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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 October 2006, 16:53 GMT 17:53 UK
Thieves spend 15,000 on sweets
Professor Leslie Clarkson
Thieves took 20,000 from Professor Clarkson's bank account
A gang who swindled 20,000 out of a Belfast pensioner's bank account spent his savings on luxury chocolates.

Professor Leslie Clarkson's Halifax account was cleared out by a gang who got his security details.

They ordered 15,000 worth of Thorntons' chocolates which were picked up in England minutes after the fraudulent debit payment was accepted.

The rest of the money was spent on Tesco vouchers. The Halifax has agreed to reimburse Professor Clarkson.

Professor Clarkson realised the money was missing after he used phone banking to check his balance.

He discovered that tens of thousands of pounds had been transferred from his individual savings account into his current account and that two fraudulent switch payments had then been authorised.

One payment of 5,000 had been used to buy Tesco gift cards.

Another 15,000 payment was made to leading sweet company, Thorntons, for a large order of luxury chocolates.

A short time after the switch payment was processed, a van turned up at a Thortons' factory in England and picked up the order.

Professor Clarkson said he was concerned that the bank had not notified him when the funds were transferred from one account to the other.

Halifax bank sign
The Halifax said customers should keep a close eye on their accounts

"I was worried about how the fraudsters had got into my current account and through my current account got into my investment account," he said.

"When I discovered the money had been moved from one account to another, but hadn't actually been spent, I should have been alerted at that stage.

"They had moved it from a difficult account to an easy account to spend, so I did become very concerned about how it had been done.

"It was not done via a lost card or a carelessly dumped pin number."

The Halifax said customers should keep a close eye on their accounts and alert their bank to any irregularities.

The bank also said their customers were covered by an online fraud guarantee which means they are fully covered if money is taken from their accounts illegally.

They said banks monitor any unusual transactions and investigate any account activity which is out of the ordinary.




VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Conor MacAuley reports on the chocolate scam



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