleep at night," she said.
"I'd have had more satisfaction taking the money and burning it. At least I'd have done it intentionally.
"I'd had people call me up and try and get me to do things. I had never fell for it. But they got me while I was vulnerable.
"They know how to manipulate people, and I sit and think of them laughing at me. It's bad about the money, but it's more that they got me than anything."
- For information about staying safe or to report a scam visit actionfraud.police.uk or call 0300 123 2040.