In March, I received a WhatsApp phone call from someone purporting to be a representative from my mobile provider O2.
He said as I’d been such a loyal customer for so many years I’d be given an upgraded Apple iPhone the next day at no extra charge.
It arrived as promised, but before I could open it, I received a call informing me it had been sent to the wrong address and could I forward it to somewhere in Bolton.
Bad call: An 84-year-old reader was tricked into paying for an expensive new iPhone after scammers told him her was getting a free upgrade
I had to go to the Post Office and then forward the caller a copy of the receipt. But when I later looked up my O2 account I found the full cost of the device had been added with an agreement I’d not authorised.
I phoned O2, who informed me it had no offices in Bolton but would look into matters. Now O2 is demanding I pay the outstanding credit agreement.
I am 84 and live on my own — it’s left me very stressed and unable to sleep.
C. P., Hythe, Kent.
Sally Hamilton replies: I am sorry to say you fell victim to a scam where crooks trick phone owners into believing they are being offered free upgrades when the reality is they are stealing the device for themselves. No legitimate provider would call a customer via WhatsApp. This should have been your first wake-up call.
But these tricksters are convincing. And it ended up with you being charged £1,385 for a new iPhone 13 Pro Max. You were also signed up for an ongoing deal of £37 a month. No wonder you couldn’t sleep.
When I asked O2 if it could help it passed the case to its fraud team and confirmed the deal had been arranged via its website.
The company concluded the fraudster had somehow gleaned your personal information.
This can happen through a data breach or details might have been bought from other crooks. It meant they had your mobile number, email and perhaps even bank details before phoning you.
The fraudsters then made a purchase on O2’s website. But an O2 spokesman explained that online orders cannot be placed simply by logging into its website. Individuals need to enter a one-time activation code sent to their phone.
To tighten security further, O2 now sends a text just before issuing the code, warning the recipient not to share it with anyone.
Unfortunately, you didn’t spot this — I suspect you were being distracted by the scammers’ chat — and you read out the code.
This enabled them to order the phone via your account. It was then sent to you, with the fraudsters swiftly intervening to ask you to ‘return’ it to another address.
O2 says it would never ask for packages to be returned this way. It would provide a pre-paid envelope, which would allow the package to be tracked.
As a goodwill gesture, O2 has cancelled the £1,385 upgrade on your account and returned you to your previous deal. It has also cleared your credit record. The firm has requested you change the password on your account.
Readers, beware. This type of scam is widespread and there is no guarantee your carrier will take the financial hit if you are duped.
Fraud prevention organisation Cifas says there are four key steps to guard against it: be wary of calls out of the blue; check bank accounts for suspicious transactions after any such contact; be sceptical if the caller tells you the wrong phone has been sent to you — and, finally, if a phone does need returning, only use an official pre-paid envelope from the company.
A genuine organisation would not ask its customers to head to the Post Office over its own delivery mistake.
Can’t claim autistic son’s Premium Bond prizes
I am having difficulty claiming Premium Bond prizes on behalf of my adult son who has autism and a learning disability.
He was bought a small amount of bonds as a baby and, during lockdown, for the first time in 34 years, he won two £25 prizes.
Over the past few months, I have been trying to claim them on his behalf. NS&I told me to put the issue in writing and it would be in touch.
I did this and my son also signed the letter. It explained that while he understands he has won a prize, he was unable to claim it due to his learning difficulties. Instead, I requested a cheque be made out to him that I could pay into his bank account. I also included evidence that I was my son’s appointee in financial matters.
After more calls I was told I must appoint a deputy under a court order to control my son’s account. This seems way over the top for two £25 prizes. Please help.
C.Y, Worthing, W. Sussex.
Sally Hamilton replies: I asked NS&I to look at what it could do to make it easier for you to retrieve your son’s Ernie winnings. It concluded that you would indeed be permitted to manage your son’s Premium Bond account and that the prizes be paid to you, so that you can manage proceeds on his behalf. It said it would write to you explaining this.
The proviso is that you will not be able to add to your son’s bond holdings without being appointed his deputy under a court order — and showing NS&I the documents to prove it.
For the same reason, you will not be able to manage his account online, even though you set this up last August.
You accepted this but, when I caught up with you last week to check progress, you had not heard a peep from NS&I. I gave it a second prod and, finally, the prize cheques were in the post.
NS&I apologised for the inconvenience caused by the situation not being resolved sooner.
You thanked me for my efforts and said that your son was chuffed to be an Ernie winner — even if he had to wait 34 years to have his bonds selected for a prize — plus several more months to actually receive the money.
- Write to Sally Hamilton at Sally Sorts It, Money Mail, Northcliffe House, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT or email [email protected] — include phone number, address and a note addressed to the offending organisation giving them permission to talk to Sally Hamilton. Please do not send original documents as we cannot take responsibility for them. No legal responsibility can be accepted by the Daily Mail for answers given.
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