Consumer group Which? has filed a ‘super-complaint’ with the Payment Systems Regulator (PSR) demanding banks do more to help customers who've lost money after being tricked by con-men into making a bank transfer.
Unlike with many other payment methods (such as credit cards), if you're duped into sending a bank transfer to a fraudster you aren't guaranteed a refund from your bank. The increasingly sophisticated nature of these scams has led to concerns more people are being tricked, with some left £1,000s out of pocket.
A survey by Which? of around 2,000 UK adults found:
- 60% didn't realise they had no consumer protection from their bank if scammed into making a bank transfer.
- 84% said they've used a bank transfer to make a payment
- 9% have made a bank transfer payment to a con-artist's account, or know someone else who has.
Which? is calling on banks to shoulder more responsibility for money lost to scams made by bank transfer, just as they reimburse customers who lose money due to scams via direct debits, credit and debit cards or fraudulent account activity. The idea is banks will then have an incentive to develop better mechanisms to nip bank transfer fraud in the bud.
For what to watch out for to avoid being tricked, see our 30+ Ways to Stop Scams guide.
Bank offers 10p refund after £17,500 taken
In one case quoted by Which?, fraudsters claiming to be from a UK bank convinced a customer that their account had been compromised and persuaded them to transfer £17,500 savings to another account, set up in their name.
Within minutes, the customer realised they had been tricked and contacted their bank, to be told the money had gone. The victim ended up being offered a refund of just 10p from their bank - the amount the fraudsters had left behind.
In another case, a holiday lettings customer booked an apartment in Paris and received an email with lettings agency branding asking for payment to be sent via a bank transfer. The customer transferred the money from his account, but soon after the property was taken down from the listings - and ultimately the customer was unable to get any of his money back.
What exactly is a ‘super-complaint’?
A super-complaint allows designated consumer bodies (such as Which?) to complain to regulatory bodies, including sector regulators, about market features that are significantly harming consumers interests.
Which? has submitted this super-complaint to the PSR and alerted the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). The PSR now has 90 days to respond to the concerns raised in the super-complaint - its options include taking regulatory action, using competition law powers or deciding no further action should be taken, depending on its assessment of the complaint.
What is Which? trying to achieve?
The consumer group argues the average banking customer can’t be expected to detect complex scams which pressure them to transfer money immediately, or distinguish between legitimate and lookalike bills, for example from solicitors or builders.
Which? also argues banks have developed and invested in security checks to detect fraud where they are liable to reimburse the victim, for example with credit card scams, but have done much less to tackle bank transfer scams, even though there are now more than 70 million bank transfers made every month in the UK.
In its super-complaint, Which? calls on the PSR to:
- Formally investigate the scale of bank transfer fraud and how much it is costing consumers .
- Take action and propose new measures and greater liability for banks to ensure consumers are better protected when they have been tricked into making a bank transfer.
What is the PSR doing?
The PSR has promised to examine the evidence Which? has supplied and gather its own to "build a clearer picture of the issue and decide a course of action".
The PSR was set up in April last year and this is the first super-complaint it's received. It has vowed to work closely with the FCA on the matter as well as any other relevant organisations.
Meanwhile, if you’ve got information that you think might be helpful in the course of the PSR’s investigations, you can contact the regulator at PSRSuper-Complaints@psr.org.uk.
What protection is in place if I'm defrauded by another payment method?
Consumers have much better protection from scammers seeking funds by other payment routes.
- If you inadvertently pay a fraudster with a credit card, you're likely to be able to recover the lost funds from your bank under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act (see our Section 75 guide for more help).
- If you're tricked into providing your banking security details and a scammer uses those details to make an unauthorised transfer of funds, you're likely to be able to get your money back from your bank under the Payment Services Regulations 2009.
However, it’s important to note that these rights won't apply in every case so be sure to check your individual circumstances.
What does Which? say?
Alex Neill, director of policy and campaigns at Which?, said: "We all now regularly use bank transfers to pay for things, but what most of us don't realise is that if you're conned into paying out money to a fraudster you stand to lose all of your money, unlike when you use your credit or debit card.
“With scams on the rise, consumers can only protect themselves so far and we believe that banks must do more to tackle bank transfer fraud and safeguard their customers from scams.”