Waltham Forest Echo

Waltham Forest Echo

(Almost) scammed on Marlowe Road Estate

Echo columnist Michelle Edwards writes about the recent scam attempt she faced, as a resident of a slowly-emptying estate… “Are you on the radio?”, [...]

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An iPhone 12 (Credit: Unsplash/Vựa Táo)
By Waltham Forest Echo 14 August 2021

Echo columnist Michelle Edwards writes about the recent scam attempt she faced, as a resident of a slowly-emptying estate…

“Are you on the radio?”, somebody asks via text message. “Yes,” I ping back. “Who is this? Number not showing up?”

“Melissa… Well done! I knew it was you when you said you’d emailed the chief executive.”

I’m trying to carry out a text conversation with documentary filmmaker Melissa Herman, while simultaneously talking on-air to seasoned broadcaster Eddie Mair on his LBC radio show. As you can see, I messed up a bit. Duh! I meant to say, “your name’s not showing up.”

Melissa interviewed me for her documentary We’re Still Here – about grassroots campaigning and resistance to the way social housing is changing in London – a while back. She, and others in my circle, know I probably know the name of every chief executive in the country and don’t hesitate to contact them when necessary.

Now, she’s caught me telling Eddie about how I thwarted a delivery fraud on my birthday (1st May) involving O2 UK and DPD, one of the UK’s leading parcel delivery groups.

The scam was clever. I was faffing around at home when there was a knock at the door. I walked cautiously to the peephole and saw an unmasked man wearing a red uniform, standing in front of a white DPD van. He convinced me he was genuine and handed over a single item wrapped in their branded plastic.

Thinking it was a birthday present, I unwrapped it excitedly to discover an Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max, an O2 sim card built for 5G and a sticky label bearing the words: ‘We hope you like your order.’ But nobody had gifted me a new phone. Fred fraud was in the house.

As I was about to ring my bank, there was another knock at the door. I saw a second man wearing the same uniform. He was slim, taller, masked and claimed that DPD had delivered the item by mistake and he was tasked with collecting it. It made no sense, nor did the absence of a DPD delivery van this time around.

Long story short: I knew I was being scammed and refused to open the door. The phone had been bought in my name by a fraudulent account, set up with my details and banking information. My instinct saved me  £1,264.78 for the phone and the cost of airtime linked to the device, which can vary between £20 to £33 per month.

Of the many mysteries, I still don’t understand how my bank details were used to set up this fake account. No unauthorised payments have ever been debited from my current account. Not that I’m complaining, of course.

But my confidence in O2 has been shattered, after nine years of custom. It wasn’t very nice to be accused by a member of their Executive Relations team as having disclosed my own information to the fraudsters, without explaining how or providing any evidence. Asked about this, its press office did not engage.

Still, I did make O2 pay for a cab, plus expenses, to return the stolen goods to my local branch. And I referred them to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) – the outcome of which is pending.

The Security Relationship Manager at DPD was well aware of the bogus delivery scam, and pointed me to a police investigation in Essex where two fraudsters who posed as DPD workers were jailed earlier this year. One had worked for the company until he was sacked amid allegations of fraudulent activity around the delivery of 49 Tesco mobile phones on his route.

I wanted to know if the company routinely enforced the return of staff uniforms after departure. Its press office did not respond to this query.

Though Marlowe Road Estate has become a prime target for delivery scams because of all the voids (this is my third) – anybody reading this column should be mindful. The first DPD driver was genuine. The second was a fraudster, not part of DPD and most likely part of an organised criminal group.

Cue Line of Duty…

If you have been the victim of a scam, it can be reported to actionfraud.police.uk

Read every edition of Michelle’s column about life on Marlowe Road Estate here