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Banks are still letting fraud victims down

Five years since our super-complaint to the regulator highlighting the risk to consumers from authorised push payment (APP) scams, victims are still being let down.

Becoming the victim of an APP scam – when you’re tricked into sending a scammer your money – can have a devastating financial and emotional impact.

Scammers’ tactics are becoming ever-more sophisticated; they can spoof phone numbers, post fraudulent adverts online and send thousands of phishing emails at the press of a button. The Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS), legal standards and scam experts all agree that the vast majority of the time it hasn’t been a consumer’s fault when they’ve been scammed.

Guide: How to spot a scam

Despite Which?’s super-complaint in 2016 leading to a voluntary code for banks to sign up to, that was supposed to increase protections for consumers and lead to a fairer system for reimbursement of victims, losses to bank transfer scams remain high (£479 million in 2020) and reimbursement rates remain shockingly low. 

Unpredictable and unrealistic expectations

Five years on, whilst you’re now more likely to get your money back if you are scammed, most scam victims are still out of pocket thanks to the unpredictable and unrealistic expectations of the banks who are meant to protect them: 

🔹 Banks found victims at least partly responsible for their losses in 77% of cases assessed in the first 14 months of the code.

🔹 Two banks found the customer fully liable in more than nine in 10 decisions.

On top of this, a new Which? investigation has revealed the appalling treatment some scam victims are suffering at the hands of their bank.

In one instance, a Lloyds customer was initially denied reimbursement for £64,000 after receiving a text from a fraudster claiming to be from her bank asking to verify a transaction by calling the phone number supplied. As it was not unusual for her bank to send similar texts, she did so and was immediately entangled in a scam.

The fraudster quickly established trust, telling the victim he would order a new debit card and persuading her to download a remote access app called AnyDesk to ‘secure her account’. It came to light that the fraudster had made 14 payments in total and only £4,057 was reclaimed from the receiving banks (TSB and Wise).

An opportunity for change

It’s clear that mandatory minimum levels of protection for consumers are what’s needed. Which? is urging strong and swift action from the regulator – the Payment Systems Regulator (PSR) – to ensure banks do more to protect consumers and treat customers fairly and consistently.

In a fairer world, fraudsters would be caught and forced to repay the victims of their crimes, but the harsh reality is that while scam reports are up, convictions are down.

What’s more, banks are all too often pinning the blame for losses on victims. The only way to properly protect consumers is for the regulator to take strong action to make sure that customers are better protected from APP scams, and are treated fairly and consistently when applying to get their money back.

You can join our call to stamp out scams here.

Have you experienced poor treatment at the hands of your bank, or struggled to get reimbursed, when you’ve been the victim of a bank transfer scam? Let us know in the comments.

Comments

” Five years on, whilst you’re now more likely to get your money back if you are scammed, most scam victims are still out of pocket thanks to the unpredictable and unrealistic expectations of the banks who are meant to protect them: . But when someone is defrauded why is the bank held to be responsible? Unless, that is, they had reason to believe a fraud was being perpetrated or they had insufficient precautions in place.

I know I am at odds with the Which? view that most defrauded bank customers should be refunded by their banks. Why? Well, I do not see why we should regard banks as the automatic guarantor whenever we make a mistaken financial transaction unless, that is, the bank has been negligent or knows a transaction is being made with a fraudulent person.

It starts with the language. Which? continually use the term “banks blame customers”, an emotive word designed to place sympathy, whereas I regard banks as looking at responsibility, irresponsibility or carelessness.

Why should someone who has not taken due care, whether they do so knowingly or are not aware of what happens in the real world, simply expect to be repaid – except by recovering funds from the perpetrator? A great danger of an entitlement to a refund is to encourage some people to be more reckless than they otherwise might, knowing they are unlikely to lose.

Take an investment opportunity. It might look too good to be true, or it might pay off well. So go for it and if it fails, just get your bank to give back your money. A pensioner is quoted as investing £160 000 in Grandefex that turned out to be an investment scam. More “reviews” (for what they are worth, but they should have raised concerns ) were bad than good. What competence did the investor have to decide a place to invest such a large amount of money – seemingly none. And yet Which? want it all repaid. Did the bank know it was a scam? Did the investor ask his bank for advice before parting with the money? Where is the bank responsible?

Another example they give is a mother receiving a Whatsapp message from her “daughter” asking for a £400 bill to be paid with the rather implausible excuse that she cannot use her phone because she was changing provider and her number would not work for the transaction. Why did the mother not respond by Whatsapp first as most of us might before sending money. Why was the bank responsible for someone falling for a fraudulent Whatsapp message?

I simply believe this Which? approach is wrong, is unfair on all the banks’ customers who will have to provide refunds, and does nothing to promote customer responsibility or awareness.

This topic is repeated endlessly, with commenters from all sides, including many worthwhile and constructive suggestions (in my view) as to how people could be better protected from making unsound financial decisions. Yet not a word of these from Which?; they are simply ignored.

I want to see the security of online transactions improved so people are better protected – from themselves as well as from fraudsters. I want to see banks held to account when they should have known a customer was acting improperly or exposed to fraud, and when they have been negligent in performing a transaction.

But I also want to see constructive proposals at how better security can be achieved, not just the usual lazy “something must be done” approach that, inevitably, shifts the focus on to an easy target – a financial institution.

Come on Which?. Take a fair and balanced approach but, more important, investigate with others who may have better knowledge of what is possible, and report to us on how to improve the situation. Dishing out refunds as the default is no sustainable way forward.

https://www.which.co.uk/news/2021/09/which-calls-for-an-end-to-banks-blaming-fraud-victims/

I agree with you malcolm.

First Direct were right to say the pensioner should have carried out greater checks. Google returns plenty of warnings:

Type Grandefex into google and search by date ending 1st November 2020 and you get:

23 Mar 2020 – Grandefex / FCA – Grandefex is not authorised or registered by the FCA. Find out why and how to protect yourself from scammers.

26 Jun 2020 – Beware of grandefex.com! FCA scam warning! – ForexBrokerz …

17 Feb 2020 – So Grandefex is just another unregulated forex broker, which means the customers are not protected

16 Apr 2020 – Grandefex Reviews – Lawyers warn Investors in this context . . The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) of the United Kingdom issued a warning on Grandefex on 23 March 2020

29 Jun 2020 – Grandefex Review 2020 – Are They Legit? – Scam Brokers Rating: 2.5/10

8 Jun 2020 – Grandefex scam broker Review . . . We do not recommend to trade with Grandefex since this broker has been suspected as a scam broker

16 Apr 2020 – Grandefex Scam Review | File a Broker Complaint – Retrieve-IT . . . .Lost money to Grandefex? You’re not alone. Retrieve it can help you to get your money back from the Grandefex scam broker.

Type grandefex trustpilot into google and more results appear:

17 Feb 2020 – GRANDEFEX is a recognised SCAMMING company . . .

4 Aug 2019 – Can I get my money back from a Crypto Scam? – MoneyBack …

Grandefex don’t seem to have any reviews on Trustpilot. Have they been removed?

If a person has £180,000 to invest and is capable of finding an investment opportunity, they are also capable of doing some checking before parting with their money. The bank didn’t make him invest in Grandefex so why should they refund him?

And you are right, all constructive suggestions are ignored.

Why doesn’t Which? offer a free vetting service seeing as they feel so strongly about bank fraud. It could save us all £millions.

They could advertise the service when they sponsor TV programmes.

malcolm r says:.15 September 2021

” Five years on, whilst you’re now more likely to get your money back if you are scammed, most scam victims are still out of pocket thanks to the unpredictable and unrealistic expectations of the banks who are meant to protect them.”

All that is accurate. It comes down to the inconsistent approach taken by the banking industry. Surely, that’s why we pay our W? subs? To highlight issues which adversely affect consumer confidence?

Which? continually use the term “banks blame customers”, an emotive word designed to place sympathy, whereas I regard banks as looking at responsibility, irresponsibility or “carelessness”

You really consider “blame” to be more emotive than “irresponsibility” or “carelessness”? “Blame” simply means “carelessness”. But that doesn’t apply to many cases, such as the Lloyds case:

It could detect that her online account had been accessed via remote-access software (a common tactic of APP fraudsters) and it knew that scammers coach their victims to give false explanations for payment. This combined with the unusual account activity should have been enough to prompt Lloyds to take action.

Why did they not take action? Why could they not detect the remote access? You see, ‘blame’ runs both ways.

Alma said: ‘Each time I spoke to the bank I had to wait in a queue and repeat my whole story as I wasn’t allocated a specified caseworker or dedicated contact number.

That sort of behaviour from a business we entrust with our finances is obscene. But then, we only have to look back at the banks’ previous track records to see the situation in full, don’t we?

I simply believe this Which? approach is wrong, is unfair on all the banks’ customers who will have to provide refunds, and does nothing to promote customer responsibility or awareness.

Ah. So your main point is that it will cost you money. So let’s examine that concern in detail.

I’ve already posted details of the enormous salaries the banks’ CEOs receive. But the banks are making huge profits. HSBC made a profit – a profit – of almost £12,000,000,000 last year. £12bn in profit. In light of that are we sure it seems reasonable to complain about an elderly gentleman being repaid £400 for an error of judgement?

Brian Caplen, editor of The Banker, said: ‘Due to its large size, when HSBC has a good year, UK banking profits as a whole tend to have a good year.
‘Add to that the improved performance at RBS and Barclays, and another strong set of results from Lloyds, and the UK banking sector starts to look increasingly healthy.

And yet, given their tear-inducing profits, they still can’t manage to reach decisions in a reasonable time:

First Direct took more than 35 days to reach a decision (banks should respond to reimbursement claims within 15 working days or 35 in ‘exceptional cases’) and failed to warn John that he was at risk of identity fraud because the scammers had copies of his passport and recent bills.

Wow. Perhaps the banks could spare a little fraction of their £22,000,000,000 in profits last year to sort out their systems so decisions are taken more consistently, customers treated far better and perhaps – just perhaps – pay some dividends from that incredible profit figure to their customers, in terms of improved security at the very least.

Profits are irrelevant to what I have said. My concern is that responsibility is properly attributed when deciding a claim.

I don’t agree. Profits stand front and centre of this issue.

When the banks are making, between them, more than £22,000,000,000.00 profit I believe we are entitled to expect the banks to deal with their customers consistently, in good faith and in ways that reflect modern consumer practice. It’s clear that they’re not doing that and, in some cases, not even coming close.

In my own, very limited, personal experience I’ve already posted examples of their inability to work together in the interests of their customers. Those who are apologists for the banks should consider the difficulties the banks current approaches cause for the vulnerable.

I note the thumb has been removed.
We must just disagree, Ian.

I have been the victim of a scammer this year and I have lost all my savings to them and my bank HSBC will not pay me back my money. The have sed that I am a victim of a push scam but said I will not be getting back my money. I have been in touch with the bank where my money was sent to by the scammer and I have the sort code and the bank account number. I’m waiting for them to get back to me regarding it.

I have been scammed for £100,0000

The name of the scammers and the firm is NCAPITAL as it’s known now. It was called Neuer Capital and the names off the scammers are Christopher Green and Shane Dupree so please be careful as they will take all your savings. It’s Bitcoin

If this is the company, here is one comment “Ncapital Group is a broker that deals primarily in crypto CFDs – it only has one Forex asset available. Ncapital Group is also not licensed in any way and does not deserve your time or attention. Let’s take a closer look at the broker https://theforexreview.com/2021/05/21/ncapital-group-review/

Do you understand Cryptocurrency and the market players? Did you seek professional advice before investing? Did you ask for your bank’s advice before making such a large payment?

“When investing large amounts, or any changes to your pension, consider getting independent financial advice.a”

Read more: https://www.which.co.uk/news/2021/09/ive-lost-100000-to-an-investment-scam-can-i-recover-my-money/ – Which?

Very sensible advice from Which? It should be made the headline, though, rather than tucked away in the text. Many high – value scams would be avoided if people who lack competence took the simple precaution of seeking professional advice.