A Wigan pensioner has described the horrifying moment she was almost conned out of all her money by a gang of scam artists.
Eileen McCartney was using a cash machine at Natwest on Standishgate in the town centre on March 17 just after midday when she was approached by four people.
Fortunately, the Orrell pensioner was wise to their plan having seen a TV programme about distraction techniques often used by scammers.
The 72-year-old had gone into a side room inside the bank to withdraw £20 when she was followed in by three men and a woman.
One of the men and the woman used the cash machine at the side of her while the other two went on to perform a common distraction technique.
Quick-thinking Eileen managed to catch them out though and has today spoken of the incident in a bid to warn others.
“There was nobody about me when I went into the room,” she said. “I was putting my details into the machine when a gentleman on my side tapped me on my shoulder.
“He had put a £20 note down at the side of me and pointed at the floor, I said ‘no it doesn’t belong to me’.
“Then I realised it was a scam because I had seen it on the TV.”
A man to the other side of Eileen had switched her card with a fake one when it was coming out of the machine.
She missed this after being distracted by his accomplice but soon realised what was going on.
“I said ‘you have my card’,” she said.
“He said ‘no, no, no, no’ and then he pointed to the slot in the cash machine and there was one there and I initially thought I was just accusing him.
“But then it flashed back to me, I got the card out and looked at the back of it and it wasn’t my card. I then approached him again and told him to give me my card back.
“He then brought his other hand up and my card was in his hand so I jumped up and grabbed it out.
“I was completely stuck because you are in a little side room where the bank people cannot see you.
“I went out with him and was wondering if I should go into the street to scream or go in the bank.
“I went inside and shouted that I had just been scammed.”
Eileen fought back tears as she described the devastating impact the scam would have had on her and her family had it gone through without her noticing.
She added: “That man would have got away with everything.
“Only that I’ve got a family, he would have left me with absolutely nothing. There was quite a bit of money in my account, it was all of my bills and my direct debit.
“I would not have looked at that card until the next week so he would have got away with an awful lot of money.
“I have to say to people, please if you ever go to the cash machine, make sure you are never distracted in any way.
“Don’t take your eyes off the machine because it’s quite easy for them to do this.”
PC Rod Ashton from Wigan police praised Eileen’s quick-thinking.
He hopes her bravery in speaking out about the scam will help warn others. He also hopes it may help catch the four culprits who are still at large.
“This has been happening since well before Christmas,” he said.
“Eileen’s story is fantastic because it highlights the issue. Eileen really wants to assist me in catching these guys and make sure it doesn’t happen again.
“If you know, please step forwards and tell us how they are. Wigan is a little town and it is happening around a number of other little towns too.”