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HCR Law Events

Banking fraud scam – the right result for a victim of authorised push payment (APP)

An APP scam, also known as a bank transfer scam, occurs when you – knowingly or unwittingly – transfer money from your own bank account to one belonging to a fraudster. The fraudster will usually impersonate a member of staff at a bank, a police officer, or someone at a legitimate company with which a victim has an existing relationship. They then make what look like legitimate requests for payments, often using scaremongering tactics.

Our client, like many others, was tricked into transferring a large sum of money (nearly £70,000) to the account of someone he didn’t know. He came to Adam Finch and Louisa Jones of our dispute resolution team to pursue his complaint against his bank for reimbursement of the money as an APP scam victim.

The scam call and the transfer

In December 2020, our client received a cold call stating that somebody was committing fraud on his Amazon and Santander accounts and that the caller was working with the police. Our client asked to speak to the police and was transferred through to someone purporting to be a police officer. Our client verified this individual by asking for the shoulder number and the name of their superior officer both of which were provided promptly, convincingly and without hesitation.

The police officer knew our client’s personal and banking information, including his ID for Santander online banking, his security information, sort code, account number, mobile number, landline number, address and Amazon passwords and his date of birth, none of which he had provided.

The fictitious scenario put to him was that his help was needed in catching the fraudster hacking his accounts, and in order to help do this, the police had put £50,000 into his Santander account. He was asked to transfer this money back out of his account to catch the fraudster. When he logged into his bank account, he could see that a £50,000 deposit had gone into his account.

Remote access was requested by the alleged police officer to our client’s phone and computer, and a script was provided on his laptop screen of what to say to Santander when he phoned to move the £50,000. He believed he was assisting both the police and Santander and he was thanked for his service. He also thought that it was not his money, so he had little to lose by cooperating.

It later transpired that the £50,000 was never credited to his account, and that he had transferred his own funds to the fraudster.

Later that day, once the fraudster had access to his accounts, they transferred another £19,000 without his knowledge.

How we could help

On being instructed, we immediately contacted Santander and supported a tracing action to discover where the money had gone.

We also reminded Santander of its duties to our client under the Voluntary Authorised Push Payment Scam Code (the Code) that Santander and many other banks are signed up to. This means it has made a commitment to protect its customers and reimburse those who aren’t to blame for such scams.

We set out in detail why our client acted with the reasonable belief that he was assisting the police and the bank when he made the payment. It was, to his mind, a legitimate transfer, and therefore Santander had a duty to protect him and refund him under the code, as he was not to blame for the fraud.

Santander agreed to meet his claim and he was reimbursed in full. Had Santander not reimbursed him, the next step would have been to escalate his complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Our top tips for avoiding APP scams

  • Change passwords frequently and use long and complicated alphanumeric strings – including upper- and lower-, case letters along with special characters.
  • If you are being called from an organisation requesting personal information or money, always ask for the caller’s name, then end the call and find the correct number for the organisation on your documentation or online. Do not rely on any numbers provided to you by the caller. Phone the organisation back directly and ask for that individual.
  • Question unexpected approaches and requests. Be suspicious even if all seems well! You simply cannot be too careful.
  • Never rush a payment, as a genuine organisation won’t mind waiting.
  • Don’t rely on emails or account details contained within an email – they could be intercepted.
  • Have the confidence to say no. Listen to your instincts and leave the conversation if something feels off.
  • If you own a business that could be targeted with APP fraud, make it a matter of course to call the beneficiary of any payments over a set amount, to verify their details.

Adam Finch said: “It’s easy to fall victim to these scams. The fraudsters are sophisticated and well-practiced in pressing the right buttons to encourage the release of confidential banking information. Santander was willing to compensate our client, but this is not always the case. So it is crucial that you act quickly if you find yourself a victim of a fraud.”
If you’ve been tricked into transferring money to the account of someone you don’t know, you might have been the victim of APP fraud. If you would like to discuss this, please contact Adam Finch at [email protected] and Louisa Jones at [email protected]

Key contacts involved

Adam Finch, Partner

Direct Dial: 03301 075 954
Mobile: 07772 481 550

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