/ Money

Update: Do you support our super-complaint on scams?

Bank transfer scams

Imagine this: You’ve had some building work done on your house and you’re arranging to pay the builder. Then you receive an email from your builder informing you that their bank account details have changed…

You transfer the money to them.

Later on, you find out the email was from a fraudster.

They had made their email virtually identical to the ones that you’d received from the builders before. You’ve been scammed – and you’ve got no right to get your money back from your bank.

Bank transfer scams super-complaint

Which? is using its legal powers to make a super-complaint to one of the financial regulators – the Payment Systems Regulator (PSR). We think banks need to do more to protect customers who are tricked into transferring money to a fraudster.

Some people might well think ‘that’ll never happen to me!’ They might say that people who are scammed should simply get better at protecting themselves.

But it’s an issue that comes up time and time again, with some people getting conned out of their life savings.

You only have to read the harrowing real life stories in our super-complaint to realise that these scams are often so sophisticated that it’s impossible for people to be savvy enough to completely protect themselves. And the people being scammed are not only the stereotypical vulnerable groups; they are often financially and technologically literate.

When we asked over 1,000 members of the public if they could spot the difference between real and spoof emails, we found that 50% of people were fooled by these sophisticated scams. Ultimately, people can only protect themselves so far, and with scams on the rise, we all need greater protection.

So what do we want?

Which? thinks banks should shoulder more responsibility for money lost to bank transfer scams. It’s unfair that customers who lose money due to scams via direct debit or credit and debit cards are reimbursed, for example, but not bank transfers. This would give banks an incentive to develop better mechanisms to prevent the fraud in the first place.


Update: 12 October

Alex Neill, our Director of Home and Legal Services, appeared on Rip Off Britain this morning (12 October) to talk about what action is needed to protect us all from scams.

After hearing the tragic tale of a scam victim who was tricked into transferring £77,000 to scammers posing as solicitors, Alex explained how banks can and must go beyond just protecting themselves from paying out against scams.

Banks already protect their customers for credit and debit card fraud, but there’s clearly need for them to improve their security processes to protect their customers from bank transfer scams.

That’s why we’ve made our super-complaint to the Payment Systems Regulator [PSR] . If you were tricked into transferring money from your account to a scammers’ account then you have no legal right to get you money back from your bank.

The PSR now has 70 days remaining to respond to our super-complaint.

Clearly, this is a complex issue. This is why we need financial regulators – not just the PSR but also the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) – to work together and address our concerns.

What would you like to see the regulators do to help prevent fraud?

Kit S says:
21 December 2016

Scenario 1: A bank makes a mistake – the mistake of paying some money into your bank account. The bank realises the mistake, and asks for the money back. Can you refuse? No. You are not allowed to keep the money – you must pay it back.
Scenario 2: A victim of fraud makes a mistake – the mistake of paying money into the fraudster’s bank account. The victim realises the mistake, and asks for the money back. The fraudster’s bank asks the fraudster to return the money. Can the fraudster refuse? Yes. (This happens all the time, hence the super complaint). The banks have prioritised the fraudster’s instructions over the victims, and the fraudster keeps the money.

Richard says:
8 August 2017

The problem is that by the time you realise the fraudster will already have moved your money on, probably overseas. The account you transferred the money into may just belong to a mule.

Bharti says:
7 November 2017

I am the victim of this kind of fraud. I have told the fraud squard about this it was in May of this year, and as yet they haven’t got back to me yet and I have rang them many times. The company name is 53capital trade , they gave false details. I have all the banking details where I sent them money to will that help to recover my money, they have got 70,000 usd in my account which they said I can withdraw but I can’t make a withdrawal it won’t let me. Can you help me with this please.


On the FCA (Financial conduct Authority’s Website:

53 Capital Trade
Warnings Published: 07/07/2017 Last updated: 07/07/2017
We believe this firm has been providing financial services or products in the UK without our authorisation. Find out why to be especially wary of dealing with this unauthorised firm and how to protect yourself from scammers.

Almost all firms and individuals offering, promoting or selling financial services or products in the UK have to be authorised by us.

However, some firms act without our authorisation and some knowingly run investment scams.

This firm is not authorised by us and is targeting people in the UK. Based upon information we hold, we believe it is carrying on regulated activities which require authorisation.

53 Capital Trade
Address: Paddington Central, 1 Kingdom St, London W2 6BY, UK
Telephone: +44 203 332 2200″

C Davies says:
14 December 2017

I am afraid that the Fraud Squad are really rather overwhelmed at the moment because so many people are trying to get better returns on their savings with interest rates being so low. This was said to me by one of their detectives. Also he said that the money gets squandered and disappears very quickly once in the hands of the fraudsters. It is good advice about checking with the FCA website but, unfortunately, a bit too late for yourself and my father.


Richard, I think I’m right in saying that handling stolen goods (which, I assume, includes money obtained fraudulently) is a criminal offence. If the police / CPS were to robustly investigate and prosecute ‘mules’ and if the Courts were to confiscate the assets of ‘mules’, there would, I imagine, be much less fraud. But do the police ever investigate complaints of fraud or attempted fraud? No they don’t – not in my experience, anyway. Actually, come to think of it, the police, nowadays, seem to have given up investigating most crimes.
Another, related thought: A bank, which inappropriately allows a ‘mule’ to open a bank account, which is subsequently used for fraudulent purposes, is surely guilty of conspiricy to defraud, and should be tried and sentenced accordingly – big fines, and prison sentences for responsible individuals!


I worked for over 20 years in a bank. Banks have a duty of care to protect customers from loss. In my opinion, the fraudster’s bank should be the one liable for the loss of money obtained by deception. A fraudster will either need genuine ID to open a bank account, in which case the fraudster can be traced and prosecuted. Or, the fraudster will use fake ID, which the bank should spot and reject. A fraudster can’t scam a victim out of money if they don’t have a bank account to receive the money. Banks have security checks in place to prevent accounts being opened fraudulently, or for fraudulent purposes. If a fraudster opens a bank account, it means that the bank has failed to complete the appropriate security checks. The bank’s inability to prevent the fraudster’s account being opened or being used for suspicious activity facilitates the crime, hence it should held be responsible for the victim’s loss. If banks know they will be responsible for the loss, they will be more diligent in identifying fraudsters at the application stage.

Elizabeth Astley says:
21 December 2016

Hi I was scammed out of £8,200 from an advert in my local press have been down all the routs open to me to try and reclaim my money banks should be liable as even with proof from metropoleten police that the account I paid money to was opened by a person who was not registered at address given or indeed in this country so Barclays opening bank account policy’s are not very effective and financial ombudsman won’t do anything unless the grievance is with the bank you hold accounts with anything I can do I will I hope that the banks will be made to account for their shortfalls in opening of mule bank account s