A County Down man who was scammed out of his entire pension pot and life savings has had almost all of his money returned by his bank.

Trading Standards helped him secure the victory and said it is one of the biggest cases ever awarded by the Financial Ombudsman.

The retired public servant returned to work after he became embroiled in a sophisticated crypto-currency scam.

He invested a six-figure sum in a fraudulent company.

The man, who the BBC has called Mark, wishes to remain anonymous.

His investment started with £200 and quickly grew as his investment seemed to be doing well.

Eventually the fake company advised him to invest his pension pot and it was after this that it became apparent it was a scam and he had lost everything.

‘It was all gone’

When Mark realised he begged those behind it to give him some of his money back.

“I told them there wasn’t enough money left to bury me,” he said.

“I had reneged on my duty to look after everyone. I’d two daughters and there was nothing there to support them or help them if they needed it.

“If anything happened to me my wife would be comfortable and then it was all gone.”

Mark fought for almost two years to get his money back. He was turned down multiple times – by the Financial Ombudsman and by his bank – but continued the fight with the help of Trading Standards, who eventually won him a repayment from his bank.

“They completely turned everything around,” he said.

Mark added the support and guidance he received was “priceless”.

“I would say to anyone that is in a similar scenario for whatever financial amount go to Trading Standards.”

Mark was helped by the fact he kept all documentation and detailed notes about every conversation. He even tracked the company down to an address in Scotland but that also turned out to be fake.

“I didn’t realise the bank had a duty of care to me.”

‘Depths of despair’

Damien Doherty, chief inspector of Trading Standards in Northern Ireland, said he was “delighted” with the outcome, adding: “It’s been a while getting there.”

“We thought there was a good case to take,” Mr Doherty said.

“Whenever the case came to us we were dealing with someone in the depths of despair, who had lost hope, who really had nowhere else to turn to and it was a huge sum of money as well.

“Unfortunately the scammers have got away with it but the bank has a duty of care to its customers and there’s a code of practice that all banks know in terms of protecting customers from crime and fraud and in particular scams.”

Mark described the moment when he received the news he was getting so much of the money back: “The email with the decision came on a Friday but I couldn’t look at it.

“It was the Sunday before I read it. That was the first night I had slept properly in all that time.”

But he says there was no joy or celebration: “The only celebration I would have is if those people were caught and had to pay the money back out of their own pocket.

“They do this and they know they’ll never be caught.”

‘Scammers won’t warn of risks’

Software engineer Jim Browning told BBC News NI there are certain signs to look out for in sophisticated scams like the one Mark was victim to.

“A real investment firm will tell you about the risks about losing money. Scammers never do,” he explained.

“That is a warning sign. They will say anything in order to encourage investment.”

Mr Browning told Evening Extra it is important to remember that scammers are professionals at making their scams appear legitimate.

“They have a lot of experience in doing this. You are definitely not going to be the first person that they run past with this scam,” he said.

“If you looked at some of these websites you would be very hard-pressed to figure out that this is something amateur.”

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