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YORKSHIRE-BASED Irish jockey Dougie Costello is one of around 30 victims of banking fraud in the horse racing industry.
The Galway native, who lives in York, has had several thousand pounds taken from his account over the past three years amid a spate of attacks on key figures in the sport.
The Professional Jockey’s Association (PJA) released a statement last week confirming that all of their members have been advised to switch to private banking as high street providers were “seemingly both unwilling and incapable of preventing” these on-going acts of fraud.
An estimated £200,000 has been taken from jockeys and trainers since 2014 and although the banks usually replace the funds within 48 hours, the PJA appear to have lost patience with their inability to prevent the crimes.
“I must have had six or seven grand taken out of my account over the course of the last three years,” said Costello, a professional flat jockey and columnist for The Irish Post.
“At one stage I was getting new account cards posted to my house every other day, and that obviously sent alarm bells ringing because I knew these people were walking into the bank, claiming to be me and claiming to have lost their bank card.
“They’d be asked a few questions and before you knew it they’d be handed cash over the counter.
“I’m not really sure how they obtained my exact details, but they knew enough to be able to walk into a bank and withdraw my money. A lot of other jockeys have been going through the same.
“Touch wood, I’ve not been touched by it for the last three or four months.”
In Costello’s case, the fraudulent withdrawals took place in high street banking branches across Wigan and Wolverhampton, and the Irishman has also vented his frustration at their inability to prevent it.
“I was coming back from Newmarket one day and had a bank manager rang me, telling me they had a guy in their branch making what they knew were false claims about who he is,” said Costello.
“They called the police and he walked out. But that same day I was done again, just at a different branch.
“The fraud team can usually get your money back within 48 hours but I asked my bank not to release any money over the counter and, if anyone tried, they should ring my phone, yet I was still getting hacked.
“The PJA are working with a detective and a few high street banks, but they haven’t been able to do much about it so they’ve just advised us all to move all our accounts to a private bank.
“Moving all your accounts is quite a big thing to do, I’m still filling out the paperwork for it.”
Costello has warned others who use high street banks to be mindful of fraud by regularly checking transactions on their own accounts.
“The fraud team told me this actually happens to a lot of day-to-day people but it doesn’t make the press because they don’t have an association like the PJA to release a statement on their behalf,” he said.
“It just goes to show you the risk everyone is at. If people can hack into The Pentagon’s accounts, I’m sure a standard bank account is no big deal to these people.”
West Midlands Police have confirmed that a 38-year-old man is under investigation in relation to the crimes.