25th September 2017

Warning as Unst B&B man is ripped off by scammers

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A pensioner who was scammed out of thousands of pounds feels so embarrassed he has put off telling his children about his misfortune.

Sheil Khanna, 76, from Unst, has lost more than £3,000 due, he said, to his naivety. But he also blames his bank for their unhelpful attitude and the scammers, who purported to come from Florida.

He wants to warn others not to fall into the same trap.

Mr Khanna built his new house in Westing, Unst, four years ago and later decided to start a small B&B business as a hobby and to meet people. It is not, he said, a “fully fledged” business, but something he operates on a small scale and markets through Visit Scotland in Lerwick.

Recently he received an unusual email from people in “Florida” requesting hospitality in his B&B. They said their expenses would be covered by their company, St Saviour’s Roman Catholic School in Lewisham, London. When Mr Khanna asked for a “small deposit”, the scammers sent a cheque for £4,100 and told Mr Khanna to take what he would be owed and put the remainder back into their bank.

Mr Khanna, whose wife is Roman Catholic, was reassured by the religious connection, and he said: “I thought it was legitimate. I paid the cheque into the bank and it cleared. I paid £3,100 back to the ‘guests’. I was told later that the cheque had bounced.”

This left Mr Khanna out of pocket to the tune of £3,100, with the Bank of Scotland saying there is nothing they can do.

Mr Khanna paid the cheque, which was signed by two signatories, into his account on 4th April. This was done in the mobile Bank of Scotland which comes to Unst.

He rang the bank on Monday 10th and was told the cheque had cleared. He went into Lerwick’s Bank of Scotland on 20th April, 10 days later, and initiated the transfer of £3,100 into the scam account. Once again he was told the cheque had cleared. Days later he got a letter, dated 10th April, from the Bank of Scotland, saying the cheque had been stopped. The letter contained a photocopy of the bounced cheque which had the words “theft recorded” on it.

Mr Khanna said: “The letter was dated 10th April, the same day they told me the cheque cleared.”

He now said he would never be so “naive and trusting” again, and described himself as “old fashioned”. And, he said, he thought that when the bank said the cheque had cleared “they meant it”.

He added: “You’re always wise after the event. Maybe alarm bells should have rung. Now I’m sitting here £3,100 out of pocket and the Bank of Scotland has washed their hands of it. They say it is not their responsibility. I’ve worked hard all my life and to lose £3,100 is a very hard loss. The bank has let me down.”

Now Mr Khanna has written to the Bank of Scotland’s senior manager in Edinburgh and is prepared to take the incident to the financial ombudsman if the affair cannot be settled. Fortunately he has kept all his receipts and correspondence.

He said that most of all he feels “embarrassed” about the events, and cannot even face his children to tell them. He added: “I would hate any other people to become victims.”

About Rosalind Griffiths

I am a Shetland Times reporter covering news, including health stories, and features. I have been in Shetland for more than 30 years.

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