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Lloyds Bank has issued a scam warning to its customers after a woman lost all her savings and can’t afford to return home. Bhumi Pahilajani fell victim to an impersonation scam which saw scammers pretending to be from a global company.
After finishing her degree, Ms Pahilajani signed up for a platform that allows freelancers to be contacted by hiring companies after she saw a friend post about it on social media.
She was contacted by an account appearing to be offering her work at a global company that offers remote work in a number of fields.
She made arrangements with those who contacted her and believed she had started working on a project worth around £1,000.
Before starting work, she was asked to pay deposits into an account, which she was told would allow her to be paid for her work.
Ms Pahilajani told the ECHO: “There were 25 pages that I was supposed to write and they would pay me £40 per page.
“The contract said something about a deposit, but it said this would be refunded once your project is completed so they sent me a contract and I signed it and made the deposit.”
She claimed the scammers were asking her to place hundreds of pounds of deposits into an account in order to verify her as an employee so she could be paid eventually.
This came to a head when she was told she had accrued around £2,800 in wages but was told that only accounts with balances of £4,000 or more would be paid.
She continued: “Another person started asking me for other deposits to cover international transactions. Then asked me for hundreds. Then suddenly their finance department goes into auditing but they would not tell me about this.
“I received an email which said it was only processing payments above £4,000. Mine was around £2,800 along with the previous deposits. So, they said I could wait three months or top up my account to £4,000, so they would pay it out.
“I couldn’t wait for three months because my plan was to go back home to India and visit my family. So I paid them £1,200 again to top up my account to £4,000 but this never came back.”
The graduate was asked to pay the difference, so she did and expected to be paid her wages in return.
However, she was then told more funds had to be sent to cover transactional fees. At this point, Ms Pahilajani could not afford to send any more money.
Bhumi lost £2,444 in deposits and payments to the scammers, believing she was due to be paid £2,800 in wages. As a result, she had depleted her savings and could no longer afford to visit family at home in India.
She added: “They kept on asking for more. I said my bank balance was basically gone, I couldn’t pay them more.
“I’m devastated, it’s taken all my savings. I’ve saved this money over the past two years so I wanted to save it for further education – I want to do a Master’s, I want to do a PHD.
“I wanted to go back home and see my family. I’m furious, I still receive messages from them and other people saying they’re from the global company. I’m not paying them any more.”
Lloyds Bank explained that impersonation scams are very common amongst students especially.
This is when someone is convinced to make a payment or give personal financial details to someone claiming to be from a trusted organisation such as the bank, a university, or a trusted place of work.
This type of scam sees victims lose an average of £1,457 and often begins with a phone call, text message or email.
They also could get in touch via social media, sending someone direct messages or creating posts.
Lloyds has given their top tips for staying safe:
- “Do research to check whether a deal or offer is genuine.
- “If friends or family contact you via social media or another messaging service asking for money, speak to them on a trusted number first.
- “Reputable companies won’t ask customers to pay money upfront to secure a loan, a job or for any other financial gain.
- “Your bank, the police or any other genuine organisation or company will never ask you to move your money to another account.”
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