On Being a Victim of Fraud

As I walked away I knew something wasn’t right. I think I knew deep down that what had just taken place wasn’t normal or didn’t quite sit well. Within a small chunk of grey flesh there was a screaming light, but a light that knew it was too late to do anything. The deed had already taken place. So the remaining 95% of my brain ignored it and instead focused on either fighting off train travel exhaustion following the London Paddington to Swindon commute, or pumped me full of feel good endorphins to convince me otherwise.

As I entered my house I felt relief at being back after a two hour journey across capital and country. I also felt a little niggle grow bigger and bigger, a small light turning into a flame that turned into a small voice. Stupid girl, stupid girl.

But it was only once I’d made my tea, unpacked my bag and lowered myself to my king size bed that I suddenly realised what had happened thirty minutes prior. A cocktail of emotions poured from my mind and into my exhausted body, filling it with hollowness and shock.

“I’ve been scammed.”

Since moving to London I’d been on my guard so much with criminals and scam artists. Working and living in some of the biggest tourist hot spots, the central location comes with it’s warning labels. But Swindon? A small town I’ve lived in for almost four years. Swindon? How? How could it be possible? How could I have been so foolish?

Stupid girl, stupid girl, stupid girl.

But she came up to me in a real flap, she said she needed the money to get a train to Reading to collect keys to her house she’d lost. Stupid girl. She said her name was Sarah and she needed to borrow my phone to make a call. Her Aunt was old so no surprise she didn’t pick up. She said she didn’t know what to do or where she could go. I offered her £10 cash but she said she needed more and suggested we go to an ATM to get more funds. Stupid girl, stupid girl. So I offered her £16, all I had in my purse. Stupid girl. She asked for my bank details but I said no, because I’m not stupid, and instead exchanged numbers. She then took her phone out and called me, despite claiming to not have a phone. I was so caught in the moment of it all, so overwhelmed with tiredness and her stress, how was I to spot this at the time? Stupid girl, stupid girl, stupid girl. We then parted on good terms with her telling me to text her in a few hours as a reminder to get details for the money transfer. Stupid, stupid, stupid girl.

I sat on the bed, texting my family and friends in rage that this could happen. I then lay awake all night feeling nothing but irritation and madness at myself for being so easily fooled. Conned by a middle aged lady with a pathetic dramatic act that must have been used before. Curiosity welling inside me, at 2am I Google searched the Reading-based number of the relative she’d called earlier. The search results came up with one place, The Thames Valley Probation and Rehabilitation Centre. The sour taste of bile in the back of my throat kept me awake until dawn accompanied by a gritty squawk in the front of my mind.

Stupid girl, stupid girl, stupid girl.

The bile taste lingered until noon when, on calling the probation office, they told me there was nothing they could do and the voice quietened down just recently after I made an appeal on social media and discovered I wasn’t the first, nor worst, affected by the middle-aged scam artist. I logged my incident with the non-emergency police line 101 and hung up knowing there was nothing more I could do. Providing the police with new information such as her mobile number and age (she’d stated she was 36 when previous victims thought she looked mid 50s) made me feel I’d contributed towards the effort. Still a stupid girl though. The voice gets quieter as the 95% of the skull-imprisoned decides to reassert its authority over the pessimistic portion. 24 hours is long enough.

Sitting here now, typing this piece to a backdrop of classical music and my friend practising her violin I realise for the first time in my life what it must feel like to be a victim of fraud. I look around my room and it’s a mess, as if the moment I realised what had happened to me became the moment time temporarily stopped. My suitcase is half unpacked, by bedding scrunched up from where I’d been tossing and turning in the night. The money taken off me was trivial compared to what someone people go through and it could have been a lot worse (at least I don’t have to face cancelling my banking cards or worrying that I could have my identity stolen at any moment). If this Sarah reached out to me now would I happily send my personal details over via text so she could supposedly transfer me the money? Would the risk really be worth the price of a rail ticket?

Until yesterday I assumed all con artists now operate online, that they’re all pale-faced, digital savvy youths who live thousands of miles away in cellars with banks and banks of computers. Until yesterday I assumed that victims of fraud fell into older age brackets, that young people didn’t fall for such silly tricks. Well now I know I was wrong and if nothing else I’ve paid a middle aged woman £16 to teach me that lesson and quite possibly make me a more understanding and empathic human being.

Stupid girl.

An Irrelevant Account

I remember the racket they created in the minor feud between black and yellow. A child of only infant class, I dived under my cot bed while the scuffles continued in the second room. They took my mother away with relative ease on their part. Owing to disease the birthing rate of Executive class were at an all time low, so naturally there was only one place for her.

“Where’s the girl?” Came a wheezy voice from the room beyond. My father’s answer not forthcoming enough, the guards hit their victim with meaty blows and turned to searching the apartment themselves. Five men and three rooms, they found me soon enough.

I remember kicking and screaming as they brought me out into the communal space where my father was being propped up. The lead guard stood beside him, like a puppet prince, he sickly smiled as I was brought forward. 

“Good food makes for bad honour” he commented as he took a single dirty finger down the length of my dark skull.

“How many times Jacon? If you feed your women you’re going to get only pain and misery. This daughter of yours looks positively balanced, how can you let a juicy thing like this wander the township? No signs of hardship or rationing at all.”

This being evidence enough, the stranger proclaimed my father’s fate. He was to be branded as an enemy of The Cause and sentenced to hard labour in the Southern fields.

“Reduce me to Half-Kind!” My father begged. “Or an Executive! Anything but the fields!”

The Cause representative was unmoved as he turned again to look at me. I vaguely remember his face, it was angular and dented, covered with a stretched yellow skin and two dotted eyes. He lowered himself to my level and took my face in one of his bony hands. The official’s dirty spider fingers sprawled across the sides of my face as he turned it side to side. I dared not flinch.

“This one will make a fine candidate,” he said as he turned to face my father. “Thank you for reminding me of the State Agreements Jacon. Despite all your flaws you always had a way with making sure we stayed true to The Cause.”

Recent law had declared that each family of Cousin class offered support in the disease ridden fields South and East. An Executive was required from each household, but the age and gender had never been specified. So, alongside his own, the prisoner also witnessed my sentencing to become a field Executive. My father’s loose tongue decided my fate. Stupid Fallen. As they took me away I remember the briefest of looks on his face as the front door shut on my old life.

By the time I’d been dispatched into the Executive role the field plagues had tapered off and, unlike many of my colleagues, I survived. Our role was meant to be a temporary position, but as the years passed and my life continued I came to reassess my outlook. To develop feelings for others was pointless, humans die, but The Cause remains. Glory to The Cause.

But then my father is now dead, so this account is irrelevant.

 

(Written in response to the WordPress prompt of the day Torn)

The Curious Incident of the Wheelie Bin in the Night-Time

My second post was intended to act as a fill-in from Graduation to the present day, however that’s going to wait. A scary development has occurred on our housing estate, something that should be treated with the utmost severity.

Our wheelie bin has disappeared.

(I’ll give you a minute to regain your breath).

Better? Ok, let me explain. I left the house to go to work, wheelie bin was there. I came back to the house after finishing work, said bin was still there. Go to bed, and the next morning, woah! The black, cuboidular (it’s not a word, but it should be), Swindon Borough Council wheelie bin was gone!

I don’t know who did it or why they did it, but I can only assume they are a criminal mastermind. I’ve walked up and down the street several times in the pitch black (in a mildly creepy way) and I’ve found no clues as to the whereabouts of no. 12’s wheelie bin. The whole situation has me baffled. I mean, why does anyone on a housing estate need a second wheelie bin when we have a designated area for rubbish bag overflow? Where can one subtly hide and store such an awkward, large object? Most importantly though, why our bin?!

It can only be described as the Swindon crime of November 2014. I don’t wish to scare monger, but I fear this problem will get worse before it gets better. Don’t fret though my fellow Swindonites, I’m on this. I’m composing a letter to send to Sherlock and I’ve been practising my fist shaking all day in preparation for the next attack.

To the bin-stealing culprit, return the bin and we shall speak no more of this. However, be warned, my housemate is a crime journalist. If you continue this charade I will nag him senseless until he reports on this. The deepest depths of hell do not compare to a page 15 paragraph in the Swindon Advertiser.

Now, many of you might say I’m taking this a little bit too seriously, that I need to calm down a bit. At the end of the day, I’m a middle class professional. I’m cool as a cucumber on most things. Loud music at 2am, not offering me tea when I visit, I’ll put up with that. Mess with my waste disposal though and you mess with me. You, me and my black belt in fist shaking.

So bring it in on my friend. Bring it on.