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I was in the process of moving house and was cancelling several direct debits for bills I no longer needed. One of these was with EE. Expecting to make a final payment, I was therefore not surprised to receive a text from EE, saying: “We were unable to process your latest bill. In order to avoid fees, update your billing information via the following link.”
I duly filled in the authentic-looking page, providing my bank details. The next morning, a Friday, I checked my online banking to see if the payment was pending. No sign.
After a very stressful day in hospital tending to a close family member with leukaemia, I called my local EE branch to check if the payment could be traced. I was told within seconds: “We’ve had hundreds of these calls – you’ve been scammed. Get in touch with your bank immediately.”
I phoned Lloyds but couldn’t get through, so I left an urgent voicemail with my local branch. It opened for business on Saturday morning, yet no one picked up the message until the following week. It was too late by then. That Saturday, thieves successfully stole £11,148 from my account.
I received a call from a man who identified himself as manager of the Lloyds fraud team. He said his ID number was 1404. He comfortingly said he understood I had been targeted by fraudsters and he was responding to my call.
All the time we were talking, I was reassured to see “Lloyds Trowbridge” running across the top of my smartphone screen. So clever was this man, he appeared to have all my bank details on a screen, as I would have expected, to discuss how best to move my money out of harm’s way.
He got me to move my money into a “temporary” safe place to stop the fraudsters getting to it. I had no idea this was actually a NatWest account in a Southampton branch.
I may be 83 years old but I am not stupid, negligent or collusive in any fraud. I took what I thought was the right action from the moment I suspected EE’s convincing but fraudulent text. All the while I was reeling with exhaustion and shock in my personal life. But Lloyds has tried to push the blame back on me and won’t refund me a penny.
I cannot afford to lose this money. Lloyds has been my bank for the past 67 years and I am profoundly shocked by its aggressive behaviour.
RS, via email
My dear reader, you don’t need to convince me that you’re not stupid. Quite the contrary, I see you are an accomplished academic and published author and I am full of admiration for you. But as is so often the case when intelligent people fall for scams, there was something profoundly painful happening in your life at the time.
You were desperately worried about your relative with leukaemia, who by the sounds of it is gravely ill.
This must be really difficult for you to cope with, let alone moving house and being scammed out of £11,148 at the same time. I’m sorry for all you are going through.
I took your case to Lloyds in the hope it might change its mind about refunding you, especially given it made a public pledge to treat fraud victims fairly under a new banking code introduced in May. Lloyds launched an investigation.
A couple of weeks later the bank came back to me. It said it was greatly sympathetic to your situation and it recognised that fraudsters took advantage of the timing of your recent dealings with EE to gain your trust. While it would never have asked you to share your full account details or ask you to transfer money to another “safe” or “temporary” account, it also saw you had contacted your branch a day before the scam took place to make it aware you may have been scammed.
It also appreciated that this made the opportunistic call you received from the fraudsters claiming to be from the bank seem even more believable, as you thought it was finally getting back to you.
Although Lloyds successfully protected you from the fraudsters taking even more money by blocking a subsequent payment attempt, it recognised that it could have taken more steps to warn you that you were at risk of receiving further calls from scammers.
As such, after my involvement, Lloyds agrees that it may have been too harsh on you.
It has refunded your £11,148 in full. You are absolutely over the moon. This sum represents a major chunk of your cash savings, so being reunited with it is life-changing, you told me.
I’m so glad Lloyds did the right thing in the end, but if the branch’s voicemail had better directed you to its 24-hour fraud hotline, it might not have had to dip into its pocket at all.
Given that nearly half a billion pounds is stolen every year as a result of this type of fraud, it beggars belief that banks haven’t armoured themselves – and their customers – more effectively.
It is high time they splashed out on properly beefing up their defences. It would save countless victims like you a lot of wasted time and heartache.
The full Katie Morley Investigates column will appear in print every Saturday and Sunday. You can get an early taste every Friday at 1200.
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