I don’t recognize myself in the media portrayal of vulnerable scam victims. I am a 33 year old professional with no health problems. I’ve worked on projects related to scam awareness and never thought this would happen to me. I didn’t realize it was a scam when people pretending to be my bank, Revolut, called me, used social engineering to throw me into total panic, and tricked me into transferring 20 £000 of my savings for my upcoming wedding. It started with two texts, allegedly from Hermes and six days apart, requiring two £1.50 administration fees to reschedule two missed deliveries. As I was waiting for a Hermès delivery of a sofa, I wasn’t suspicious, and used the link to pay both fees with my Revolut and National debit cards.
Three days later, I was called by an agent claiming to be from Revolut, who told me that my account had been compromised by a phishing attack. I was then contacted by a caller who said they were from Nationwide. I checked the phone number on Google and it seemed to be genuine. I was told I was being transferred to the “national fraud agency” and given a case number. Eventually, with plausible explanations, they persuaded me to transfer £20,000 from my Nationwide account to my Revolut account and then to another newly opened account in my name. Several generic scam alerts appeared on the Revolut app, but the caller reassured me that it was because it was a new account. At this point I was crying, but I was so busy trying to escape the first phishing scam and believing they were helping me that I did what they said. By the time I realized I had been scammed, the money was gone. Revolut refuses to refund me, despite the fact that the transfer was out of character. The irony is that it was because the money was for my wedding that I was so keen to protect it.
You are correct that scam victims are usually described as elderly or vulnerable, while research shows that young people are most likely. Many who have never been scammed have a low opinion of those who lose their savings to fraudsters. In the cold light of day, your actions seem reckless, but what a written account cannot convey is the panic the scammers have stirred up in their prey to cloud their judgment and terrify them into instant action.
This is why a voluntary scheme, the “contingent reimbursement model” (CRM), was launched in 2019 to oblige signatory banks to detect and prevent payment scams and to compensate the growing number of victims of fraud who do not were not unduly negligent. According to the Financial Ombudsman Service, which decides whether banks have acted fairly towards customers, “the growing sophistication of scams means the bar for gross negligence is raised – it’s more than just a test of whether someone was negligent”.
Nationwide is not responsible under the code because it allowed you to transfer your own money to your own secure Revolut account rather than a suspicious third party. Revolut is not a signatory of the CRM but claims to rely on the spirit of it. He told me that you were not entitled to a refund because you ignored his warnings during the transaction. These warnings were generic pop-ups asking if you trust the recipient. The Lending Standards Board, which oversees CRM, makes it clear that banks should consider the individual circumstances of the scam before deciding whether or not a customer acted reasonably, and should not rely on generic disclaimers that don’t not specifically apply to the particular transaction. “Effective warnings need to be dynamic and responsive, and based on the type of transaction taking place,” said Board Managing Director Emma Lovell. “Banks are responsible for evaluating the proper functioning of their internal fraud prevention processes.”
Revolut did not respond to my repeated requests for comment on how it measures the effectiveness of its warnings. I asked if he had taken into account the psychological grooming the scammers had subjected you to, and the fact that they were calling from a spoofed number to duplicate Revolut’s, and harvested enough information about your account from the fake Hermès text to convince you they were genuine. She reiterated that she considered her automated warnings sufficient.
I think the bank’s security processes were inadequate in your case, given that they are much more aware of scam tactics than the average customer. Despite the fact that the name on the recipient’s account did not match the name you thought you were paying and that the transactions going in and out of your account were very unusual, he made no attempt to block them and question you further. Again, he told me that his automated warnings were enough protection. In a very similar case involving Revolut, the Financial Ombudsman Service decided that the bank’s reliance on generic warning messages was insufficient and ordered it to reimburse the customer with interest. I have since helped you take your case to the ombudsman, but a backlog means that four months later you have been informed that an investigation has still not started.
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