Home Money ‘Callless’ criminal posed as 82-year-old woman to steal her savings

‘Callless’ criminal posed as 82-year-old woman to steal her savings

0 comment
'Hapless': Braden Strowthers used his brother and a friend as mules in a failed scam that landed them all in jail

Fraudsters steal more than £1 billion a year in the UK, an amount that suggests we are facing an unstoppable army of expert fraudsters.

And while sophisticated operations are taking place across the UK right now, it may surprise you that many scammers targeting the most vulnerable are far from clever.

Take for example one of the most recent gangs to be brought to justice. Instead of an evil mastermind, the antics of Braden Strowthers and his two-person team are more like criminal versions of Laurel and Hardy.

The case is one that the banking industry’s specialist police unit, the Dedicated Payment and Card Crime Unit (DCPCU), is keen to share with the public.

Last week, Braden Strowthers, from Peterborough, was found guilty of tricking dozens of victims into handing over their banking details so he could access their accounts and take money from them.

‘Hapless’: Braden Strowthers used his brother and a friend as mules in a failed scam that landed them all in jail

Meanwhile, his hapless assistants, his partner Tyrone Daley and his brother, Ross Strowthers, both also from Peterborough, were found guilty of enabling these crimes by helping to launder the stolen money.

They were sentenced in total to five years and 11 months, for conspiring to defraud the victims of £272,625 and for successfully stealing and laundering £80,459.

In Ross’s case, detectives discovered that his brother convinced him to take part in the corrupt scheme with the grand promise of a £2,100 speedboat.

Leading the prosecution, Braden Strowthers targeted elderly victims by contacting them by telephone, usually via a landline, and posing as an official from the local council or a government organisation. He would claim to be calling them to offer a refund or a discount.

During these phone calls, Braden persuaded the victims to hand over banking information and used these details to access the victims’ accounts and transfer money to accounts he controlled.

He would do this by contacting banks, disguising his voice and posing as elderly account holders.

Braden used this ruse to defraud victims of £80,459 between 2017 and 2019.

“It was one of the worst fake female voices I’ve ever heard,” says DCPCU Detective Colin Calvert, who led the investigation into the case, adding: “The criminals really weren’t that successful during the time that passed.” that they were doing it.’

To understand the scammers’ operation, Money Mail was invited to DCPCU headquarters to listen to the recording of Braden speaking to a Lloyds Bank worker. We heard the 42-year-old man posing as an 82-year-old woman in an attempt to transfer £4,000 to an account he controls.

The gruff tones are unmistakably masculine as he reels off answers to security questions, including the victim’s date of birth, middle name, personal identification number and address. The Lloyds worker would go on to report the call and flag the suspicion.

Lloyds Bank investigators identified a pattern of calls from Braden posing as customers and reported him to police.

Sunken dream: Strowthers recruited brother Ross to scam with promise of £2,100 speedboat

Sunken dream: Strowthers recruited brother Ross to scam with promise of £2,100 speedboat

In the DCPCU evidence room we are shown Braden’s phone script, showing how little planning he had. It was an old piece of paper, bent at the corners and partially scribbled on. The script was used during cold calls, when Braden posed as local authorities, says DC Calvert.

It says: ‘The advice is authorized by the Financial Conduct Authorities. Your council information is kept confidential and we are fully committed to and responsible for protecting the privacy of all council taxpayers’ information.’

In a raid on Braden’s property, detectives seized cellphones and were able to view text messages sent between Braden, Tyrone and Ross, who apparently weren’t concerned about deleting messages to hide their tracks.

In a message to others, Braden wrote: “Nothing reported. £3,800 easy lemon squeeze. This one is safe.

To keep his brother motivated, he wrote, “Remember that the boat you want will cost, so every penny will help.”

DC Calvert says: “We were surprised that Ross would get involved in a small boat to impress his social network.”

Tyrone and Ross acted as money mules by opening bank accounts to which Braden sent money, Detective Inspector Calvert says.

Through their investigation, the DCPCU found messages on Braden and Tyrone’s phones highlighting their involvement in recruiting more money mules, so they could use other people’s bank accounts to send money.

Another crucial mistake made by the criminals was that they had their social media accounts set to “open” so that anyone could view them.

DC Calvert says: “This meant Lloyds Bank and our unit were able to investigate them and find out more details.”

At the time of his arrest, Braden was found to be living in a “very small apartment”, had no job and no access to bank accounts. Banks repeatedly closed his accounts due to suspicions of fraud, says Detective Inspector Calvert.

“Strowthers didn’t really have much success during his time, since this was his way of making a living,” he adds.

Braden made hundreds of calls, attempting to scam targets, seemingly at random. Much of the money he successfully swindled was used to pay off outstanding debts, rather than finance a high standard of living.

However, several elderly victims lost their life savings to the irresponsible criminal.

Confident scammers: Impersonation scams have increased by 13% in the last year, with scammers more likely to impersonate police officers, bank staff and HMRC, according to Lloyds.

Confident scammers: Impersonation scams have increased by 13% in the last year, with scammers more likely to impersonate police officers, bank staff and HMRC, according to Lloyds.

In one case, Braden targeted a 90-year-old woman, posing as Barnes City Hall. She successfully obtained details that allowed him to transfer £21,000 from her account, DC Calvert says, adding: “He cruelly exploited vulnerable elderly victims by tricking them into giving him personal and banking details so he could steal their money.”

“This sentence should warn anyone who believes they can benefit financially by committing fraud that they will be caught and brought to justice.”

Sentenced at Peterborough Crown Court, Braden Strowthers received four years and four months for conspiracy to defraud, fraud by false representation and money laundering offences.

Tyrone Daley and Ross Strowthers received suspended sentences of ten months and nine months respectively for money laundering offences.

Liz Ziegler, director of fraud prevention at Lloyds Bank, says: “Cooperation between banks and authorities is essential to keep customers safe and ensure those responsible face justice.”

According to Lloyds, phishing scams have increased by 13 per cent in the last year, with fraudsters more likely to impersonate police officers, bank staff and HMRC.

These scams often start with a phone call, text message, or email. They can also get in touch through social networks.

You should be wary of any messages you receive from numbers or email addresses that are not already stored in your contacts, even if they appear to be from someone you know.

Always remember that your bank, the police or any genuine organization or company will never ask you to move money to protect them, under any circumstances, says Lloyds.

They also won’t ask you to download something to your computer or other device. If in doubt, hang up and call to check a trusted number, not one you were given over the phone.

Be wary if you are contacted and asked to fill out an online form to process a refund. Contact the organization, using separately verified information (not included in any form), so you can check if the request is real.

Most importantly, don’t rush into anything: if a message claims to be from someone you know, contact them another way to confirm it’s them.

Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on them, we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to affect our editorial independence.

You may also like