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Fraud victims lose £28k every hour

Paloma Kubiak
Written By:
Paloma Kubiak

Fraud victims are losing more to bank transfer scams every hour than the average UK worker earns in a year.

Between July 2019 and the end of June 2021, a total of £854m was lost to 306,573 cases of Authorised Push Payment (APP) fraud.

However, only 42% of losses were returned to customers, despite a voluntary reimbursement code on bank transfer scams being set up in May 2019.

This means £495m hasn’t been reimbursed, with customers shouldering net losses at a rate of £4.7m a week, £676,881 a day or £28,203 an hour, according to Which? analysis.

Meanwhile, the average UK employee earns £25,971 a year.

The campaign group said the reimbursement lottery leaves many victims facing an “uphill struggle” to recover their money as the voluntary code developed by lenders has been “applied inconsistently and often wrongly by many firms”.

It said it has heard from many victims who claim to have been unfairly treated by their bank.

In one case, a customer in his 80s fell victim to an impersonation scam on WhatsApp, losing £3,600. The fraudster posed as his son tricking him into transferring money to an account to supposedly pay for a bill.

The bank (Santander) initially refused to make any reimbursement after weeks of investigating the case, despite the sophistication of the scam and the victim’s age. It was only after Which? helped the victim write a complaint letter that the bank agreed to give a full refund.

These manipulative ‘Hi mum/dad’ WhatsApp scams are on the rise, with Which? revealing one in five social media scams reported to it between March 2021 and January 2022 was in this form.

And losses from APP fraud – where people are tricked into authorising a money transfer to another account which they believe belongs to a legitimate payee – have also risen year-on-year.

The regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority said reimbursement levels have been significantly lower than expected.

Further, the Lending Standards Board and Financial Ombudsman Service have also repeatedly found issues with inconsistent and unfair treatment of victims, and the government has been required to intervene.

Which? said changes need to be brought in swiftly and it should be made clearer exactly when firms should refund victims.

‘Inconsistent and unfair decisions by banks’

Rocio Concha, Which? director of policy and advocacy, said: “Despite huge sums being lost to bank transfer scams on an hourly basis, low reimbursement rates based on inconsistent and unfair decisions by banks demonstrate how the voluntary code isn’t providing the safeguards promised to victims.

“While commitments to make reimbursement mandatory were a huge win for consumers, it’s vital that the government introduces the right legislation that will ensure victims get fair and consistent treatment.

“The regulator must also ensure it is ready to introduce and enforce mandatory reimbursement rules the moment that this legislation is passed.”