Fos cautions banks on fraud victim blaming

Ryan Fowler

August 22, 2018

The Financial Ombudsman Service has told banks they should not assume that customers have been negligent when they have been caught up in a scams due to the increasing “evolution and sophistication” of fraudsters.

The watchdog revealed there were over 8,500 fraud and scam complaints in the last financial year, a 17% increase on the previous period.

Caroline Wayman, chief ombudsman and chief executive of the Financial Ombudsman Service, said: “It’s not fair to automatically call a customer grossly negligent simply because they have fallen for a scam.”

The ombudsman said banks are regularly claiming that consumers who have been scammed have acted with gross negligence and as such removing their liability to reimburse victims.

However, the ombudsman service says there is “a very high bar for being grossly negligent and this is far more than just being careless.”

Wayman said: “And where criminals are involved, both banks and their customers often tell us in strong terms that they haven’t done anything wrong.

“But it’s not fair to automatically call a customer grossly negligent simply because they’ve fallen for a scam.

“That’s especially true in light of the sophisticated way criminals exploit banks’ security systems – and convince customers that their money is at risk.

“We often remind banks that they need to support what they’re saying with facts.

“And if they can’t do that, it’s likely we’ll tell them to cover the money their customer has lost.”

Responding to the news Katy Worobec, managing director of economic crime at UK Finance, said: “Banks and building societies take the threat of fraud extremely seriously and invest millions in advanced fraud prevention systems to protect customers, stopping £2 out of every £3 of attempted fraud last year.

“But we know there is more to be done.

“Banks will always make every effort to help a customer recover any stolen funds and the industry has introduced new standards on how banks respond to scam victims.”

Over £730m was lost to fraud last year according to UK Finance – down 5% on 2016.

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