Consumer: Hang up on new ‘nasty’ prank callers

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Malicious callers have turned mean in a bid to scare people into handing over their bank details. One woman tells Sophie Hazan how she fought back

a malicious new cold calling scam that targets consumers in a bid to get their bank details has arrived in Leeds.

Katie Pearson, 30, a shop assistant who works in the city centre, has first hand experience of the nasty con after she was threatened with court action unless she cleared a debt she knew nothing about.

The aggressive phone tactics left her shaken and in tears, and now she wants to make sure that no-one falls for the trick - as she nearly did.

Katie, who lives in north Leeds, said: “I was shaken and upset but now I am really angry that someone made me feel like this.

“When someone is telling you that you’re being taken to court, and are threatening to turn up to your place of work to issue court papers, it is really scary.

“I paid off my debts years ago but they had me doubting myself.”

The con, which is well-documented by dozens of other ‘victims’ online, seems to work in three stages.

Katie was called by a woman using a Leeds number to tell her that she urgently needed to make a call as she was about to be taken to court as she owed £298.

The caller sounded Filipino, according to Katie, and claimed to be a legal secretary.

She knew Katie’s full name, personal mobile number and email address and refused to answer any questions.

Katie made the call to the London number she had been given where a man with an Asian accent, who called himself Michael Carter of IMS Legal Services, answered.

He told her to not ask any questions until he had finished explaining the situation, which Katie now says suggested he was reading from a script.

He could not explain who she owed the money to but said that it was a cheque that had bounced in April.

She was told that someone would serve papers at her work address the next day at midday and rang off.

But Katie called back, and asked him to talk to her solicitor friend. The caller hung up and refused to speak again, despite Katie’s best attempts.

To date, no-one has issued court papers, and Katie has since reported the call to West Yorkshire Police.

Having read about other people’s experiences Katie suspects that this is a sophisticated phishing scam.

She expects she was due to receive another call offering her the ‘opportunity’ to settle the alleged debt out-of-court, by handing over her bank details.

Katie said: “Apparently I had a debt of £298 after a cheque had bounced. I haven’t owned a chequebook for years and ‘Michael Carter’ couldn’t tell me who I owed the money to.

“He was very confident and cocky and got me questioning myself, as I did have debts a few years ago, but they are paid off.

“They were clever and used words such as court and debt and made sure I knew they knew where I worked.”

Dozens of members of online chatroom WhoCallsMe, which lets consumers share tips and information about nuisance calls, have reported similar experiences.

Many say they have been told they are owed money to UK Cash Advance.

Almost all are told that there is a court summons out against them - with a few warned that they have committed fraud and will be arrested by the police.

Numbers given either have a dialling code 0203 (inner city London) or 0208 (Greater London).

Pranksters use the names Michael Carter, Kevin Johnson and Norman Foster, and claim to work for a law firm such as IMS Legal Services or Franklin Rhodes - neither of which exist.

If you receive a suspected prank phone call report it to Consumer Direct on 08454 040506, Action Fraud on Freephone 0300 123 2040 and/or West Yorkshire Police on 0845 60 60 606.

PIC: Simon Hulme

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