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I protected the Queen at Sandringham but I couldn't stop scammers targeting my dad

PUBLISHED: 07:10 21 June 2019 | UPDATED: 10:49 21 June 2019

Simon Herrema (back row, second left) with elite firearms officers  Picture supplied by Keepel

Simon Herrema (back row, second left) with elite firearms officers Picture supplied by Keepel

Archant

He protected the Queen and her family at Sandringham and around the world.

Simon Herrema on an engagement with Prince Charles  Picture supplied by KeepelSimon Herrema on an engagement with Prince Charles Picture supplied by Keepel

But the elite Royal bodyguard could not stop scammers stealing thousands from his own father.

Now retired close protection officer Simon Herrema has developed an app to fox the fraudsters.

"I was protecting the Royal family but I couldn't protect my own dad from a phone call," said Mr Herrema, 58. "The crime left an already vulnerable man feeling even more endangered and this, in turn, left our family feeling incredibly angry.

"I hated the fact that I was powerless to stop this crime from happening again without taking away my dad's independence. My dad was a smart, brave and honorable man, he served in the Second World War and worked hard all his life but in his old age, he wasn't expecting someone to phone him up at home and steal his money. Being a policeman, I began thinking about what could be done to stop this from happening to other people."

The app developed by Simon Herrema after his elderly father was scammed  Picture: Supplied by keepelThe app developed by Simon Herrema after his elderly father was scammed Picture: Supplied by keepel

Hundreds of millions are stolen from consumers each year and the threat of phone fraud is growing. Money stolen over the phone is rarely all returned.

Mr Herrema has developed an artificial intelligence app called Keepel, which monitors calls. It listens out for the type of language and emotional manipulation used by scammers. When this is detected Keepel cuts the call off, keeping the user safe."

"The idea behind Keepel is easy to describe, it's a highly efficient natural language filter that draws out the words, phrases and ideas that telephone scammers use and when the system decides that fraud is occurring, it cuts the call off. We've called the product Keepel and we think it will make a huge difference to the security of people who adopt it and it'll make telephone fraud next to impossible."

A year on from starting the project, Mr Herrema is now part of an international team testing out the app before it is released.

Keepel's chief executive Michael Hayes, who formerly served as Telefonica's head of multinational business, said: "Our chief technology officer has created a new evaluation process for locating criminal activity within a call and when we deploy Keepel it'll make a big contribution to public safety by preventing phone fraud."

A Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign is launching tomorrow to fund development. Mr Herrema hopes to release a Keepel app for Android phones this summer.

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