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Banks blasted for leaving victims of fraudsters on hold amid surge in online scams | Personal Finance | Finance

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High street banks have blamed staff shortages and more complex scams for long wait times, but experts have warned they’re failing fraud victims. Life savings are being put in danger as distressed victims are met with mammoth wait times.

A study showed callers are waiting a median of over 10 minutes – but some must wait for greater than an hour.

This is the reason today the Each day Express is asking on the massive banks to introduce dedicated hotlines for victims of scams.

While food and energy costs are soaring and money is tight for a lot of UK households, the quantity lost to scams has risen by greater than £160million a 12 months, in keeping with recent banking industry data.

Fraudsters tricked people out of £583million last 12 months, up 39 per cent from £420million in 2020.

And 195,996 savers reported falling victim, up by 27 per cent.

Banks will not be making it easy for victims to report a scam as lots of the big names don’t offer a particular number to ring.

HSBC quietly scrapped its fraud helpline throughout the Covid pandemic. It now relies on a little-known emergency hotline launched in September last 12 months.

Co-operative Bank, Lloyds, First Direct, Santander and Metro Bank shouldn’t have a particular number for fraud victims, but have also signed as much as the Stop Scams UK scheme.

It means customers who’re anxious they either have been or are liable to being scammed can dial 159.

But few people know this number exists because most firms don’t advertise it prominently on their web sites or in branches.

And those that do call the helpline have said they often aren’t put through to their very own bank’s fraud department.

A Which? investigation earlier this 12 months had teams call 11 banks and constructing societies a dozen times over the course of per week.

On average it took banks and constructing societies 10 minutes and 51 seconds to select up.

And on two occasions, callers were left waiting greater than an hour.

In addition to our call for dedicated fraud hotlines, the Each day Express’s Fair Deal for Fraud Victims crusade can be demanding more support usually for victims.

We wish banks to make fraud victims a priority, cut down the time it takes to cope with complaints and ensure all are reimbursed. Banks must also improve their scam warnings and detection on online banking to lower the variety of transfer scams.

Louise Baxter, head of the National Trading Standards Scams Team, said it supported our call for hotlines, adding: “Banks ought to be doing all they will to guard consumers from this callous crime that has devastating financial and psychological impacts on victims.”

A Lloyds Bank spokesperson said: “Any customer who desires to report fraud can call one in every of our predominant numbers (akin to the one on the back of their card) and, after being asked why they’re calling, might be immediately transferred to a fraud specialist.”

A Metro Bank spokesperson said: “We take our customers’ security extremely seriously…customers have access to a 24/7 telephone number to report any fraud here or abroad.”

All banks mentioned were contacted for comment.

A Santander spokesperson said: “Our customer support number enables customers to report fraud to us 24 hours a day, seven days per week, three hundred and sixty five days a 12 months.

“We take protecting our customers’ accounts extremely seriously and have comprehensive fraud prevention systems in place to guard against fraud and assist customers when it does occur.”

Pensioner nearly lost 800,000

John Evans narrowly missed being scammed out of £800,000 when he was targeted by fraudsters in 2019.

The 80-year-old received a call from someone purporting to be in Barclays’ fraud team.

The caller claimed that a whole bunch of kilos of suspicious transactions had been seen on John’s account, including a £600 purchase from Harrods.

John, a retired solicitor, was told the case could be referred to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

The crooks then rang the pensioner, claiming to be from the FCA. Shortly after, he got an email with a document with the FCA’s logo. It said his £1.2million savings with Barclays, Lloyds, Nationwide and an investment platform were in danger and the FCA was attempting to secure them.

John’s wife Judith was uneasy, so the couple went to the police. They advised him to go direct to a branch of Barclays.

Inside a couple of minutes of being within the bank, John was told by counter staff he had been a victim of a scam and the transfer was stopped immediately, saving him from a lack of £800,000.

John, from Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, said: “We nearly lost our life savings. Something must be done but nothing is.

“Getting motion to stop and support victims of scams is a primary priority for me.”

John reported the incident to Motion Fraud, the FCA and police. A 12 months later John heard from Motion Fraud after his MP complained.

The FCA got back in contact with him, asking for evidence, but since then it has stopped all communications.

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