All Colin Meakin wanted was reassurance. On February 4 he rang NatWest, the bank he had been with for years, to make sure he was not about to do anything stupid with his £60,000 investment.

Meakin, 61, from West Yorkshire, had been approached by someone claiming to be from the insurer Aviva about putting money into a series of investment bonds. He had been an Aviva customer for years and the person on the end of the phone seemed to know everything about him. They sent him prospectuses for the investments and invited him to add his details to the Aviva website, which looked genuine.

But when the caller suggested he transfer savings to a “handling account” at a different bank, Meakin became concerned, so

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