Alice Allen and her husband live in Somerset, and in the middle of the pandemic, the pair received a phone call out of the blue. The caller said they were from the fraud department of Lloyds Bank – the provider the pair saved money with.
They informed Alice various accounts were being accessed by unscrupulous bank staff who were stealing money directly from her account.
She was then passed to two men who claimed to be from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
Alice told the BBC’s Rip off Britain: “They got me to help them to get these criminals arrested. They created a sense of civic duty within me.”
When a suspicious Alice asked for identification, the caller told the couple to visit the FCA website to cross-check the telephone number with the one which appeared on their handset.
READ MORE: Pension warning as Rishi Sunak to harvest £6billion from savers
However, this is another scam technique known as number spoofing, where fraudsters can replicate a genuine phone number to add legitimacy to their claims.
Alice spoke with the supposed FCA officials over several days, building up a rapport with them, and almost a friendship. Her husband was also convinced the contact was legitimate.
She said: “There was a sense of urgency. They were always extremely polite and charming with a human touch.
“He rang me early in the morning to tell me about a wonderful cafe at the foot of the FCA building.”
To add further legitimacy to the calls, the scammers also sent Alice papers with FCA-headed paper, reeling her in even further.
Over 50s urged to act on state pension, inheritance tax and pension [EXCLUSIVE]
State pension entitlement alert for people with more than one job [INSIGHT]
Scam warning as woman, 59, loses £48,000 by ‘sharing screen’ [WARNING]
To stop the supposed scammers, Alice was told to visit her bank to transfer her money to a safe account.
As she was told the bank staff were corrupt, the callers told her to answer questions in a certain way.
However, this was simply a ruse for the scammers to attempt to bypass the bank’s security checks.
Alice continued: “I was being controlled, my mind was being controlled as they were just too clever.
“They had an answer for everything, a plan, and made it look like they were taking good care of me. They had my complete trust.
“He told me exactly what to say. He groomed me. It was like a movie.”
The staff at Lloyds Bank, however, were incredibly suspicious of the transfer, and alerted the police to the matter.
When the police visited, Alice stuck to the scammer’s story: that she was moving funds for her changing investment plans.
The callers then came up with a solution to the delays of funds, telling Alice she would need to transfer £25,000 out of each of her accounts daily, in a process which took three weeks.
But once the money hit the accounts of the scammers, they used it to buy untraceable Bitcoin and made off with her hard-earned cash.
Alice only realised she had been conned when her son visited. Looking into the email correspondence, he discovered the address she had been contacting was a fake, with only a slight difference to the real email.
Recalling her shock, she said: “I lost £525,000 in total. I just fell apart, I couldn’t believe what I’d done. It was devastating. Because I knew I’d lost all that money – and it was my fault.”
While Alice was able to get back £98,000 worth of her money, the remaining sum – £427,000 – has been lost forever.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has said it never contacts people to part with their money.
Lloyds Bank expressed their sympathies for Alice’s situation, but stressed it would never ask someone to move money into a safe account, or to give a false reason for moving money.
The bank said it did everything in its power to alert Alice, speaking to her in branch, writing to her with its concerns, and involving the police.
Lloyds said it did everything it could to block payments, speaking to her in branch, writing to her, and involving the police.
Alice concluded: “I have to carry on with life, and I do have the support of my family. But I have to put it to one side and carry on.”
Rip Off Britain continues weekdays at 9.15am on BBC One.