Identity thief steals £90,000 from couple’s pension pot

A fraudster who stole a couple’s personal details in an attempt to defraud them of their £90,000 pension now faces over seven years in prison.

In a bid to also steal a £500,000 home, Saeed Ghani, 30, hijacked a property owner’s identity by transfer of property deeds.

In 2014, Ghani alongside Toma Ramanauskaite, 30, intercepted a Salford couple’s post in order to steal their identities. By taking out driving licenses masquerading as the couple, the fraudsters were able to use them as identification in order to open bank accounts under the pension-holder’s names.

After contacting the pension company, Ghani and Ramanauskaite were able to successfully transfer over £90,000.

In 2012, the pair, in conjunction with new accomplice Atif Mahmood, 42, stole personal documentation from the owner of the Cheshire home – Minh To, 62 – from a post box. Preston Crown Court heard that by using the details these letters contained, the pair intended to sell the half of a million-pound home.

The plot was only foiled when the daughter of Mr To alerted the police having noticed the property being advertised on Rightmove.

Conspiring to obtain personal details, the trio had stolen letters from an insecure post box. The details within the mail were then used to hijack Mr To’s identity, in a bid to sell his property without his knowledge.

As well as letters and driving licenses, Ghani had also used fake passports to take on the identities of others. Attempting to transfer property deeds of two Bolton homeowners, he utilised the fake identification in an attempt to transfer Land Registry deeds, worth £300,000.

Since new rules over pensions were introduced in April last year, savers are permitted to release a lump sum once they turn 55. Although the reform gave pensioners more flexibility in regards to their retirement plans, they are also made more susceptible to scamming techniques.

Experian.co.uk states that organisations should take steps to confirm those attempting to gain access to an account are the legitimate pension holders. This could mean firms requesting the bank confirm an account being held by a genuine policy owner, as well as introducing more rigorous checks on ID documentation.

In this case for example, had the pension company perhaps carried out a more meticulous identity inspection, the transfer may not have been permitted and the couple’s £90,000 safeguarded.

Ghani has been jailed for seven years and six months, with Mahmood facing a 29-month sentence. Ramanauskaite will be sentenced next month.

Commenting on the verdict’s power to hopefully deter potential fraudsters, was Detective Sergeant Phil Larratt, from Greater Manchester’s Police Fraud Team:

“In all three cases Ghani worked with an associate to hijack people’s identities by stealing their mail.

“Unfortunately in the final case, Ghani along with Ramanauskaite were again able to successfully hijack further identities to steal a couple’s pension.

“Today’s verdict will hopefully send out a message to fraudsters in Greater Manchester that people will receive significant sentences for these types of crimes.”

Mr Larratt also highlighted how the case should indicate the risks the public are exposed to:

“As this case demonstrates, fraudsters can use your identity details to open new bank accounts, request new driving licences and even try and steal your own home. We urge the public to secure their mail boxes and employ measures to protect their identities.”

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