Yes, it is up to the banks to protect us from fraud – but it’ll be a long time before they do

Banks need to do more, and perhaps a lot more, even if the net result is costlier and more fiddly banking

James Moore
Tuesday 25 September 2018 14:04
Consumers are being scammed out of hundreds of millions of pounds a year
Consumers are being scammed out of hundreds of millions of pounds a year

There’s one born every minute, and stupidity has always been a capital crime. Can we really expect the banks to make good losses people incur through their own foolishness?

Some £145m went up in smoke due to unauthorised push payment scams, in which people were conned into transferring money to other accounts in the first half of 2018.

You will usually be refunded in the event of your falling victim to people using your bank details to make transactions without your knowledge – all too common in an era of identity and data theft (£358m was lost this way).

However, if you consciously click on the “pay” button, and your money vanishes, it’s a different story.

Many would argue that’s the way it should be. If people are daft enough to send £10,000 to deposed Prince Whathisname, after receiving an email promising 10 times that if he can just recover the funds that have been locked up in various banks as a result of his country’s internal strife, then more fool them.

If we ask banks to refund people suckered like that, if we order them to indulge in hand holding, we’ll all pay more. They will pass on the costs they incur. Their services will become harder and less convenient to use as they seek to protect their bottom lines.

That misses the point. Scams like the aforementioned still net the occasional victim. There are billions of people on the planet. Send enough emails out and you’ll eventually hook someone. It’s why they are so popular and enduring.

But there are plenty of more sophisticated fraudsters capable of drawing in even those people who might otherwise seem quite savvy. Find out that someone’s moving house? Why not target their deposit. Given how stressful the process is, you stand a good chance of catching them unawares if you contact them at the right time, and then it’s cha-ching!

People’s personal finances are the repositories of their hopes and dreams. They can be quite vulnerable when it looks like those hopes and dreams are about to be realised, through the purchase of a dream home, a car or a holiday cottage.

Most of us want to believe that people are basically decent, despite all evidence to the contrary. We can thus very easily become prey to clever crooks brokering such purchases who then vanish – pop – after our savings have been transferred.

The internet is manna from heaven for this type of vermin. It loads the dice in the huckster’s favour to an alarming degree.

Companies’ addiction to collecting our data, and their carelessness with it, helps them find out about us. There are “suckers” lists traded around the dark web to help them zero in on the vulnerable; past victims and the like.

But even the savvy can get caught. Want to check out a web address or a person or a bank account you’re paying into? Banks and other organisations aren’t always helpful.

I found that out when I was caught up in the Ticketmaster data theft. As a result, I was told I could have my details monitored by Experian. To do this I had to click on a link. I was wary about. It looked suspect. So I contacted Ticketmaster to check it out. The calls centre was hopeless and it was only after kicking up a fuss that I established it as legitimate.

I’ve since been told by Experian that my data’s being passed around. Would I like to sign up for something called Cifas? Well yes, yes I would. Could you send me details please, Experian?

Computer says no (at least so far). The data monitoring specialist ain’t so hot at responding to requests for information about, you know, data monitoring.

You see where I’m going with this? No? Then let me explain.

Stuff like this happens all the time. If it has put at risk a hard bitten, cynical, cautious, financially sophisticated journalist like me, if even I’m struggling to protect myself, how on earth is nice Mrs Nelmes at the bottom of the road going to manage in this dangerous new world?

The answer is that she’s not, especially not if her name’s on the mug’s list and some arsehole who looks legit tricks her into paying them for a holiday she was hoping to treat Mr Nelmes with on their anniversary.

Reforms are coming. One, called “confirmation of payee”, is designed to prevent people from being tricked into paying the wrong person. A “request to pay” asking consumers to approve regulator payments is also due. But not until 2020. And neither is a cure.

Banks need to do more, and perhaps a lot more, even if the net result is costlier and more fiddly banking, because the simple fact is we’re all at risk and until they act we will remain so, even if we’re careful.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in