I first became aware of the problem of phone fraud several years ago when I was still a
serving officer with the Metropolitan Police in London and working for the Royal Family as a bodyguard.
My late father was starting to get more confused as dementia began to take effect but he still lived at home with my mother and still kept his bank cards. One afternoon my mother went into town to the hairdresser leaving him pottering around the house, as she had done
many times before. However, on this particular afternoon she got back to find my father agitated and worried.
She eventually understood that he had answered the phone to a stranger who had persuaded him to authorise a payment of over £600.00, nearly emptying their account. They
didn’t realise it then, but he had been phone scammed.
My mother phoned me that afternoon very upset, I talked to my father to try to understand what had happened. Phone fraud was not as well publicised when this happened and I was not sure what had happened and how to help. I knew as soon as I spoke to my father that he thought he had done something silly, he felt and sounded confused and angry with
The next day I phoned his bank, one of the big high street banks to report the incident, and
being able to take some time off, I drove back to my parents' home to try to work with their bank to recover the money. The staff were very pleasant, sympathetic and sounded helpful,
the reality was they could not stop the payment, and they made the point repeatedly, that
as my father had authorised the payment they were powerless to get the money back, and
also that it was his responsibility and not theirs.
I asked if they could mitigate his loss in any way or help with compensation. No, they could
not, very sorry but it was his fault.
I pointed out that it sounded like he had been scammed. That made no difference to the
I pointed out he was elderly and suffering from dementia. That made no difference to the
I pointed out he had been a loyal customer for well over 50 years. That made no difference
to the bank.
But it made a difference to me, I got very angry. I got angry that nobody was doing anything
to stop this kind of criminal scam.
I continued contact with the bank for a while but, I was a serving police officer working as a
bodyguard to the Royal Family, I just didn't have time to spend on this.
A couple of years later I retired and moved North to start a new family home in Cumbria.
And something else changed, people were becoming fed up with being scammed on the
phone. I started to read press reports and see TV coverage of phone scamming. Then I read a story about a local couple running a business close to my home who lost over £80,000 to a
I got angry again.
I began to think hard, started to research on the internet and over a number of weeks I
worked out what the problem was, and crucially, how to stop it. I spoke to a good friend Eddy who loved the idea, we refined the concept, spoke to a friend of Eddy's, a recently retired telecoms executive, and our business Keepel was born.
Keepel sits in an APP on the phone. It does nothing until that phone receives a call. Then it
silently monitors the conversation. It's not intrusive, it does all of its work in the background. Once it detects that information, it recognises the conversation could be harmful and listens for more of that key information. If and when it's algorithms have decided the conversation is a scam, it cuts off the phone call before critical banking details can be divulged by the intended victim. Unlike call blockers or caller ID apps, a spoofed call is still going to be detected as the app doesn't rely on the phone number information to detect fraud.
We are also developing the ability to send messages to carers, family or others, possibly the bank or even the police to let them know it has intercepted a phone scam attempt.
I wish my old Dad had had Keepel on his phone.