Hackers scam life savings from mum who worked NHS shifts during lockdowns

A mum of two who has worked hospital shifts throughout the pandemic has had her life savings taken by bank scammers.

Gemma Buist, 28, a health care assistant from Southport was duped by sophisticated fraudsters two weeks ago, Liverpool Echo reports.

A few days earlier she received a call from somebody asking about new direct debits and assumed the caller was from her bank.

Gemma, who works in the spinal unit at Southport Hospital, said: "All they said was direct debits had been set up and could I authorise them.

"I told them no as that was nothing to do with me and that was the end of the conversation."

Gemma – who has two children, Zack, eight, and Lilly, two – then received another call in the middle of a 12-hour shift a few days later.

She told the Echo: "I got a call to say look, it's happened again, someone's targeting you. I was stressed and I said it needs sorting quickly as I'm at work.

"I was worried that somebody was trying to take my money as it seemed to keep happening.

"They were talking me through some questions and I asked is this genuine, and they said to check the back of your debit card to see if it's the same number. I said fair enough."

Gemma said the details the person on the phone gave seemed to match with her account and on both occasions, the call she received seemed to be from her own bank's telephone number.

She said: "They said we'll set up a new account for you to move your money over.

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"So I sent two transfers to this new account and they said in two or three hours your money will show up in the new account, we'll get it all done and it'll all be set with your account details when you go into your online banking.

"After about five or ten minutes after the call I kept checking and then later on I called the bank I said what's happening, it's not changed over yet and they said that wasn't us."

Scammers had cloned Gemma's bank's phone number and through a convincing act – claiming they were trying to protect her account from a previous fraud attempt – they managed to steal all her savings in minutes.

The fraudsters took £2,420 of her own money and also cleared out Gemma's untouched overdraft of £2,000.

Gemma said: "All the money was to cover bills and it's been a nightmare. My bank has had to lock my online banking so I've had no access to see if things have been going in or out.

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"I've not had money for food shops or everyday costs like getting a taxi into work or lunch.

"I'm now trying to make some money back, so a planned trip to take the kids to Edinburgh in the school holidays that's now been cancelled. I'm doing everything to try and get a bit of money.

"I cancelled my hair appointment and told the hairdresser I couldn't come because I'd been scammed and she said don't be daft, I'll do if for nothing but I said no, I can't do that.

"People have been really good but I don't like having to owe anyone."

Sadly, despite the convincing fraud, Gemma's bank has said she is liable for all the money that has been lost, including the overdraft which she will also have to pay the interest on.

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