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£700,000 lost to bank transfer scams every day

Written by: Emma Lunn
More than £700,000 is being lost to bank transfer scams every day, as banks come in for fresh criticism about their ‘unfair and inconsistent’ approach to reimbursing customers.

UK Finance figures show that a total of £412.9m has been lost across 189,000 cases of bank transfer fraud between the introduction of a voluntary industry code on reimbursement in May 2019 and the end of 2020.

Which? calculated that this equates to £707,000 lost every day, or £29,000 an hour or £491 a minute.

However, only 46% of losses have been reimbursed under the code. As a result, £225m has not been returned to victims, meaning they have been left to shoulder net losses at a rate of £384,000 a day, £16,000 an hour, or £267 a minute.

It is now two years since the reimbursement code, which banks helped to design, came into force. But Which? says the large numbers of scams still taking place and the huge sums of money being lost highlight how systemic issues with protections for this type of crime remain.

The code makes it clear that if the customer is not at fault then they should be reimbursed, but Which?, as well as the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) and other consumer advocates, have repeatedly found banks are incorrectly deciding not to return their losses.

This includes cases where victims are subjected to the highly sophisticated tactics used by fraudsters, or where banks have not done an effective job of warning customers about the threat of being scammed. Which? says these factors show that the existing approach to tackling bank transfer scams is not sufficient.

The consumer champion is calling for changes so that mandatory standards of consumer protection are introduced to provide fairer and more consistent outcomes for people who have lost potentially life-changing sums of money.

Official figures from the Lending Standards Board have shown that banks signed up to the code hold victims fully or partially responsible for being scammed up to 77% of the time.

Decisions published by the Financial Ombudsman Service also show that in some cases banks are setting unrealistic expectations on customers to spot and prevent fraud, or that warnings to customers about the threat of being scammed are not up to scratch.

The mounting evidence suggests that some of the same banks that helped create the code are now choosing to interpret it so as to avoid reimbursing victims.

Which? strongly backs proposals from the Payments Systems Regulator to change the rules of the Faster Payment Scheme, to set mandatory standards for the reimbursement of those conned out of their money.

The consumer champion also believes greater transparency about how banks are handling cases of bank transfer fraud is needed, so consumers can clearly see how their bank chooses to treat victims of crime and how well they are tackling bank transfer fraud.

Gareth Shaw, head of money at Which? said: “Despite huge sums being lost on a daily basis, low reimbursement rates based on inconsistent and unfair decisions by firms demonstrate how the voluntary code isn’t providing the safeguards promised to victims of bank transfer scams.

“Two years on from the code’s introduction, it is clear that the Payment Systems Regulator must now take decisive action to prevent the continued devastation caused by this type of fraud. It needs to introduce mandatory standards of consumer protection for all banks and payment providers, and require greater transparency from firms on how they are dealing with this crime.”

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