Chased by Wonga for a payday loan he never took out

A growing number of innocent people are becoming victims of fraudsters who use the payday lender Wonga to steal cash.

The first time most of them discover the theft is when £300 or £400 is suddenly taken from their account by the high-cost credit company. But according to a police statement about one of the thefts, Wonga "has chosen to write off the crime". Crooks repeat their con, leaving more people having their accounts drained.

Andrew Cotterrell, right, of Somerset was hit with a demand for £405.50 by Wonga in August, even though the 54-year-old former company director has never used a payday lender.

When he told the firm, he was surprised at how quickly they wrote off the debt and didn't seem concerned. "Because Wonga decided to write off the fraud, the police did not take action," he said. "This means that not only does the criminal walk free but the crime is not logged, which means the true scale of the fraud remains hidden."

Last weekend retail assistant Claire Desbois had £600 taken out of her account in nine transactions by Wonga. The 30-year-old from London said: "I had never used them but called Wonga right away. They said I'd have to speak to their specialist team on Monday. It was a worrying weekend."

On Monday, Wonga told Claire to call her bank which refunded her money immediately. "But how can Wonga take money from someone's account that has never borrowed from them?" she asked.

Ben Cox, a student at the University of Central Lancashire, found £600 had been snatched. His bank informed him Wonga had taken the money. "I told them I had never used Wonga and the cash was refunded," he said. "But my card was cancelled leaving it difficult for me to pay for essentials."

Wonga denied its systems are lax, pointing out that fraud counts for less that 0.01 per cent of loans. A spokesman said: "Where criminals do get through, our fraud team works with the victims, indemnifying them from costs or impact to their credit rating, plus working with the authorities."

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