Via Telegraph : It’s 40 years ago and a fraudster goes into your local bank branch.
He forges your signature and makes a withdrawal from your account.
When you discover the crime and report it to the bank, your account is naturally refunded at once. It’s the bank’s problem. It’s also the bank’s fault, you’d probably say.
Today, much has changed. It’s still the bank’s job to safeguard clients’ money.
But because we access our cash and accounts in so many different ways, and can transact so much more quickly, the issue of who carries the risk of fraud has become blurred.
In general the risk has been pushed further on to us, the customers, and away from the bank.
The banking industry talks of “identity theft” as though it were a recent phenomenon. But it’s not new, it’s just the 21st century equivalent of forging your signature.
The woman featured in this story published today is a victim of identity theft: the crime against her was complex, but at its heart was the fact that fraudsters impersonated her when dealing with NatWest, just as a fraudster might have forged a cheque.
Anyone who glances at their bank account terms and conditions booklets (no one could read all that in its entirety, surely?) will see that there are more and more conditions to be met if you are going to be regarded by your bank as using your account “responsibly”.
If you fail to meet these requirements, you can expect to get landed with the loss if you’re the victim of fraud.
The ban on sharing or writing down Pins is one example. Any fraud against your account that could be due to your carelessness with a Pin will result in the bank saying: “No, that’s your problem, your fault.”
As technology becomes more advanced, so the requirements evolve.
We’ve reported on these pages, for example, how First Direct, which allows iPhone users to log in to their mobile account via the fingerprint-reading technology on their phone, has banned customers from storing other people’s fingerprints on their phone’s memory.
That would be the equivalent of giving, say, your wife or friend your Pin number.
What needs to change
If banks are going to make us more responsible for losses arising out of the misuse of our accounts, they need to play their part.
That’s why today we’re calling on banks and anti-fraud agencies to improve in three ways.
Firstly, by making it far easier to report fraud where urgent action is required.
We’ve written here about too many cases like Ms Jefferys’s where huge sums are at stake, yet where, when the fraud is reported, banks adopt a lackadaisical approach as if, say, the customer were requesting a new paying-in book.
One of our readers, having realised on a Friday afternoon that she’d transferred a six-figure sum to a fraudster’s account instead of her solicitor’s, was told by her bank that “the fraud department is closed until Monday. Please phone back then.”
No wonder this particular type of fraud – where criminals trick property buyers and sellers into moving large sums into the wrong accounts – is known as “Friday afternoon fraud”. Banks and other firms can’t be bothered to act swiftly enough to contact their payee counterpart, leaving criminals a comfortable weekend in which to siphon the proceeds away.
It’s the customer’s money at risk, anyway, not the bank’s, so why the priority?
Secondly, there needs to be a consistent and more rigorous process of querying large and unusual transactions.
If banks can text you or suspend your card because you try to buy a coffee while on holiday in Spain, why can’t they text or call you to ask whether you’re absolutely certain of the destination of an unusually large payment?
Thirdly, banks could do so much more to sensibly warn people of real risks.
The problem is, they bombard us with so much meaningless marketing guff that we tend to ignore everything they say. They need to fix that, too.
But, as anti-fraud campaigner and expert James Freedman (@jamesfreedman) says, we all have a responsibility to report frauds in the first place – however small.
“Victims do tend to report cases of fraud involving large sums, but where it’s card fraud involving smaller amounts people don’t,” he said.
“We all should. That way we all add to the knowledge out there and we all help ensure fighting this type of crime becomes more of a priority, and better resourced.”