Margate Independent Food Bank directors ‘shell-shocked’ at £28,000 loss to scammers

Darryn and John from Margate Independent Food Bank

A Margate food bank director says £28,000 has been stolen from the organisation’s bank account by scammers.

John Finnegan, who launched Margate Independent Food Bank with co-director Darryn De La Soul in June, says he was tricked by a caller he thought was from Starling Bank into moving the entire cash amount from the company account to his personal account.

But the cash did not deposit into his account and has now disappeared.

John Finnegan Photo Twinkle Troughton

Mr Finnegan said: “I was called this morning at 11am. I recognised the number as Starling Bank, so I answered the mobile. She said she was from the bank and they have noticed an unusual transaction and want to check on it. She asked me to go to the app, which I did, and then she asked about a few transactions that had happened. The only one was £10,000 to PayPal.

“She said she will stop the £10,000 and put it back in the account, which she did. Then she said we need to transfer the money into my account which is also with Starling Bank, so we did.

“Then she said it will be in my account in about 45 minutes to an hour. All this time I was on hold on the landline trying to get through to the bank with no answer. It was another 45 minutes until the bank answered and then I found out I had been scammed. I still feel sick and annoyed.”

Photo Twinkle Troughton

Co-director Darryn said: “All the volunteers, John and myself are devastated to have fallen victim today to a very sophisticated fraud that has resulted in our bank account being emptied of £28,000.

“After recently receiving a substantial corporate donation, plus many donations from individuals, we were, at last, looking financially secure for the next six to eight months, so that we could continue our work of helping 300 households a week in Thanet feed themselves.

“The case is in the hands of the bank and the police, so all we can do is wait to find out what they can do. We are hopeful – as often banks can reverse these things. We are terrified – in case they can’t.

“Fortunately our bank, Starling, is signed up to the Contingent Reimbursement Model of helping victims of fraud, so we hope our loss is brief – though we don’t know how long it will take to get our money back.

“We are all absolutely shell-shocked and utterly horrified that anyone could be so cruel as to target a bank account with “foodbank” in the name. They are literally taking the food out of people’s mouths.

“On the plus side, we received a huge donation of a whole pallet of tinned sardines from Kingfisher Foods on Tuesday (which is being shared with other foodbanks in the area), and we have enough stock to provide some semblance of food parcels next week – albeit with fewer contents and less variety than normal.

“I can’t explain the emotions running through me right now – Fury. Devastation. Horror. And a grim determination that this will not stop us from doing the work we do.”

Kent Police confirmed a report of the scam had been received.

The Margate Independent Food Bank, based at Union Church, is hoping people will help with food donations to keep them going while they wait for the investigation to conclude.

They need:

UHT Milk

Tinned Hot Dogs

Baked beans

Tinned Soup

Pasta Sauce


Tinned vegetables

The food bank is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9.30am until 1pm at the Union Methodist Church, Union Row Margate, CT9 1PP, just behind Iceland.

If you are donating money, the safest way to do it is through the Crowdfunder:

Find the food bank on facebook here

Action if you have been scammed

If you think you’ve been scammed, you should call your bank or card provider immediately.

Tell the bank what happened, and let them know the bank account number your money was sent to.

Your bank might be able to either stop the transaction from going ahead or recover your money from the fraudster’s account.

But speed is of the essence for this, so it’s important to let your bank know as soon as it happens.

Scam example: Your bank’s ‘fraud team’ give you a call

A scammer spoofs your bank’s number, so it looks like your bank is calling you.

When you answer, the scammer tells you they’re a member of the fraud team.

They ask you a series of questions to prove your identity, including sending texts with confirmation codes which they ask for to prove your identity.

When you hang up and check your account, you see the codes actually allowed the scammers to drain your account.

You believed you were speaking with your bank and didn’t realise what you told them gave them access to your account.

Because of that, in this instance it’s likely the financial ombudsman will consider this to be an unauthorised transaction.


  1. How can one person from the organisation have access to the accounts and make these decisions where is the governance and oversight for the CIC? Do they have a debit card policy etc. Surely to remove / transfer any large sum of money from an organisation with charitable purposes CIC it would have to be signed off / voted by a co-sign director or trustee. As someone whom has run a charity for 20 years they were going to be targeted cause clearly their policy and procedures are not in place.

    I feel dreadful sorry for them, but I fear the banks will ask similar questions about oversight and not return the funds.

  2. I don’t think it’s a “Very sophisticated” fraud at all its just a thief telling someone a pack of lies and the victim falling for it. This sort of fraud has been publicised so many times now I’m surprised people are still falling for it.
    My motto is I.T.L.I.T.E.E.I. C..O. [ in the Lord I trust everyone else I check out]

    • Your right Ann, I am constantly amazed how gullible some people are when it comes to electronic scams! Just recently on the tele, a mature woman was taken for £100,000 by some young man in Ghana would you believe! I made it a rule many years ago to never, never make any financial transaction on the internet! Also, if someone phones and wants personal information, I always ask them to write, and I never hear from them again!

  3. One of the biggest scams is when the so called bank calls you and askes you to move money about. They just don’t do that and it is well publicised. You need to put the phone down and wait half an hour or use a different phone to ring the number on your card or on the website.
    I am not sure how one person has sole authority to make changes on a charity bank account and attempt to put all the proceeds into their own personal account. This just doesn’t sound right at all.
    I hope the police fraud team works out who took the funds and is able to get it back as the banks are still not as helpful as they should be in these situations.
    Scams by criminals are not just kept to well off businesses, these people don’t care who they con. It’s all money to them.

  4. Hoe exactly did they know these people use this bank I & I suspect most have never even heard of? What is this app he is talking about? Did he install Team Viewer on his phone at their behest?

  5. A banking app?
    Most banks have apps you can download to your tablet or phone.
    A variation on this scam is someone pretending to be the police phones up, tells you a cock and bull story and gets you to transfer your money.
    If any good can come out of this, it’s to alert us: banks (HMRC etc) will never phone you up out of the blue and get you to transfer money, nor give your PIN and so on.
    If you have a current account that usually had more than a month’s worth of dosh in it, open another account that’s not accessible by card, and transfer surplus cash into it. That way, if your card gets cloned, you will only lose some of your money.
    Sympathy to the food bank folk who’ve worked so hard.

    • Ah, I am still stuck in the dinosaur age of doing it on a laptop. Would be interesting to find out how they knew he was with that bank though-they can get lucky by guessing a big bank like Lloyds, HSBC, Natwest etc, but that is so obscure it perhaps indicates somebody close to the food bank at some point passing on information to these scammers.

  6. A classic and not sophisticated scam, so easy to spot.
    I will also ask the question, how was one individual allowed to be solely responsible for those amounts of cash?
    I have been on the board of a volunteer organisation with a turnover of around a million a year and even the financial director could not move more than £300 pounds without further authorisation.
    Things need tightening up, and quickly.
    Having said all that I really feel for those who put such huge efforts and time into such a worthy cause to then have their noses bloodied by thieving scammers. I hope the bank does the right thing.

    • Is there a difference between the bank authorising a transaction, and the food bank authorising a transaction?
      If the “board” or whatever authorised it, presumable just one signatory could actually go on line and move the money?

    • I am the person in Question Me and Darryn set the Food Bank up in June. We wanted to open a bank account with on of the big Bank or CAF Bank but due to the Covid-19 none of the Big Banks or CAF Bank were and still not taking on any New Business Accounts the only Bank that would let us was Starling Bank. We will move to CAF Bank once they Let us I have the forms already. I keep Darryn informed at all stages and the Volunteers they also have imput on how the Food Bank is Run. To start the Food Bank I put £1,400 of my own money. I feel sick and annoyed can’t eat and worried

      • Please don’t get too distressed. You are not alone. It’s happened to far too many people.
        If you’ve been watching FB you’ll see that there’s an outpouring of sympathy for you, and someone has already set up a funding page!
        Good luck to you and your colleagues.

  7. Things to always remember (from Starling Bank):

    Is this offer too good to be true?
    Is the person I’m speaking with genuinely who they say they are? Don’t be embarrassed to contact that person via a different method to be sure
    Have I been asked to send money out of the blue?
    Does the request sound reasonable?
    Are you being rushed or pressured into making a decision or completing a payment?
    Starling will never ask you to share your PIN, password or ask you to authorise a payment from your account to a new ‘safe account’.

Comments are closed.