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25 Jun 2021

Halifax fails to reimburse scam victim £25,000, until Which? steps in

Which? Steps in to help a Halifax customer recover his life savings from scammers
Halifax sign

Do you have an issue you would like help to get sorted? Which? is here to help sort your consumer problems.

Dear Which?

After I lost £25,000 to a sophisticated scam I asked my bank, Halifax to recover my money. I was then subjected to a three-hour interview only to be told at the end that I wouldn't get my money back.

The scammers called me pretending to be a legitimate finance firm that could invest my savings without the risk of losing money.

After checking the company on the Financial Conduct Authority's website to ensure the 'firm' was regulated, I transferred the money but never got a receipt confirming the transaction. As I was concerned, I contacted Halifax to report the scam.

Halifax told me that because I didn't double check the details of the transaction and that I failed to 'heed the warnings' I couldn't get my money back. It also blocked me from using my online banking.

I know that Halifax is signed up to the codes of conduct for scam victims, so I know that my life savings should be reimbursed.

I feel I've been treated like a scammer, not the scammed. Can you help my wife Carol and I get our life savings back?

Paul, 72, from Southport

Put to Rights

Luke Jeffery, consumer rights expert at Which?, says: I'm sorry to hear that you had your life savings stolen and your bank was less than empathetic. Halifax's failure to investigate the scam and to properly question the circumstances surrounding the transaction let you down.

Being targeted by sophisticated scammers cloning the details of a legitimate company makes it difficult to spot the con.

The scammers knew specific details about the company they claimed to be representing in order to provide a false sense of security before the transaction was made.

It's good that you checked the Financial Conduct Authority's (FCA) website for information on the finance firms as it posts warnings about prolific scams that copy the details of legitimate firms. Checking the FCA register is a good first step to take. Unfortunately in this instance, the FCA posted its warning too late for you to find.

Many banks, including Halifax, are signed up to a code of conduct that outlines how customers should be reimbursed if they transfer money to a scammer. Put simply, if a bank is signed up to the code, it must reimburse scam victims even if they're partially to blame.

As you're a vulnerable customer who flagged the scam to Halifax with all the relevant evidence, you should have been fully reimbursed following a Halifax investigation. This never happened.

The bank transfer scam code of conduct outlines that banks should reimburse vulnerable customers. As you had no reason to believe that the fraudsters were masquerading as a legitimate company, you should not be liable for the loss.

married couple
Paul and Carol feel they have been treated 'like the scammer, not the scammed.'

'I was on the phone for three hours trying to prove I wasn't a scammer'

After you contacted Halifax with evidence of the scam, the bank insisted that the information must be given over the phone, keeping you on the line for three hours.

As a vulnerable customer, Halifax failed to assess your susceptibility to the scam. As you took sufficient steps to avoid this by phoning Halifax to ensure the transaction was OK, you should have your money refunded.

Halifax told you that by ignoring the warnings and not double checking that the scammer's phone number wasn't that of the legitimate firm, you wouldn't get your money back.

This is when you contacted the Which? Money Helpline for help writing a detailed complaint explaining to Halifax its obligations to you which we have explained above.

You have now received all of your money back plus interest with added compensation from Halifax.

We asked Halifax about Paul's case and it told us: 'We have a great deal of sympathy for Paul who was the victim of an investment scam via a fake website and we fully investigate each case based on its individual circumstances.

'While we were not made aware of any personal circumstances that may have put him at greater risk, we considered other factors such as the sophistication of the scam, and provided a full refund and have apologised to Paul for not getting this right the first time.'

Which? is calling for the voluntary code to be mandatory for all banks and for enforcement to be strengthened to ensure all victims are treated fairly. We also want banks and payment providers to regularly report on reimbursement rates.

In this instance, Halifax relied too heavily on fraud warnings, placing an unreasonable expectation on you as a scam victim to know you've been scammed.

Need to know

  • If you're contacted out of the blue by someone claiming to be from your bank, it could be a scam. Always make sure that the number phoning you is the right one.
  • Your bank has 15 days to make a decision on whether or not to reimburse a victim of a scam, but you can appeal the decision. The bank must then resolve the appeal just as quickly.
  • Report a scam to your bank and Action Fraud. You can also call 101 if you live in Scotland.

Get in touch. If you've got a consumer rights problem you need put right, email us at youstory@which.co.uk.

Please be aware that we can't help with, or respond to every email that we receive. The inbox is monitored periodically during office hours, Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm.

About Which? Money Helpline

Our members can give the Which? Money Helpline a call for guidance on everything from tax to travel insurance to scams.

The helpline is operated by advisers with more than 100 years of experience in the financial services industry between them.

Since the helpline started in 2009, we've helped more than 190,000 people with their financial queries.