A fake Lloyds text led to Alma, 60, from Hampshire, losing her life savings of £64,000. Her bank has refused to fully reimburse her, despite being signed up to a code designed to protect customers from this type of scam.
Unlike unauthorised fraud - for example, where a scammer hacks into your bank account or uses your stolen card details - there is no legal protection from your bank if you fall victim to authorised push payment (APP) fraud, where you're tricked into sending money to a scammer.
But while the code means that you're now much more likely to get your money back, most scam victims are still out of pocket.
Alma received the 'Lloyds' text in May 2021. It instructed her to call the phone number supplied to verify a transaction. As it isn't unusual for her bank to send similar texts, she did so and was immediately entangled in a scam orchestrated by a fraudster claiming to work for Lloyds.
He quickly established trust, telling Alma he would order a new debit card and persuading her to download a called AnyDesk to 'secure her account'. Alma had no idea that this meant the scammer could block any warning texts sent by the real Lloyds.
'I had no reason to disbelieve this person. He sounded very professional and convincing with the empathy that you would expect from a caring bank. He advised that he was transferring funds to secure them. He always said to not hang up on the landline as he would keep coming back to me and not to speak to family members or the bank as they could be the scammers or be involved.'
Thankfully, Alma did talk it through with a family member a couple of days later and realised she may have been scammed. It came to light that the fraudster had made 14 payments in total and only £4,057 was recovered.
Even though Alma didn't move the money herself, Lloyds classes this as APP fraud because she was aware the payments were being made. It initially said that it wouldn't refund any money, but after Which? got involved, it refunded the seventh payment onwards, as this should have triggered another security check.
Lloyds told us: 'Protecting our customers' money is our priority and we have a great deal of sympathy for Alma as the victim of a scam. We fully investigate each case based on its individual circumstances, in line with the industry APP code and consider a number of factors including whether we could have taken any additional steps to help prevent the scam taking place.
'Unfortunately, Alma did not take sufficient steps to verify the identity of the caller who claimed to be from the bank. She also downloaded software which granted the fraudster access to her device and her online banking account. When we blocked the first payment due to unusual activity, she called us and told us the payments were for her cousin and confirmed the transaction should go ahead.
'However, we also believe we could have done more to help identify some of the payments made subsequently as being out of character, based on her previous account activity, and checked these with her before they were completed. We're very sorry for this, and together with the money reclaimed from the receiving banks, we've now been able to refund more than two thirds of the funds she lost.'
We think Alma should be reimbursed in full - not only because she didn't move the money herself and the fake text was highly plausible (particularly for a Lloyds customer who is used to receiving genuine texts with a phone number to call), but also because the bank had all of the information it needed to step in.
It could detect that her online account had been accessed via (a common tactic of APP fraudsters) and it knew that scammers to give false explanations for payment. This combined with the unusual account activity should have been enough to prompt Lloyds to take action.
We're also disappointed at the lack of support and poor communication from the fraud team, who did little to help Alma at an incredibly difficult time.
Alma said: 'Each time I spoke to the bank I had to wait in a queue and repeat my whole story as I wasn't allocated a specified caseworker or dedicated contact number. This experience has taken every ounce of my confidence.'
What you need to know about bank transfer scams
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