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

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

A study showed callers are waiting an average of over 10 minutes – but some have to wait for more than an hour.

This is why today the Daily Express is calling on the big banks to introduce dedicated hotlines for victims of scams.

While food and energy costs are soaring and money is tight for many UK households, the amount lost to scams has risen by more than £160million a year, according to recent banking industry data.

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

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

Banks are not making it easy for victims to report a scam as many of the big names do not offer a specific number to ring.

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

Co-operative Bank, Lloyds, First Direct, Santander and Metro Bank do not have a specific number for fraud victims, but have also signed up to the Stop Scams UK scheme.

It means customers who are worried they either have been or are at risk of being scammed can dial 159.

But few people know this number exists because most firms do not advertise it prominently on their websites or in branches.

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

A Which? investigation earlier this year had teams call 11 banks and building societies a dozen times over the course of a week.

On average it took banks and building societies 10 minutes and 51 seconds to pick up.

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

As well as our call for dedicated fraud hotlines, the Daily Express’s Fair Deal for Fraud Victims crusade is also demanding more support in general for victims.

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

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

A Lloyds Bank spokesperson said: “Any customer who wants to report fraud can call one of our main numbers (such as the one on the back of their card) and, after being asked why they are calling, will 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 service number enables customers to report fraud to us 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

“We take protecting our customers’ accounts extremely seriously and have comprehensive fraud prevention systems in place to protect 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 hundreds of pounds of suspicious transactions had been seen on John’s account, including a £600 purchase from Harrods.

John, a retired solicitor, was told the case would 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 at risk and the FCA was trying 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.

Within a few minutes of being in 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 loss of £800,000.

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

“Getting action to prevent and support victims of scams is a number one priority for me.”

John reported the incident to Action Fraud, the FCA and police. A year later John heard from Action Fraud after his MP complained.

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



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