Suffolk: Firearms dealer’s fury over con as he relaxed in sauna

IPSWICH: Thieves were able to steal thousands of pounds from a firearms dealer by phoning him and pretending to be his bank to obtain his PIN number, it can be revealed today.

Neal Parnham was enjoying a day at Ufford Park hotel and spa, near Woodbridge, when his locker was ransacked.

The 40-year-old, from Ipswich, had been planning to bank funds from his business later that day, which meant his bank cards, iPhone and cheques and cash totalling around �4,000 were taken in the raid.

Mr Parnham – who runs a legitimate firearms business – was in the sauna with his wife at the time and was shocked when a receptionist informed him his bank was on the phone.

He said: “I didn’t know what to think. I had to go and answer the call next to the swimming pool on the staff phone.”

When he picked up the receiver, a man claiming to be from the Co-operative Bank said his bank cards were being used fraudulently in the Ipswich area.

The man said the bank was able to trace him because his last transaction was made from Ufford Park.

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Mr Parnham said: “They said they needed to ask me some security questions and started asking me all the things you would expect – my name, address, date of birth and my mother’s maiden name.”

But he said even though “alarm bells started to ring” he was tricked into giving the caller his PIN number.

Knowing the Co-operative Bank’s head office is in Manchester, Mr Parnham was also suspicious when the caller tried to organise a meeting with him later that afternoon in Ipswich.

He said: “Then they told me to go into the locker room and check all of my credit and debit cards were still there and I knew something wasn’t right.”

When he arrived in the changing room, Mr Parnham saw his locker had been smashed open and all of his valuables removed.

Although he was able to cancel the cheques, he lost �1,250 in cash and the thieves later cleared out thousands from his account from a Lloyds TSB cash machine in Bramford Lane, Ipswich.

He said: “It’s not just about the money. I’ve lost all of the numbers on my phone and that was a who’s who in firearms dealing from East Anglia to across the UK to America. Thankfully, 02 have been able to block anyone from accessing my information.”

Mr Parnham is working with Suffolk Police to catch the thieves, but said he is disappointed by Ufford Park’s level of co-operation.

He said: “The staff were initially helpful, but now when I phone up to find out if they know anymore they won’t return my calls.

“I phoned five times the other weekend and no-one will get back to me with information about what they are doing to assist the police.”

Nicholas Holdsworth, general manager of Ufford Park, said: “The matter is in the hands of the police. This is the first time an incident of this nature has ever happened at Ufford park.” A Suffolk police spokesman said inquiries were ongoing into the February 17 theft.

n Do you know anything about the theft? Call The Evening Star news desk on 01473 324788 or you can send an e-mail to starnews