Gloria Hunniford (pictured above left), famed for her presenting on BBC TV show ‘Rip Off Britain’ & on ‘Loose Women’ had £120,000 fraudulently removed from her bank account by scammers who appeared to know her bank account number and sort code.
At the end of last week, the court heard that:
- An elderly lady (pictured above, right) entered a Santander branch in Croydon with ID showing she was ‘Mary Winifred Gloria Hunniford’, she was with a younger woman and an 18-year-old boy.
- Santander cashier Aysha Davis was asked by the family to put Alan Dowie, the 18-year-old boy, who she said was her grandson on to Ms Hunniford’s account because she had “a few bob” in there and had been ill so wanted the teenager as a signatory.
- Ms Davis (cashier) passed both driving licences under the UV scanner and both had illuminated correctly and then photocopied them.
- The process for adding the boy to the account had started.
- One form from the bank process went missing (unsure when)
- Within a day more than £100,000 had been removed from the account, with £80,000 being spent on Rolex watches.
Davis (cashier), of Streatham, south London, denied one count of conspiracy to defraud.
Dowie (18-year-old ‘grandson’), of Oxted, Surrey, has already pleaded guilty to the same charge.
Dillon (who laundered some of the cash from the scam), of Croydon, pleaded guilty to money laundering.
The Loose Women star told the Evening Standard:
‘If you looked at my driving licence, you would certainly know it was not the same person.
‘If they were checking that, where were her eyes? She should have gone to Specsavers because there was no similarity.’
“If my husband or one of my two sons went into my bank and said they wanted to be a co-signatory I’d expect very thorough checks. But in this case somebody was able to go to the bank with a copy of a driving licence or something.
“I didn’t understand it from the off. I felt completely violated. These were my savings. You expect your money to be safe in a bank but it is not. I am left with no trust. Banks are going to have to step up their security with staff and systems.”
Prosecutor Sheilagh Davies said the imposter ‘looked really nothing like’ the TV star
Aysha Davis, 28 on the stand had this to say:
“The name on the ID card was Mary Winifred Gloria Hunniford, and sorry to be stereotypical but this lady looked like a Mary.
“I had to Google Gloria Hunniford and even if I passed her on the street I wouldn’t recognise her because she’s not from my time.”
“The old lady had her bank card and her driving licence – it’s not rare people wanting to add someone to their account, so this was just the same as always.”
“Banks get defrauded every day but because of the high profile of the person on the account, I am being used as a scapegoat to try and repair the damage to the bank’s reputation.”
“I was three months pregnant at the time and the only thing I was focused on was the pregnancy.”
“I asked the older lady ‘How come you’re adding your grandson and not your daughter?’ she said she’d been ill and she wanted to add her grandson.
“I’m a working class person and I don’t see that kind of money every day, but some people you think would have lots of money have nothing, and some people who you think wouldn’t have much have quite a lot.”
[In reference to the form going missing] “Just because I made a mistake and I would have gotten into trouble at work it doesn’t implicate me in this fraud.”
A Santander spokeswoman said:
“Santander takes fraud extremely seriously. As soon as we identified this fraudulent activity we alerted the authorities as well as Ms Hunniford herself.
“We are very sympathetic to the distress caused to Ms Hunniford for being the victim of a scam and as is our normal practice in a case like this, we have reimbursed her fully for her financial loss.
“We have also made significant improvements to our processes to ensure this type of fraudulent activity is prevented in future.”
Judge Timothy Pontius said, whilst handing Dowie an 18-month sentence, suspended for two years, that he accepted the youngster was a ‘dupe’ in the scam:
‘You achieved nothing accept your arrest and criminal conviction which will be on your record for many years.
‘You received not a penny piece out of it. It was a totally unprofitable venture as well as it being a thoroughly stupid one.
‘I therefore hope you have learned a very salutary lesson.
‘You are not going inside today. I don’t think it would be right to deprive you of a golden opportunity to go to university, get a degree and pursue a productive, honest life in your chosen career.’
Reyon Dillon, 18, will be sentenced next month.
The court has cleared personal banker Aysha Davis of any wrong doing.
The two women (imposter + daughter) are still wanted by Police.
How to avoid this scam?
- Have multiple bank accounts with your money spread across them all
- Don’t share your account number and sortcode with anyone
- Keep an eye on your bank account so you can spot errors/fraud early
- Contact your bank to state you’re worried (especially if you’re with Santander) and request they respond to you with how they plan to improve security on your account. If we all kicked up a fuss they would all soon improve!
- Save your banks emergency phone number in your phone (found on back of card)
Unfortunately, it seems like this was completely out of Gloria Hunniford’s hands.