I lost £60,000 in a telephone scam. If it can happen to me it can happen to anyone: Businessman reveals how he was tricked into handing over huge sum after fraudsters convinced him his family’s identity details had been stolen

A businessman from North London who organises lucrative football commercial deals has revealed how he was left feeling ‘devastated’ and guilty after losing almost £60,000 in a sophisticated telephone scam.

Gary Linke, 58, transferred the money after being tricked by scamsters into believing that his and his family’s identity details had been stolen and that the funds would be safer in new accounts created for them.

Part of the money belonged to his son Ollie, 17 who had just inherited £30,000 from his grandmother while £11,000 was set aside for his stepson Noa, 24 who suffers from severe autism.

Mr Linke told MailOnline: ‘When I realised that I had been scammed I was utterly devastated. It was the worst feeling in the world because I felt as if I had let my family down.

‘A lot of people are falling victim to these scams and I couldn’t believe that I had become one of them. I had sleepless nights because I couldn’t stop thinking about what had happened and the money I’d lost. It also made me quite ill. It’s been a very emotional time because we are still fighting to get our money back from the bank.’

Gary Linke, 58, transferred almost £60,000 to scammers after believing his banking details had been compromised

The scam began when Kate (pictured) received a text message she thought was from her son Ollie saying that he had lost his mobile phone and needed to buy another one for £1300

The scam began when Kate (pictured) received a text message she thought was from her son Ollie saying that he had lost his mobile phone and needed to buy another one for £1300

Mr Linke fell victim to what is known as authorised push payment fraud, or APP scam when individuals are tricked into sending a payment to someone who is not who they claim to be.

Fraudsters may pose as the victim’s bank, or even members of their family. The key to this scam is that the victim has ‘authorised’ the payment and voluntarily transfers the money.

Figures show that APP fraud for the first half of 2023 was up by 22% amounting to losses of almost £240 million.

In Mr Linke’s case, the scam started in February when his wife Kate received a text message she thought was from her son Ollie saying that he had lost his mobile phone and needed to buy another one for £1300.

Kate, 56 a special needs teacher who was at work at the time became immediately concerned and responded to the message.

She was asked to supply her bank details, which she did and made a payment of £1300 thinking that she was communicating with Ollie and that it was for his new phone.

Ironically, just a day earlier, he had told her that his mobile phone was broken and that he was going to get it repaired.

Kate said: ‘It was a tragic coincidence but Ollie’s phone was broken when they rang so I had no reason to doubt the message because a day before I encouraged him to buy one with the money left to him by his nan.’

Part of the money belonged to his son Ollie, 17, who had just inherited £30,000 from his grandmother while £11,000 was set aside for his stepson Noa, 24, who suffers from severe autism. Pictured: Noa and his mother Kate

Part of the money belonged to his son Ollie, 17, who had just inherited £30,000 from his grandmother while £11,000 was set aside for his stepson Noa, 24, who suffers from severe autism. Pictured: Noa and his mother Kate

Just minutes after making the payment, Kate then received a phone call from somebody claiming to be from the fraud department of First Direct, who she and Mr Linke bank with.

They informed her that the couple’s identities had been stolen and that a number of fraudulent transactions had already taken place while an £18,000 payment was also scheduled to go out later that day.

She said: ‘I took them at face value and thought this man was my knight in shining armour because he was doing all that he could to help me.

‘These are cunning people and I just fell for it. I told them to ring Gary because he normally deals with all the money matters.’

He then received a call from the same person telling him what needed to be done to ‘protect their money.’

The scammer advised Mr Linke to transfer the money from the couple’s First Direct account into two HSBC accounts which were being especially opened for them but were not in their name to ‘keep it safe.’

They also urged him to send money belonging to his son Ollie, who had just received £30,000 from his grandmother’s estate.

Once the money had reached these accounts, he was promised that he would be provided with all the details so that he could access the funds.

Mr Linke was asked to transfer this money via his Revoult account. In total, he sent £59,100 via the online money firm.

The businessman helps to arrange commercial deals for football clubs and organisations and has worked with the likes of PSG, Leeds United and the Football Association.

He said: ‘You could say that I should have known better because of my experience but I was caught up in the moment and just went into a mode where I wanted to save our money. As soon as they sense an opening, these scammers work on your emotions and put a lot of fear in you.

‘There was a lot going on at home, we were all very panicked and at the end of the day, it became difficult to think clearly because we all believed that we were about to suffer a major financial loss.’

It was while on the phone to First Direct’s ‘fraud’ team seconds after the transfers had been made, that he became suspicious.

Mr Linke asked for the name of the person he was speaking to and went onto Linkedin to check if it was authentic.

He said: ‘I found this person on Linkedin, he did work for First Direct but the voice on the phone didn’t match the picture of the person I was speaking to and it seemed fishy to me. So I said I’m going to call First Direct on the other line myself and speak to their fraud department.

‘This person then started begging me not to do this. But I did it anyhow. When I got through to First Direct I said to them: ‘I’m on the phone to your fraud department. Can you confirm this?’

‘They told me to immediately end the call to the other person, which I did. That’s when I realised that they were scamsters and I felt destroyed and devastated.’

Kate cried: ‘I felt absolutely crushed and shell shocked when I realised the enormity of what had happened.

‘Being scammed like this has left me feeling humiliated, embarrassed, stupid and very sad. We trusted this person, I even spoke to him about my mother who had recently passed away. The whole thing has been a devastating experience.’

Since then, the couple have been involved in a battle with the banks to reclaim their money.

First Direct informed Mr Linke that they could not assist because the funds had been sent from his Revolut account and it is their responsibility ‘to report the payments sent to HSBC and this would be investigated as a separate matter.’

They also claimed that he authorised the payments and that they were legally obliged to carry out his instructions.

Revolut informed Mr Linge that they would not be able to reimburse him as all security measures were in place when he made the transfers but that they are working with a ‘partner bank’ to try and recover them.

Mr Linge also raised concerns with HSBC over the two accounts opened by the scammers into which he transferred the money.

The bank informed him that soon after it arrived in them it was immediately moved to other banks but the accounts were ‘opened in line with our internal procedures which included the review of documents provided to support the account application.’

Mr Linge fumed: ‘You could say I’ve been naïve but I don’t understand how such established banks can do so little to help victims like me. I’m also concerned about the procedures they have in place to prevent fraud.’

Anti-fraud expert Fergal Parkinson of online security firm TMT ID said: ‘In this case the fraudsters happened to hit someone pretending to be a son messaging from a new phone – and that was exactly what this person expected to happen so it was immediately credible to them.

‘So when ‘the bank’ contacted them immediately that seemed plausible too.

‘Fraudsters are able to send thousands of these messages and only need one family to be in the right place to believe their story and they can still clean up.

‘It’s desperately sad for those involved.

‘But as always it’s a warning that you cannot take these things at face value.

‘Call the number and try to speak to the son. Check the bank are really calling you by ringing them back on a verified number that you normally use. Never transfer money without being certain where it’s going.’

There is some hope for Mr Linge in his efforts to get his money back.

New regulations due to come into effect in October will make it mandatory for banks and financial institutions to reimburse victims of APP scams.

First Direct have been contacted. 

A spokesperson from Revolut said: ‘We are very sorry to hear about Mr and Mrs Linke’s case, or any instance where our customers are targeted by ruthless and highly sophisticated criminals. We deploy many different interventions that are designed to break the spell of scammers and fraudsters. 

Mr Linke was provided with a number of targeted scam specific warnings when these transactions were identified as potentially fraudulent.

Despite multiple attempts by Revolut to intervene, our warnings were not heeded and the customer provided false information in order to continue with these transactions. We subsequently processed the transactions in line with our legal obligations and our customer’s instructions.

We urge our customers to always take stock of our warnings and respond to any interventions truthfully, as they are there to help protect their money.’

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