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19 Aug 2021

'I had no idea fraudsters can steal bank telephone numbers'

If caller ID can't be trusted, what can you do to check a call is genuine?

Do you have an issue you need put right? Which? is here to help get your consumer problems sorted.

Dear Which?,

I responded to a text message from what appeared to be the Barclays fraud team, requesting that I verify a payment.

Subsequently, I received a call from a number that matched the Barclays phone number on my debit card. I felt panicked and believed my account had been compromised.

The caller told me they were from the bank's fraud team - it was like a cross between being interrogated and hypnotised. I believed it was legitimate and I was persuaded to transfer the £1,096 in my bank account to a new 'safe bank account', due to a security issue.

I soon realised I'd been scammed and contacted Barclays. Following an investigation, Barclays reimbursed half of my money - £548 - stating that I didn't 'take reasonable steps to check the payment was genuine'.

I had no idea fraudsters could steal bank telephone numbers. The scammer used this to convince me the call was legitimate. What else could I have done to check the payment was genuine?

Louise, Hertfordshire

Put to Rights

Adam French, consumer rights expert at Which?, says:

It's frightening how easily scammers can spoof official phone numbers, especially when they sound so convincing on the phone.

The Contingent Reimbursement Model code for bank transfer scams, which Barclays is signed up to, requires scam victims to be refunded unless the bank can prove 'gross negligence', which is a high bar, especially if you're targeted by a convincing spoof number.

We asked Barclays why it had only offered a partial refund, it said: 'We have every sympathy with our customer, who was the victim of a bank impersonation scam. We apologise for the delay in the investigation and will be reimbursing the remaining funds.'

If your bank won't reimburse you following a scam, you can ask the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) to assess your complaint, for free.

You must have received a final response from your bank first, or if it hasn't resolved your complaint within eight weeks, you can go straight to the FOS.

How to spot spoof calls

Never share any personal or financial information with anyone calling you out of the blue, even if the number calling you looks official.

Instead, hang up and get in touch with the organisation yourself (using contact details you know to be correct) to verify everything you've been told.

Caller ID can't be trusted: it's easy for scammers to spoof legitimate phone numbers using software shared by criminals freely online.

Barclays also told us: 'No genuine bank will contact you to transfer money to a 'safe account' - ignore anyone who asks to do this, whether it's by phone, email or any other method.'

Need to know:

  • A bank transfer scam, also known as an authorised push payment (APP) scam, occurs when you transfer money from your own bank account to one belonging to a scammer. Most high street banks are signed up to the voluntary Authorised Push Payment Scam Code and should refund scam victims in most cases.
  • Stay one step ahead of the scammers by signing up for our free scam alert service.
  • Report a scam to your bank and Action Fraud, or by calling 101 if you live in Scotland.
  • Tell us about your scam experience and help our research by using our scam sharer tool.

Get in touch

If you've got a consumer rights problem you need to put right, email us at yourstory@which.co.uk.

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