A 91-year-old ex-police officer who was swindled out of his life savings by phone scammers has been left “overwhelmed” – after an online campaign helped raise the £15k he lost.
Great-grandfather-of-three John Thompson was cruelly tricked into transferring three payments of £4,900 from an account he had saved into for more than 50 years.
It came after fraudsters posed as a local branch manager from his building society, Nationwide.
John had earmarked the money to help his inherited grandchildren Rosie Curry and Anna Brown – from his second marriage – get on to the property ladder.
Since the fraud took place in May this year, John had been unable to get a refund from Nationwide.
This is because the transaction was made using ‘Authorised Push Payment’, meaning he had moved the money himself rather than it being stolen out of his account.
In response, a local newspaper sponsored a crowdfunding page to help John raise the £14,700 he lost.
Amazingly, the target was smashed in a matter of days after the fund was set up on Wednesday, with donations ranging from £2 to £5,000.
John, who lives in Sprotbrough, Doncaster, South Yorks., said: “I’m overwhelmed, I think it’s a wonderful gesture from the public.
“My sole intention was to bring it to the attention of everyone so they didn’t fall into the same trap that I did.
“I never expected to recoup the money at all and it will go to my grandchildren.
“It’s achieved something, it’s got over to the public to see how awful it is to be scammed by these people.
“And for the fact that the banks do not have sufficient safeguard for it to be prevented.
“I would like to say a big thank you, it’s totally overwhelming. It’s going to help to put my grandchildren on a sure footing for a deposit for a house.
“There was one donation for £5,000 somebody who doesn’t even know me. I’m so overwhelmed and so pleased that I can do something for the grandchildren.”
John did, however, have a stark warning to other vulnerable people who may be targeted by scammers.
He added: “Be warned, be careful, be suspicious of any telephone call or any other approach from people who masquerade as people from your bank.
“Don’t listen to them, don’t be persuaded, put the phone down.
“If you have any doubt at all, ring the special number for your bank which you should have and confirm with your bank before you do anything at all.”
John had spent the last 50 years putting together the pot for his two inherited grandchildren from his second marriage.
He even sold a 20ft by 10ft model railway set in February this year to a society for around £7k – which had taken 15 years to build – to bolster his savings total.
John planned to give his two grandchildren Rosie and Anna half of his life savings each to put towards a deposit for a house.
The father-of-one had a call blocking software installed on his landline phone two years ago to screen unwanted calls.
John, who has been married to second wife Pat, 86, for 26 years, initially put the phone down on the fraudsters because he was suspicious and they didn’t sound genuine.
But the fraudsters used sophisticated methods to make it look like they were phoning from his bank’s local branch number and called back 20 minutes later posing as a manager.
The scammers – equipped with confidential details concerning John’s account – told him there had been a security breach.
He convinced the former electromechanical engineer, who served in the Kenya Police Reserve in Nairobi in the 1950s, to make three payments of £4,900 into a “safer” account.
John was tricked into transferring three payments of £4,900 each, which were taken out of his account in quick succession on May 23 this year.
Speaking last week, John said: “Of course, I was devastated and I thought I was rather foolish and gullible to be taken in by such sweet talk.
“You wake up in the middle of the night and all you can think about is the fact you have been so gullible and you’ve lost your money.
“It’s a scam, they are fraudsters and they are living on other people’s money. They pick on vulnerable people and take a chance. They were extremely convincing.
“It’s a lesson to anyone else who is likely to be a similar position. If my experience prevents a similar fraud occurring to anyone else then I have succeeded.”
John was seconded to East Africa where he served for four years as a part-time assistant inspector in the Kenya Police Reserve while based in Nairobi.
After returning to the UK, he joined the auxiliary fire service and served from 1958 to 1968 as a company commander.
He then worked as an electromechanical engineer until he retired aged 60.
The fundraising page will be closed on Sunday evening. To donate, visit www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/YorkshirePost-JonathanThompson