‘Fake builder email scammed us for £51k’

The Daily Telegraph - Your Money - - FRONT PAGE -

Last year there were 43,875 re­ported cases of “au­tho­rised push pay­ment” (APP) scams, where vic­tims are tricked into trans­fer­ring money to fraud­sters pos­ing as lawyers, banks and other trusted au­thor­i­ties. More than £230m was paid to scam­mers, of which just a quar­ter was re­turned to vic­tims.

The Pay­ment Sys­tems Reg­u­la­tor (PSR) is hold­ing a con­sul­ta­tion un­til Septem­ber to cre­ate a plan to re­im­burse vic­tims of push pay­ment fraud. Un­til then, as the Stringers have dis­cov­ered, there is no con­sumer pro­tec­tion for vic­tims if they are tricked into trans­fer­ring money to a crim­i­nal.

Tele­graph Money has long called for banks to take more re­spon­si­bil­ity for their part in APP scams. We want to see more con­sis­tency be­tween banks’ re­im­burse­ment poli­cies and bet­ter checks to pre­vent the open­ing of fraud­u­lent ac­counts.

Cur­rently, to en­sure a pay­ment is sent to the cor­rect ac­count, the bank or build­ing so­ci­ety re­quires two pieces of in­for­ma­tion: the unique sort code, which iden­ti­fies the bank branch, and the ac­count num­ber, which iden­ti­fies the ac­count held at that bank.

But al­though the cus­tomer name as­so­ci­ated with the des­ti­na­tion bank ac­count is gen­er­ally re­quested when a pay­ment is ini­ti­ated, it is not used to process the pay­ment or to di­rect it to the cor­rect ac­count. In other words, you could send a pay­ment to any ac­count with the name Santa Claus as the re­cip­i­ent and it would still go through.

This is due to change when a “con­fir­ma­tion of payee” scheme takes ef­fect. The sender of the money will be asked to con­firm the name at­tached to the re­cip­i­ent ac­count. Ex­perts ex­pect this to re­duce APP scams as well as “fat fin­ger” mis­takes.

Chris Har­ris, manag­ing di­rec­tor of Lawyer Checker, which pro­vides fraud preven­tion ser­vices for the le­gal in­dus­try, said: “As the con­sumer is tech­ni­cally au­tho­ris­ing the trans­fer of the funds, there has been a large ques­tion mark over com­pen­sa­tion.

“Ear­lier this year the PSR stated that banks needed to do more to pro­tect against this type of scam. How­ever, they stopped short of stat­ing that banks had an obli­ga­tion to com­pen­sate con­sumers.”

When Tele­graph Money con­tacted HSBC, it re­fused to con­firm that the ac­count the Stringers paid the £51,000 into had not been set up with false in­for­ma­tion, or that it had com­pleted strict anti-fraud re­quire­ments and ID checks.

The bank would also not con­firm that the name on the ac­count in ques­tion matched the name on the bank trans­fer re­ceived. A spokesman said: “Where there is al­leged fraud­u­lent use of our ac­counts we take it very se­ri­ously and as in this case take the ap­pro­pri­ate ac­tion.”

Jen­nifer Scur­field, a so­lic­i­tor at CG Nay­lor and spokesman for Rich­mond In­te­ri­ors, said: “Our client has a great deal of sym­pa­thy for Mr and Mrs Stringer’s po­si­tion, and is ap­palled that they have been de­frauded in this way.

“How­ever, our client is not re­spon­si­ble for the fraud that has been car­ried out against them, and has it­self suf­fered loss as a re­sult, in the form of its lost con­tract with Mr and Mrs Stringer, and the cost of goods that it bought in an­tic­i­pa­tion of that con­tract be­ing ful­filled.

“Our client is it­self a small busi­ness and can­not be ex­pected to bear for them the loss that they have suf­fered.”

This fam­ily was tricked into send­ing cash for a new kitchen to a fraud­ster. The bank in­volved wouldn’t help, says Kara Gam­mell ‘It feels like the crim­i­nals have more rights than the vic­tims’

Mark and Wendy Stringer with their chil­dren Sonny, Styler and Poppy in their un­com­pleted home in Mill Hill, north Lon­don

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