Barclays apology to Kindertransport refugee, 90, after 'hypnotic' bank scam

Harry Heber used to run an opticians in Hampstead

Harry Heber used to run an opticians in Hampstead - Credit: World Jewish Relief

A 90-year-old says he felt “hypnotised” by con artists posing as bank fraud officers who scammed him into handing over thousands of pounds.

Harry Heber, who used to run an opticians in Hampstead, was tricked into withdrawing and then handing over £5,300 to hoax fraud officers from his bank.

The Kindertransport refugee says he felt “abandoned” by Barclays after it failed to warn him of the scam when he took the large wad of cash out. 

Initially, Barclays refused to refund the pensioner. But seven months later, after the Ham&High followed up his case, the bank U-turned, issued a full refund and apologised.

Harry, who lives on the border of St John’s Wood and Swiss Cottage, said: “I was repeatedly called at home, by someone who claimed that there were suspicious withdrawals on my bank account.  

“Initially, I just hung up the phone but when they persisted I believed that they wanted to catch the fraudsters and that they needed my help.  

“I was instructed to withdraw a large amount of cash and hand it to their official waiting outside, who would pay the funds in and trace the subsequent fraudulent activity.”  

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Harry said he “foolishly” complied with the con – but said his bank’s cashier did not sufficiently ID him nor warn him of any potential scam. 

“It was as if I had been hypnotised,” Harry said. “I felt so stupid and embarrassed and did not even want to tell my family.”  

He added: “I am so grateful for the intervention of the Ham&High after it contacted Barclays, which has now agreed to refund the full £5,300 and admit that their procedures were not adhered to.”

Students from La Sainte Union School learn about the Holocaust at Belsize Square Synagogue

Harry Heber with La Sainte Union students at Belsize Square Synagogue, pictured in 2014 - Credit: Nigel Sutton

A Barclays spokesperson said it works hard to protect customers from becoming victims of fraud. 

“On this occasion, it would appear that our service fell short of the high standard we set ourselves and for this we apologise,” the spokesperson said.  

“We have arranged to return the funds which had been lost as a result of this scam to Mr Heber.” 

In 1938 Harry fled the Nazis and came to Britain on the Kindertransport, aged seven.   

As a volunteer he ran the World Jewish Relief Optical Programme, which sent 50,000 pairs of prescription spectacles to people in need from more than 15 countries.  

He was subsequently given the Points of Light award in 2014 by then prime minister David Cameron.  

The Metropolitan Police was contacted for comment.

Harry Heber given an award in 2019 for his volunteering

Harry Heber given an award in 2019 for his volunteering - Credit: World Jewish Relief