The BBC programme, Watchdog, has investigated the story of a young victim who was beaten and left unconscious in a park and then had his entire inheritance raided from his bank account. To make matters worse his bank, NatWest, refused to help him.
Attackers made 39 transactions in one day, raiding the victims entire account, all whilst he was lying unconscious in hospital. NatWest refused to accept that the £20,000 spending spree was nothing to do with him, despite being provided evidence he was in hospital at the time the transactions were made. The young victim, named in the programme as Arthur, had been beaten so badly he laid in hospital unconscious for 12 hours. When he awoke, a nurse told him his belongings had been taken in the attack. He immediately rang NatWest to cancel his debit card, he also asked NatWest to give him his bank balance and was devastated to learn that £20,000 of his inheritance had been stolen.
Arthur was convinced that as he had been a victim of crime, he would surely get his money back from the bank. However, without any explanation, NatWest rejected his claim. When asked how he felt about what had happened Arthur said: “ It’s destroyed my life, but I know that this is my money and they owe it to me. I will continue to fight”.
A year after the attack and NatWest continued to refuse to refund Arthur a single penny of his money back. Without an explanation from the bank, Arthur had no idea why his claim was being rejected. All the bank would say about their decision was that Arthur’s story contained inconsistencies in his recollection of events, but refused to say what those inconsistencies were and why they were relevant. But the bank has rules and regulations it must comply with, if NatWest thinks the fraud is the customers fault, they must provide evidence to prove this is the case. NatWest consistently failed to do this in Arthur’s case, and following the BBC investigation NatWest have finally decided to give Arthur his money back. In a statement, NatWest’s parent company RBS said: “We would like to offer our apologies to Arthur for the distress that he has experienced as a result of the attack on him and the subsequent events that followed. We treat all claims of fraud with the utmost seriousness and investigate them on a case-by-case basis to ensure a fair outcome for the customer. The case raised by Arthur was a complex one and there existed a number of inconsistencies between the version of events presented to us by him and following our own internal investigation. Following a further review of the case, we have taken the decision to refund Arthur in full and would like to apologise for any lack of clarity presented to him regarding our initial decision.”
The Financial Ombudsman Service, which resolves financial services complaints, told banks earlier this year to stop “automatically” blaming their customers for fraud. They have told banks to treat victims of financial fraud more fairly, instead of assuming the victim was grossly negligent and to blame. FOS see thousands of complaints from customers, who have had money stolen from their accounts, and assess cases where the bank and customer both say they are not responsible for the loss. The financial regulator is warning banks against assuming customers were negligent and liable for any money they lost to fraud. They want banks to consider the sophistication of scammers and the tactics they employ when investigating cases of fraud. Banks regularly claim to FOS that they are not liable for money lost, as victims acted with gross negligence. The number of cases like these FOS is investigating and the ever-changing way in which scammers operate, has prompted the watchdog to say: “There is a very high bar for being grossly negligent, and this is far more than just being careless”. If banks want to reject a fraud or scam victim’s claim, they will need to provide evidence of gross negligence, so the regulator can recreate the scene to make a fair judgement.
£240m was taken from bank accounts by fraudsters last year, but only £60m was returned by the banks and building societies.