Brett Gardiner lost £17,000 to an incredibly sophisticated scam, but when he tried to inform the relevant banks, most didn't even respond.
Bank customers will soon have more protection if they are tricked into moving money into a fraudster’s account, known as authorised push payment (APP) fraud, under a new code of conduct.
Unfortunately, the voluntary code has arrived too late to help some victims and will not be applied retrospectively once it comes into force at the end of May (or from 14 April for TSB customers).
Past APP victims include 62-year-old retired police officer Brett Garner from Cheshire.
Scammed out of £17,000
Brett lost a huge chunk of his savings in May last year, but as he made the online bank payments himself, his bank HSBC said it was unable to help.
The fraudsters managed to convince Brett to move the money in a series of transactions to different banks.
When Brett contacted the banks – Monzo, APS Financial (also known as Cashplus) and Nationwide Building Society – which all received his cash during the fraud, they also did nothing.
As Brett was not their customer, they were not obliged to deal with his complaint.
Unfortunately, it was several weeks before Brett realised it had been a scam, so all the money had already been withdrawn by the fraudsters from the receiving banks.
But Brett felt that, since these institutions had enabled fraudsters to launder money through their accounts, they were liable for his losses.
Despite sending complaints in writing, he heard nothing back.
How scams are getting more convincing
In Brett’s case, the fraud was meticulously planned and sophisticated.
The criminals had information about his financial situation, his past investments and knew exactly how to convince Brett to trust them.
Brett says: "They knew a lot about a land investment I took out in 2011 through a company called Green Planet, who later went into administration.
"It all seemed so plausible and legitimate. They said they were helping me to get some of those losses back.
"I had no reason not to believe it. As a retired bobby I never contemplated this could happen to me."
More than £354 million was stolen in APP fraud last year from 83,864 victims, according to UK Finance, which represents the banking industry.
It was an increase on the previous year when there were £263 million in losses.
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Help from regulators
Brett was thrown a potential lifeline in January when the Financial Conduct Authority announced APP fraud victims could pursue a complaint against ‘receiving’ banks – the bank used by the fraudster to receive the stolen funds.
Victims could also take these cases to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS), if they could not be resolved with the bank.
In response, Brett has now refreshed his complaints against the receiving banks (AFS, Monzo and Nationwide Building Society), and is waiting for their response.
He has also opened three cases at the FOS.
But with long waiting times, it is unclear how long it will be before a decision is made on his case.
How have the banks responded?
loveMONEY contacted the banks and Nationwide on Brett’s behalf.
Nationwide told us: "Nationwide sympathises with Mr Garner.
"The money was withdrawn from the Nationwide account within 24 hours of the payment being made so when he contacted us three months later, there was no money remaining.
"The society has not received an alert from HSBC about the payment and was only alerted to the account when another bank contacted us about fraudulent payments on the account."
Nationwide apologised for not responding to Brett’s first complaint letter and has sent him £75 compensation for this.
Similarly, Monzo compensated Brett to the tune of £50.
After we published this article (on May 15), Cashplus responded to our initial request for comment to tell us it is now investigating Brett's case.
We will update the article once we learn the outcome of that investigation.
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