What is an 'authorised push payment' scam?

An authorised push payment scam, also known as a bank transfer (APP) scam, occurs when you - knowingly or unwittingly - transfer money from your own bank account to one belonging to a scammer.

For example, a scammer pretends to be from your bank’s fraud team and warns that you need to move your money to a safe account but it’s actually an account they control.

If you’ve been tricked into transferring money to the account of someone you don’t know, you might have been the victim of what’s known as Authorised Push Payment (APP) fraud.

1 Contact your bank immediately

If you think you’ve been scammed, you should call your bank or card provider immediately.

Tell them what happened, including the bank account number your money was sent to.

They might be able to either stop the transaction from going ahead or recover your money from the fraudster’s account.

But speed is of the essence for this, so it’s important to let them know as soon as it happens.

Other types of fraud

If you’ve been the victim of a different type of fraud - for example, you paid on your credit card or via PayPal - read our guide on what to do in those scenarios.

If you’re too embarrassed, know £1.2bn was lost to fraud in 2018 so you’re far from alone.

Scams are more complex and convincing than ever - people of all ages and backgrounds can unfortunately fall victim to scammers’ manipulations.

Hopefully, your bank will be able to help you or stop the scam.

2 Make a formal complaint to your bank

We’ve written a template letter to help you make a formal complaint to your bank if you were a victim of a bank transfer or APP scam.

You should use this after reporting the scam when it first happened, after you have a clearer idea of what happened and what your bank’s position is.

You should also report the scam to Action Fraud which will give you a crime reference number.

3 Escalate your complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS)

Even if your bank refuses to reimburse you, all hope isn’t lost.

You can still escalate your complaint to the financial ombudsman who will investigate what happened, what your bank did, what the receiving bank did and whether anyone is at fault.

In the last quarter of 2018, the financial ombudsman upheld 62% of complaints made by scam and fraud victims.

But it can take up to a year for your case to be decided on because of the volume of complaints the financial ombudsman receives. Which? has been assured they’re working to clear this backlog.

4 How to prove you didn’t authorise the bank transaction

Banks might tell you that it can’t help you either because you authorised the payment by providing the scammer with your details or because you were ‘grossly negligent’.

The onus is on your bank to prove why they’re refusing to refund you. They will need evidence to:

  • Prove you authorised the transaction - but your bank can’t just say because your password, card or Pin were used, that proves you authorised the payment.
  • Prove you are at fault because you were ‘grossly negligent’. This is quite a high test, or
  • You told your bank more than 13 months after the unauthorised transaction

You can challenge the first and second points.

How to challenge the claim you made an authorised transaction

If your bank says it won’t help you because you authorised the transaction by giving the scammer your personal or banking details, you can challenge this.

The financial ombudsman says when it considers whether a scam transaction was authorised, it considers whether the victim knew that money was going to leave their account.

If the victim didn’t realise they were making a payment, the financial ombudsman says it's likely it will rule the transaction was unauthorised so the bank should reimburse the money.

Scam example: Your bank’s ‘fraud team’ give you a call

1. A scammer spoofs your bank’s number, so it looks like your bank is calling you.

2. When you answer, the scammer tells you they’re a member of the fraud team.

3. They ask you a series of questions to prove your identity, including sending texts with confirmation codes which they ask for to prove your identity.

4. When you hang up and check your account, you see the codes actually allowed the scammers to drain your account.

You believed you were speaking with your bank and didn’t realise what you told them gave them access to your account.

Because of that, in this instance it’s likely the financial ombudsman will consider this to be an unauthorised transaction.

How to challenge the claim you were grossly negligent

The financial ombudsman says the bar for ‘grossly negligent’ is high - it doesn’t just mean you were careless or negligent.

Scammers use sophisticated technology and manipulative social engineering to trick you into thinking they’re someone else.

This means that, depending on what has happened, if you’ve given the scammer some details that doesn’t necessarily mean you have been ‘grossly negligent’.

The financial ombudsman investigates complaints about banks and financial institutions and makes legally binding rulings about cases.

So, if the bank claims you were ‘grossly negligent’, take your case to the financial ombudsman and ask them to rule on this.

Scam example: There’s a problem with your broadband connection

1. A scammer called a woman pretending to be from her telecoms provider, saying there had been hacking attempts on her broadband and they needed to secure it.

2. He confirmed her name, address, BT account number and email address as proof.

3. She followed his instructions and at some point logged into her online banking.

4. She soon got a text that a new payee had been set up at which point the fraudster hung up. £4,000 was transferred from her account within 30 minutes.

Her bank refused to reimburse her because they claimed she’d been 'grossly negligent'.

She complained to the financial ombudsman which ruled in her favour.

The financial ombudsman said she didn’t authorise the transfer because she didn’t know money was leaving her account and, because she was tricked, it wasn’t fair or reasonable to consider her to be grossly negligent.

The financial ombudsman ruled her bank refund her the full £4,000, plus an additional £300 compensation for the trouble and upset caused.

5 Emotional support available after a scam

Being scammed can take a huge toll on your emotional wellbeing and mental health. It's often helpful to speak to someone about what you’re going through.

This can be anything from a one-off scam to something which entangles you for months - every scam has an impact on your life, no matter its size.

Mind has a confidential information and support line, Mind Infoline, available on 0300 123 3393 (lines open 9am - 6pm, Monday – Friday).

The charity also runs the supportive online community Elefriends where you can talk about and share your experiences of mental health.

Victim Support has a free, 24/7 helpline where you can speak to someone confidentially. This can be a one-off call or they can refer you to local services for on-going support.

This service is free and run by Victim Support which is an independent charity.

You can contact Victim Support by:

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