A growing number of innocent people are becoming victims of criminals who use the payday lender Wonga to steal cash. The first time most 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". That leaves fraudsters free to repeat their con, leaving more people having their account drained by the lender.
Andrew Cotterrell 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 it wrote off the debt. "Because Wonga decided to write off the fraud, the police did not take action," he said. "This means not only does the criminal walk free but the crime is not logged, and the true scale of the fraud remains hidden."
Through identity theft criminals use people's bank details to borrow cash from Wonga. They then flee with the money. Last weekend Claire Desbois, a retail assistant, had £600 taken out of her account in nine different transactions by Wonga. The 30-year-old said: "I had never used them but called Wonga right away but they said I'd have to speak to their specialist team on Monday. It left me having a very worrying weekend." On Monday Wonga simply told Claire to call her bank which refunded her money immediately.
The victims accuse the lender of not checking borrowers' details properly. Mr Cotterrell said: "There don't seem to be sufficient checks at Wonga to trap criminals and I suspect they don't really care as their success in getting new business far outweighs the cost of writing off the crime."
Wonga denied its systems are lax, pointing out that fraud counts for less than 0.01 per cent of its loans. A spokesman said: "Where criminals do get through the net, our fraud team works with victims of identity theft, indemnifying them from costs, plus working with the police wherever possible."
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