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VICTORIA BISCHOFF: Banks must make their systems fit to fight fraud

The fraudsters are out of control. Scam calls, emails and text messages are not a new phenomenon.

But these days, barely a week goes by without crooks attempting to con me out of cash in one way or another.

From dodgy delivery texts to relentless automated calls about tax bills, Amazon and broadband, evading scammers has become part of everyday life — and colleagues, friends, relatives and readers say it’s the same for them.

Fraud threat: Figures from Citizens Advice revealed this week that more than two thirds of Britons have been targeted by scammers so far this year

In fact, disturbing figures from Citizens Advice revealed this week that more than two thirds of Britons have been targeted by scammers so far this year. 

Reports of fraudulent text messages have more than doubled, unsolicited emails are up sevenfold and scam calls have increased by 60 per cent compared with last year.

No one is safe. Over 55s and the vulnerable are most likely to be targeted but younger people with busy lifestyles are also at risk.

And as cynical fraudsters become ever more inventive and sophisticated, it is increasingly difficult to protect yourself — which is why we need banks to do more to help safeguard our money.

Money Mail has long campaigned for fairer treatment of scam victims, and fought for a refund scheme to make sure those caught out don’t end up losing their life savings. 

And while most major banks have pledged to refund blameless victims, worrying numbers are still being fobbed off.

Yet despite calls for more transparency, figures showing the proportion of fraud victims refunded by each bank remain anonymous. 

This secrecy has sparked a ‘bank-hunt’ among personal finance journalists seeking to name and shame the two worst offenders which refund only 4 per cent of customers. Shamefully, only Barclays and TSB have so far shown their cards.

Given that they refund customers in 74 per cent and 99 per cent of cases, these firms clearly have far less to hide.

But as we report today, refunds are only part of the puzzle. It is time banks introduced stricter checks to stop fraud happening in the first place and better protect vulnerable customers.

In the case of 71-year-old Alan Wilkinson, it was bad enough that such an unusual pattern of large payments was not enough to raise the alarm. But failing to intervene after his son alerted the bank to Alan’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis is unforgivable.

There are a host of simple measures that banks could roll out to reduce the risk of fraud, such as slowing down payments, introducing limits on transfers for those who don’t regularly send large sums of money, and allowing their customers to nominate a trusted person to be alerted to unusual activity.

The Payments Systems Regulator acknowledged last week that the banks’ systems are ‘limited’ in their ability to tackle bank transfer scams. 

‘This has raised questions about whether the rules and technology in place for Faster Payments are appropriate,’ it said.

Just look at how long it has taken for banks to introduce a basic check that ensures the customer name on an account matches the number and sort code before you make a payment.

This measure, ‘confirmation of payee’, was first proposed in 2018 but many banks including Metro Bank, TSB, Tesco Bank and Virgin Money still don’t offer it. 

The City watchdog also warned banks this week to tighten controls and check its warning list to stop customers transferring money to scammers.

Banks must make their systems fit to fight this scam-demic.

Prices on the up

Everything is getting more expensive. I know this because everyone keeps telling me.

Whenever I’m out and about, someone always mentions how the cost of their groceries, haircut, pint or takeaway has crept up since lockdown.

Of course, official figures bear this out, with inflation doubling in April. 

But hearing the figures reported doesn’t always prepare you for the impact in real life. 

And while inflation is still below the Bank of England’s target of 2 per cent, experts warn further rises are on the way.

If you are feeling the pinch from price hikes, share your story by emailing me at the address below.

v.bischoff@dailymail.co.uk

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