Banks slammed for blaming customers who've been scammed – your rights if you've been conned

Banks slammed for blaming customers who've been scammed – your rights if you've been conned

January 28, 2022

BANKS have been slammed for automatically blaming scam victims when money has been lost to fraudsters.

The Financial Ombudsman has warned the industry that it's "not fair" to claim that a customer has been "grossly negligent" just because they've fallen for a scam.

Customers were conned out of nearly £236million last year but only a quarter of that was actually refunded, according to UK Finance.

Banks have to refund cash stolen when a transfer is made without their authorisation.

The ombudsman claims that the firms often shift the blame on customers who may have handed over personal details which has allowed the fraud to happen so they don't have to pay out.

But crooks are using more sophisticated measures making a scam harder to spot, like masking their phone number to make it look like they're calling from the bank.

‘I lost my entire £40,000 life savings’

FORMER NHS worker Jo Wilson, 61, had her bank account emptied of £40,000 after scammers called her pretending to be from Natwest.

The scammers pretended that the bank was warning the grandmother from Middlesex that someone had hacked into her account.

Suspicious, she Googled the phone number to make sure it was genuine before picking up the call, and it matched the number on the back of her debit card too.

But in reality, scammers tricked the panicked retiree into handing over a code generated by the card reader she had at home.

They then transferred the money in two huge lump sums, worth £19,500 and £19,600, over two days.

Even though the ex-NHS scientist immediately alerted the bank to the fraud it was too late for them to get her life savings back.

Natwest refused to refund Jo because they blamed for her handing over the code.

"I've lost everything I had," Jo told The Sun. "I've haven't touched that money in over 20 years.

"It's like I've been burgled. I feel violated. Someone has been looking at my account.

"I felt that something wasn’t right but what do you do when the call is coming from the bank’s number?

"I want people to know how these scammers do it and that the banks won’t protect you.

"I have no idea how I'm going to survive until I get my pension."

A Natwest spokesperson said: "We sympathise with Mrs Wilson and appreciate that this has been a very distressing experience for her.

"We take our responsibilities to preventing scams very seriously and would remind customers to remain vigilant against any type of scam.

"Customers should never make a payment or divulge full security credentials at the request of someone over the phone purporting to be from their bank."

Text messages from scammers even appear in existing threads from the bank.

The con-men then trick customers into handing over details like verification codes.

Some customers have even fallen victim to the sim swap scam where they convince your mobile firm to activate a new sim card giving fraudsters control of your mobile number.

The crooks are then able to reset your mobile banking passwords and transfer money out of your account.

‘I lost £17,000 to scammers’

A GYM owner, John Machine, 32, from Cheshire, had his TSB bank account completely cleared out by scammers after they stole £17,000.

Scammers used the frightening sim swap technique to get hold of John's money, where fraudsters convince your phone firm to switch your phone number.

John alerted TSB to the fraud and his account was locked.

He was able to get a refund on his cash because he hadn't handed over any details to fraudsters and the money had been moved without his authorisation.

But at the time, the bank promised to call him within 48 hours of him reporting it but he hadn't heard anything two weeks later.

In that time, his business was "at risk" because struggled to get paid by clients and was forced to borrow from friends and family to buy food.

It wasn't until The Sun intervened that he got the cash transferred back into his account.

He added: "I feel like I'm just a number to them but it's real for me. It's like they've just buried their heads in the sand.

"I think it's wrong that it takes me getting the Financial Ombudsman and the newspapers involved just for TSB to do what they should as a regulated bank."

A spokesperson for TSB said: "We’re really sorry for the experience Mr Machin has had and the distress and inconvenience this has caused him.

"I am pleased to say we have spoken to him and resolved his case – he has been fully refunded."

Now, the Financial Ombudsman, which resolves customer complaints, said that banks should take into account how convincing scams have become – and not simply assume that their customers were "grossly negligent".

Caroline Wayman from the FOS said: "It's not fair to automatically call a customer grossly negligent simply because they've fallen for a scam.

"That's especially true in light of the sophisticated way criminals exploit banks' security systems – and convince customers that their money is at risk.

"We often remind banks that they need to support what they're saying with facts. And if they can't do that, it's likely we'll tell them to cover the money their customer has lost."

How to get your money back after a scam

WHETHER you can get your money back after you’ve become a scam victim depends on how you made the payment.

Paid using a credit card 

If you paid for something on your credit card that cost between £100 and £30,000 and it turns out that it was never available or the seller disappears then you are protected under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act or chargeback.

This rules that the credit card company is jointly liable for these kinds of scams so they have to refund you.

Paid by debit card

You might be able to get the money back through the chargeback scheme, although it's a voluntary scheme and not in law.

You'll need to write to your bank explaining what happened and ask for a refund although the exact rules might very between American Express, Maestro and Visa cards.

Bank transfer 

If funds have been transferred from your account without your authorisation then the bank is obliged to refund the costs.

If you've fallen for a scam and handed over security details to fraudsters then the bank doesn't not have to give your money back if it feels there was "gross negligence" on your part.

But if you feel the bank's refusal is unjust then you are entitled to officiall complain to the bank or report the case to the Financial Ombudsman. But be aware that this process can take weeks.

Paid with PayPal

You should be covered by PayPal Buyer Protection if payments have been made from your account without your consent, or if the goods are from a bogus seller.

You're not protected if you handed over your details by filling out a fake PayPal payment page.

Using a money transfer wire service

Unfortuntely, if you made payments through a service like MoneyGram, PayPoint or Western Union then you won't be able to get your money back.

Katy Worobec, managing director of economic crime at UK Finance which represents high street banks, said: "Banks will always make every effort to help a customer recover any stolen funds and the industry has introduced new standards on how banks respond to scam victims.

"At the same time our Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign is giving people the knowledge they need to stay safe and we are working with the Joint Fraud Taskforce to deter and disrupt the criminals responsible for these scams."

The Sun Says

IT’S far too easy for banks to blame ­customers conned out of their savings.

Most of us are still too savvy to give our details to cold-callers or emailers. But the scams grow more and more credible and sophisticated. It’s easier than ever to be taken in and plenty are.

The Financial Ombudsman argues that it’s unfair to assume victims are “grossly negligent”, and we agree.

The onus must be on banks to beef up their security processes and software to keep our funds safe — as well as to keep hammering home to all customers the risk in handing over information.

Last year only a quarter of the £240million stolen got refunded.

That represents a shameful shirking of responsibility.

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