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High street banks face 'super complaint' over bank transfers

Many consumers are unaware they have no rights if they are conned out of money through bank transfers Credit: PA

High street banks are failing to protect customers duped into transferring money to fraudsters, consumer group Which? has claimed.

The group has launched a "super complaint" to regulators over how victims conned into transferring money by bank transfer have no legals rights to get the money back from their banks.

If consumers lose money through scams linked to their credit or debit card, there is a system in place for banks to refund the money, the same is not the case with bank transfers.

Which? found six in ten people did not realise they had no consumer protection from their bank if they were conned into making a transfer. Research also showed that nearly one in ten people had or knew someone that had made a bank transfer payment to a fraudster's account.

We all now regularly use bank transfers to pay for things, but what most of us don't realise is that if you're conned into paying out money to a fraudster you stand to lose all of your money, unlike when you use your credit or debit card. With scams on the rise, consumers can only protect themselves so far and we believe that banks must do more to tackle bank transfer fraud and safeguard their customers from scams.

– Alex Neill, director of policy and campaigns at Which?
Which? made the super complaint to regulators over the lack of protection to consumers Credit: PA

In one case reported by Which? fraudsters claiming to be from a bank convinced a customer that their account had been compromised and to transfer £17,500 savings to another account, set up in their name.

Within minutes, the customer realised they had been tricked and contacted their bank, to be told the money had gone. The victim was offered a 10p refund which was the amount the fraudsters had left behind.

In another case, a holiday lettings customer booked an apartment in Paris. He received an email with lettings agency branding asking for the payment to be sent via a bank transfer.

The customer transferred the money from his account but soon after, the property was taken down from the listings.

The customer contacted the lettings agency who confirmed that the booking reference was invalid and that they were unable to help. The customer was unable to retrieve any of his money.

The consumer group made the complaint to the Payment Systems Regulator, which policies the banks. It now has 90 days to investigate and decide of there is need for action to be taken. Possible action includes carrying out a market review and drawing up new rules for high street banks.