Bank fraud victims likely to be offered fairer treatment

New voluntary code comes into play to protect scams in which victim pays fraudster directly

Bank customers who fall victim to frauds after 28 May will have a greater chance of being refunded. On that date, a new code of conduct comes into play that will require the banks to treat fraud victims better.

For over a year the Authorised Push Payment Scams Steering Group has been working on a voluntary code that has now been adopted by all the big banks, plus Nationwide.

The code is squarely aimed at victims of authorised push payment (APP) scams, where a customer is tricked into sending money to a scammer directly – in most cases probably because they were duped into believing they were talking to their bank’s fraud team.

The new code states customers should be reimbursed provided they took “sufficient care and heeded any warnings”.

Where the customer is deemed to be not to blame, they will be reimbursed from a central fund, though the existing funding for this has only been put in place until the end of the year.

Currently when a customer has authorised a payment, even if they are tricked into doing so, they have no legal right to a refund. The code protects them for the first time, but the banks still appear to have a big get-out as they are exempted if they believe the customer was “grossly negligent”.

This has until now been their go-to defence, and is still allowed under the terms of the new code. The fear is that nothing will change and the banks will continue to deny refunds, as has become routine.

The new code does not affect those duped into handing access to their online account to fraudsters who go on to empty the account themselves.

Also, refunds cannot be applied to previous frauds, meaning the code will only help future victims. The banks will also have to inform customers of their decision within 15 days of them reporting the scam. In 2018 a total of £354m was lost through APP scams, of which £228m was defrauded from personal accounts.

Contributor

Miles Brignall

The GuardianTramp

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