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Rathlin Island’s only shop saved from closure after being hit by £12,000 scam



Business was on the brink for six weeks until bank finally refunded the money stolen by fraudsters

Ruari Morgan, chair of the community co-operative, said he was forced to use his own debit cards to ensure the shop continued to supply the local community after criminals used an online phishing email to gain access to accounts.

Mr Morgan had to wait six weeks before the money was refunded by Co-Operative Banking Group.

He said he was shocked in March when a standing order of £11,900 was approved and the money left the account.

He said: “We contacted the bank and made them aware of the fraudulent activity and awaited our refund. In the meantime we were left in a position of being unable to pay staff or bills.

“The bank was able to tell us quite quickly that a log on to the account was made from London at 11am on March 12. Money was transferred out to a HSBC account in a computer generated name. It was all done in a couple of minutes.

“I used my own debit cards to pay for goods for a few days or we would have had to close.”

Mr Morgan said he spent 40 hours on the phone — again at his own expense — trying to sort the issue with the bank. It was only at the end of last week that the funds were restored.

“Obviously we were relieved, but it took 37 days and that took a toll,” he said.

“The scammers don’t care if it’s us, the only shop in a community, who they target, or that the shop was in real danger of having to close. It was a big shock for everyone who lives here.

“We got a new laptop which will only be used for our HMRC stuff and payroll. And a lot of people have been changing their passwords this week.”

But he said banks could do more to help businesses caught out by similar frauds.

“Twice I was told it was a three-day wait for a manager to call back. Neither of the callbacks happened,” he said.

Shop manager Aoife Molloy said she had been left concerned for her future on the island.

“It was a scary time. If the shop had been forced to close I’d probably have had to leave Rathlin and that would have broken my heart. I’ve been here 15 years and can’t imagine ever living anywhere else,” she explained.

“We’re just relieved it’s been sorted now, but the warning is there that this could happen to anyone.”

PSNI Chief Superintendent Gerard Pollock, chair of the ScamwiseNI Partnership, said everyone needs to be vigilant.

“Criminals can now access banking and personal data by exploiting communication networks through phones, social media, emails or text messages,” he warned.

“Anyone can be targeted. Never click on links in text messages or emails from someone you do not know and never reply to suspicious numbers or emails.”

The Co-Operative Banking Group said it is “extremely sorry” and encouraged customers to also exercise care.

“We sympathise with the distress caused and have refunded the full amount lost,” the bank said.

“We want to reassure our customers that we have robust security controls in place to protect them from fraud.

“We do ask that customers remain vigilant when it comes to suspicious activity on their account and never share key account or security information with anyone.”

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