A BUSINESSMAN has lost more than £30,000 of his life's savings to fraudsters who clone legitimate bank phone numbers to trick customers.

Philip Moore said his world fell apart when a man who called himself David rang from Natwest's listed customer services number at around 8.30pm on September 7.

A series of phone calls followed over the next three days where the man, who claimed to be based in Bristol, told the father-of-three fraudsters were trying to hack his business accounts and make thousands of pounds of withdrawals. He urged him to move all his money from his business and personal accounts to a holding account set up in his name with Barclays.

He stayed on the phone while Mr Moore, who runs wood burner, fire and radiator company Craftstone of Sussex in Seaford, transferred £19,950.00 online and £12,326 in person at the town's branch.

It was only when the 41-year-old rang back later to ask a question that he discovered no such employee existed.

He reported the crime to Sussex Police who referred him to Action Fraud, the national body which deals with such crimes and both banks told him they are investigating as a top priority. The branch manager has also tried to help but no-one knows where the money is.

Mr Moore said: "He knew so much about me and my account, his call came from a recognised number. I was so panicked by what he was telling me I just acted.

"This is the worst thing that has ever happened to me. I have no idea how I am going to survive financially. I'm living off the small amounts of money I make with my part-time taxi service at the moment.

"The money was to help me launch by new business venture - a pillow to reduce snoring - in November so now I don't know what to do. I think I'm going to have to re-mortgage my house.

"I've had a breakdown about it and am now on medication.

"I wished there was a protocol in place which meant the cashier should question such a big transaction. I'm worried the man had been an employee as he knew so much.

"I've been a victim of fraud before and the bank recovered the money, I had no reason to believe this phone call was not genuine and he phoned me several times.

"I just want someone to get back to me and tell me where my money is."

Sussex Police do not investigate such cases of fraud unless they class the victim as vulnerable.

Instead, they refer them to Action Fraud, which happened in this incident.

A force spokesman said fraudsters were starting to clone telephone numbers of banks to target customers.

A NatWest spokeswoman said: "We sympathise with anyone who has fallen victim to a scam.

"Scammers are becoming increasingly sophisticated and we’d encourage all our customers to be especially vigilant when transferring large amounts of money.”

NatWest said additional security questions are asked to help identify if a customer is the victim of a scam on transactions over a certain amount and it also has procedures in place which pick up on unusual transactions.