Yesterday, I endured the rigors of âpart privatisation of a National Health Serviceâ. Yes, a chauffeur driven limousine pulled up outside my house, precisely on time, in order to drive me in comfort some 100 miles to the specialist Cancer centre in Bordeaux; the scan was carried out within minutes of my arrival, leaving me half an hour to enjoy a cup of freshly brewed coffee and a fag before the consultant appeared smilingly at his door to greet me by name at the allotted time. I cannot tell you what hell and deprivations I must suffer now that I am safely out of the all embracing grasp of the NHS. Be warned, this is the sort of treatment you can expect for free if you allow the NHS to fall into the hands of those who operate for profitâ¦
My chauffeur for the day was, as ever, the knee high to a grasshopper, medically trained, Sicilian hysteric. We giggled companionably as we passed the spot where his quick thinking quite literally saved my life last year. Just think, had I been in England, I could have been safely changing busses in some God forsaken bus station, struggling to get home alone, rather than risking my life under a part privatised serviceâ¦
He had an interesting tale to tell over coffee. Do read onâ¦.
About three weeks ago, he received an e-mail from an English company asking his group of Taxis to quote for 4 taxis being at the disposition of four of their salesmen, visiting the area, for three weeks. They would need to be available for 8 hours a day, five days a week, and the English firm wanted to know his terms and conditions for supplying this facility.
He replied giving a detailed estimate which worked out at â¬6,000 Euros, and pointed out that the individual taxis would require payment on a daily basis.
To his utter amazement, the English firm had responded by sending a cheque to him for Â£12,500, three weeks in advance of the due date. âWhy would they do thatâ he demanded? Waving the cheque at me.
The cheque was drawn on a Lloydâs TSB account. From the âHigh Street Sloughâ branch. The first thing I noticed was the signature. It appeared to be signed by someone more used to writing in, say, Arabic. Not unusual from a Slough address, I pondered, but could be an attempt at money laundering. There was nothing else unusual about the cheque.
Whoever the signatory was, he was signing on behalf of âPRITCHI Ltdâ. I borrowed my friends Samsung and looked up âPRITCHI Ltdâ. The company was registered on the 13th September this year. Just three weeks ago. From an address given as â8 CHADWICK TERRACE, ELTHAM GREEN ROAD, LONDON, ENGLAND, SE9 6AZâ I looked again at the cheque. It was cheque No 15 that had been issued by the company. It seemed a little early to be throwing money around with such largesse. Could it be a stolen cheque?
Back home, I did some more detective work, and attempted to contact Lloydâs TSB. Easier said than done. They donât publish phone numbers for their branches and the call centre number they do publicise refuse to take your call unless you can provide them with your account number.
Eventually, I got through to their âsecurity and fraud departmentâ for internet banking fraud. They also refused to take my call unless I could give them an account number! I gave them the account number printed on the cheque â 3219266802 â âit wasnât a valid account numberâ they said â and hung up on me! Click! Doubly suspicious by now, I rang back, got a different operator and asked if she could confirm that 30-97-73 was the correct bank code for the High Street Slough branch. No, Data Protection Laws dictated that she couldnât do that â and then she hung up on me too!
Smelling a blog post in this by now, I rang their press office. Politely explained that what had started out as an enquiry on behalf of a French speaking person in receipt of a cheque which might have been stolen, was in danger of turning into a rant at Lloydâs TSBâs rude and unhelpful staff when someone attempted to report a possible attempt at money laundering. Would they be kind enough to give me their written response? They havenât bothered to reply. They suggested that if I was âseriously concernedâ I should contact the Serious Fraud Squad and gave me the numberâ¦.
I did. They only deal with fraud âover a million poundsâ! They gave me the number for the âAction Fraudâ line which is apparently the correct place to report fraud these days â not directly to the police, nor the banks!
Action Fraudâs contact with the public is run by a private company called âbssâ:
Award-winners in providing tailor-made customer contact solutions in the UK, we become the vital communication link between you and your customers. By harnessing our experience and expertise to create your tailor-made solution, you can be confident that we know what we are doing, and that your brand is in safe hands.
I had, by this time, via various nefarious methods, discovered that neither the cheque number, nor the sort code on this cheque was genuine. In other words it was a counterfeit cheque. Someone somewhere has discovered how to print perfectly genuine looking counterfeit cheques. Presumably, if these customers do turn up in three weeks time, they will ask to be reimbursed for the overpaymentâ¦ Personally, I doubt that they will turn up. I reckon the next contact will be to say that they cannot make the engagement, and will the taxi firm accept half payment for their trouble and return the rest of the money to an account which will be closed approximately 10 seconds after the money hits the account? It would have bankrupted this small firm if they had fallen for this scam.
Whether the firm of PRITCHI ltd is genuine or even aware of the use to which the name of their new company is being put, I have no idea. If they wish to contact me to put the record straight on their behalf, my e-mail address is on the contact page.
If on the other hand, you have been offered a cheque from account number 3219266802 ostensibly from the firm of PRITCHI Ltd, be aware that it is counterfeit; also be aware that the only people even vaguely interested in such a crime being committed, are neither the Police nor Lloydâs TSB, but a private âaward winningâ company who will protect your âbrand imageâ â called âbssââ¦
Quite extraordinary. I have at least ensured that the next person who googles PRITCHI Ltd will at least come up with this blog post at the top of their results – and be warned!