Good news for victims of online fraud
(Anyone can be caught out - even the Police)
Elizabeth Ghali is a police officer. She was convinced the phone call from the NatWest’s fraud team was genuine. The phone number that appeared on her mobile matched the one on her bank card. The caller was able to identify one or two purchases from her bank statement. He went through security details, getting Elizabeth to confirm her date of birth and a handful of direct debits.
The caller convinced Elizabeth that there was a threat to her account security and that she should move her money to a safe one, using her card reader to generate a code to approve the transfer.
He was so clever, he even used the usual NatWest ‘on hold’ music, while keeping Elizabeth waiting.
Elizabeth became suspicious and phoned NatWest, only to learn that she had indeed been scammed and £15,000 of her savings had vanished.
In recent years, thousands of bank account holders have been scammed by online fraudsters into handing over thousands of pounds of savings. Holidays plans have been ruined. House moves have been scuppered. Entire life savings have disappeared. In short, evil criminals have ruined the lives of thousands of innocent people, causing untold misery.
Fraudsters posing as contractors
Crimes like this are known as APP (Authorised Push Payment) scams. During the first half of 2018, consumers lost £145.4m because of APP scams. According to UK Finance, only £31m was returned.
Other types of APP scam involve the fraudster posing as the victim’s contractor, such as a builder or solicitor. The criminals then send the victim a fake invoice to get them to send money to their own bank account.
Until recently, it could have taken many months for Elizabeth to have her case dealt with by her bank. Even then, she may well have been unsuccessful in demanding compensation, with the banks usually claiming ‘gross negligence’ on the part of the victim.
The new APP Code
Good news. Times have changed. There’s a good chance that NatWest will compensate Elizabeth for the full amount. Following joint work by the banks, the Payments Regulator and consumer groups, there is a new agreement, called the APP Code. It applies to businesses and individuals who have been the victims of online banking scams. Under this new code, ‘gross negligence’ will rarely be applied.
Banks who have signed up to the APP code
Those banks who have signed up to the code have committed to deciding whether to reimburse victims of APP within 15 working days. Most of the big well-known banks and many smaller ones have signed up to the code. Included are –
– HSBC (including HSBC, First Direct, and M&S Bank);
– Lloyds Banking Group (including Lloyds Bank, Halifax, Bank of Scotland, and Intelligent Finance);
– Metro Bank;
– RBS (including Royal Bank of Scotland, NatWest, and Ulster Bank);
– Santander (including Santander, Cahoot, and Carter Allen);
– Starling Bank.
At the time of writing, notable exclusions include Tesco Bank, Co-operative Bank, Clydesdale Bank, Yorkshire Bank and Virgin Money.
‘Help! I’ve been scammed. What should I do?’
You have a much better chance of being reimbursed than previously. You should contact the Financial Ombudsman for a judgement. The service is free, so what do you have to lose?
You’re allowed six years to complain to your bank. If they reject your complaint, then you have six months to refer your case to the Ombudsman. Here are those all-important details –
The Financial Ombudsman Service, Exchange Tower, London, E14 9SR.
Or call 020 7964 1000.
Or fill in a form at help.financial-ombudsman.org.uk/help.
This legal information is not the same as legal advice and you may not rely on our post as a recommendation of any particular legal understanding. Please, consult an attorney if you’d like to get advice on your interpretation of this article.