A Sleaford man has been left shaken after coming close to being tricked into parting with more than £1,000 by a sophisticated con man who even had the police fooled.
Michael Hayes of Town Road, Quarrington, was targeted out of the blue by a man claiming to be a sheriff of Northampton County Court tasked with reclaiming a debt for an advertising contract.
Mr Hayes was contacted last Monday, with the caller claiming he had a county court judgement to collect the money or seize goods to an equivalent value after Mr Hayes had run up a marketing bill at £299 per month for a year back in 2014 for a small business he used to run. After interest the ‘debt’ was £4,000. The caller said he was 20 minutes away and that if Mr Hayes did not pay up he would be liable for another £1,240 bailiff charge. Mr Hayes said: “It was the first I had heard of this and the court should have been in touch. The most my little business ever brought in was £3,000.”
However the man claiming to be a sheriff was insistent that all the papers were in order and that if Mr Hayes could not pay all the debt now he could make an offer to pay some of it.
Mr Hayes said: “I told him I could possibly pay up to £1,000, but he said he would check with his office, adding that I could only negotiate through him as the holder of the debt.”
After the call, Mr Hayes contacted the police and an officer called the ‘bailiff’ via 1471, with the man answering all the officer’s questions calmly, to the extent that everything seemed above board.
Mr Hayes said: “The officer was reassuring but said he sounded plausible and gave all the right answers.”
The policeman suggested an officer could be at Mr Hayes’ home to check the credentials of the sheriff if he arrived.
At this point Mr Hayes’ stepson did a search online and tracked down several stories of very similar incidents. The search also showed there were no judgements against him, so they reported it to Action Fraud. “I didn’t think I would be taken in by such things, but it was all so plausible and he knew things about me and my ex-directory number. I am still shocked,” said Mr Hayes.
He wished to warn others of the scam to make sure they were not taken in. Trading Standards have also warned people to remain vigilant.