We’re all so used to sending money online or via apps now that for many it feels both easy and safe. But there’s a growing scam that could mean the money you send goes into the accounts of fraudsters.
The trick generally involves fake emails that seem to come from legitimate contacts – your solicitor or builder for example – stating bank details have changed ahead of a payment you are due to make. Or the scammers could claim to be from your bank or the police asking you to move money to a holding account while they investigate fraud. Once the money is transferred it then quickly disappears – and you might not be able to get it back.
These scams on Authorised Push Payments (APP) have cost consumers who fall victim to it an average of £3,027 in the first half of 2017. That’s according to industry body UK Finance, while scammed businesses are losing £21,477.
But there are numerous cases where people have lost huge amounts, such as the money being used to buy a house or their life savings.
When I was representing the Money Advice Service as a money expert for BBC’s Rip Off Britain earlier this year I met a few people devastated by the losses, and this was made worse by the fact that most of the time the money isn’t returned.
The UK Finance figures show that of the almost £52 million lost by individuals, only £9.8 million made it back to the victims.
The reasoning? Well the scammers aren’t making you transfer the money. You’re taking the decision to move the money, hence the “Authorised” part of APP. This obviously doesn’t seem fair, and the Payment Systems Regulator agrees. It will be introducing new compensation systems by September 2018 – but even then not all victims will be protected.
How to avoid APP scams
The key thing to remember here is not to rush anything. If you’re being asked to move money urgently, take a few moments to go over what is being asked of you. Trust your instincts, which hopefully will be saying this doesn’t feel right. Get in touch directly with your bank to see what it says – it’s unlikely it will agree you should move the money, instead it could put further protections on your account.
If you’re already planning to transfer money, particularly large amounts, call up your contact (make sure it’s the real number) and confirm all the banking details.
And of course all the standard advice on avoiding scams, such as not disclosing personal information and passwords and being careful not to click on dodgy links in emails or text messages, still stands.
Steps to take when transferring any money
Though it’s scammers you really need to watch out for, there’s also potential for human error to get in the way. I’ve typed in the wrong bank details on a text to a mate who owed me money, and likewise accidentally hit the wrong amount when moving money to friends.
These were quickly fixable as I noticed straight away on the first mistake, and my friend paid me back the excess money on the second. But if I hadn’t realised, or it had been to a business, I may have lost out on the money. So always double, if not triple, check any bank details you are writing or typing. Then check you the amount to ensure you haven’t added an extra zero.