How we helped with a complaint about a “safe account” scam

Fraud and scams

Lily contacted us following a scam. She had agreed to move £9,225 of her money to account details provided by a fraudster who had called her pretending to be her bank. Lily’s bank had said she should have carried out more checks on the caller. Unhappy with their response, she contacted us to complain.

What happened

Lily received a text message seemingly from her bank asking her to confirm whether she’d used her card to buy something online. She replied that she hadn’t.

The following day, Lily received a call from someone claiming to be her bank. According to the caller, Lily’s bank account was at risk from fraudsters and she needed to move all of her money to a new account in order to protect it. Unfortunately, the caller was in fact a fraudster pretending to be her bank.

Later, Lily told us that whilst she didn’t remember exactly what the caller knew about her, she could remember it was some of her personal information – such as her address and date of birth. Lily said it felt like the kind of information that her bank would know.

In order to build Lily’s trust, the fraudster also asked her to compare the telephone number they appeared to be calling from with the number on the back of her bank card. The numbers matched.

Satisfied she was speaking to her bank, increasingly pressured by the apparent urgency of the situation and naturally keen to prevent her money from being stolen, Lily agreed to move £9,225 to the account details provided by the fraudster.

The caller, Lily said, coached her through the entire process and instructed her to disregard any warnings that appeared on her screen and move through it quickly. When she entered the account details, Lily received a warning saying they didn’t match the name on the recipient account. The caller said this was to be expected, as the account hadn’t yet been set up. As Lily thought she was speaking to her bank and that they had her best interests at heart she believed the caller.

When Lily didn’t receive a promised call back the following day, she contacted her bank and the scam was revealed.

Lily’s bank said that she should have carried out more checks on the caller, and that she ignored a scam warning during the payment process and shouldn’t have gone ahead with a payment after being informed that the account wasn’t in her own name. So, it declined her claim under the Contingent Reimbursement Model (CRM) code.

What we said

We were persuaded that it was reasonable for Lily to have been convinced by the caller. We noted that she was unaware that phone numbers could be spoofed in this way and we found this aspect of the scam to be particularly compelling.

We accepted that Lily had been shown a warning but didn’t think it did enough to explain how a scam like this works and how Lily could avoid falling victim to it. We also didn’t think Lily was unreasonable, in the circumstances, to have accepted the caller’s explanation of why the account details didn’t match.

Overall, we thought that Lily should be reimbursed in full under the provisions of the CRM Code. As an aside, we were also of the view that the transaction was sufficiently remarkable, considering Lily’s previous account history that the bank ought to have flagged it as suspicious and contacted her before allowing it to leave her account. Had it done so, we thought the scam would have been prevented. So, we asked the bank to reimburse Lily in full.

Some ways to help protect yourself against a safe account scam.

  • A bank will NEVER contact you and ask you to move money. Hang up if you receive a call like this.
  • A call may appear on your Caller ID to come from your bank, but it doesn’t mean it has. Telephone numbers can be spoofed – caller ID is no guarantee that you are speaking to the person you think you are. The only way to establish whether you are really speaking to your bank is to hang up and call it back on a trusted number, preferably from a different phone.
  • The bank will never ask you to help catch fraudsters or criminals by moving money, neither will the police. They’ll never ask you to lie to the bank, only fraudsters will.
  • Always read and take account of the warnings the bank provides, only fraudsters will ask you to ignore them. Don’t just click through them – your bank would never ask you to do this either.
  • If you’ve already fallen victim to a scam, fraudsters will often try and contact you again, even pretending to be investigating your fraud claim. To ensure you’re speaking to your bank, hang up and call them back using a number you trust.