Hard working Mum is targeted by ATM thieves

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A HARD working mum from Hailsham was targeted by ruthless thieves ransacking her bank account via an ATM transaction.

Writer Jennifer Searle, aged 50, works as a popular ‘parish pump’ correspondent for the Sussex Express, covering Hailsham, Hellingly and Horsebridge.

The lone parent, who has two boys aged 10 and 14, discovered that £140 had been mysteriously snatched by thieves from an ATM (cashpoint machine) in Romford on Saturday, May 26.

Ms Searle said: “It might not sound much money to most people but it was all my accessible cash and is a lot to me.”

The theft was discovered when Ms Searle tried to take out cash from the ATM cashpoint at the Boship Total Garage that day – on her way to her son’s football tournament in Uckfield. But there was no money and the ATM display told her to ‘refer to banker’.

Ms Searle said: “I couldn’t remember what transactions had passed in-and-out of that account recently; and assumed that maybe a cheque hadn’t cleared and so the funds weren’t available yet - or there was something wrong with the machine or network.

“Luckily, I wasn’t completely out of cash. Later that evening I went to Tesco Hailsham to try again and got the same message. I paid for my shopping with my credit card, which I am normally loathe to do.”

The writer tried to make an internet transfer from another account to her ATM account on the Sunday. She added: “On opening my ATM account details I noticed that my account had been emptied via an ATM at Sainsbury’s in Romford on the Saturday and immediately alarm bells started ringing.”

Santander Bank has reimbursed the account after telling her no one could have taken money without knowing her card and PIN.

Ms Searle has always been careful using ATMs, hiding her PIN number and cheching the slot ‘for anything dodgy’. The writer believed thieves latched on to her after she withdrew money from an ATM in Eastbourne two months ago. She responded to a mobile phone text message saying her account had been compromised – but became suspicious of security questions asked by the ‘bank’ during a phone call. Another theory is that thieves used IT technology by pointing new ‘Smart’ phones at her handbag to get her bank details.

She added: “I am flummoxed as to how else they might have managed to do this to me.”