CONSUMER champions Which? have lashed out at banks who refuse to compensate fraud victims after the boss of the Royal Bank of Scotland warned people taken in by bank scams should not expect automatic refunds.

Ross McEwan, chief executive of RBS, which was bailed out to the tune of £46 million by taxpayers in 2008, insisted it was not the responsibility of banks if customers gave their account details – or money – to online scammers.

McEwan was reported to have said: “We are working very hard to help customers detect when there are difficulties, but I think this has to be in partnership with the customer and with the bank.

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“You can’t keep blaming this on an organisation where customers don’t take their own duty of care as well.

“When people are passing their iPads or laptops over with their passwords and the likes, there’s got to be a care here, otherwise this will just become a major issue for all and the cost will pass through.”

He was also reported to have said it would be too costly to cover all the losses.

RBS is still owned by the state and has lost a total of more than £58m since the bailout.

Between January to September 2015, around 5000 of its customers lost a total of £25m to fraud.

Financial Conduct Authority rules state banks must refund victims of fraud unless they can prove negligence.

Earlier this year it was announced that more than 150 Royal Bank of Scotland and NatWest branches are to be scrapped, meaning more people have to use the internet for their banking.

Campaigners for consumer rights have said this puts more pressure on people unfamiliar with technology – especially the elderly – to use online systems, opening them to fraud, and this makes it it increasingly important that banks protect customers.

Various types of financial fraud cost the UK economy £2m a day last year, and the elderly are hit by it more than others.

Which? Money expert Gareth Shaw said: “Banks are still placing too much responsibility on consumers to spot and protect themselves from sophisticated online scams. We’ve heard from many people who have lost life-changing amounts of money through bank transfer fraud, through no fault of their own, who are unlikely to get their money back from the banks involved and who have seen little action to help them.

“The industry and government need to take firmer action to better protect consumers from bank transfer scams.”

Which? has for some time been demanding a rule change to make banks pay compensation to those tricked into transferring money.

Last September it launched a bank fraud “super-complaint” to financial regulators calling on them to ensure banks better protect customers who are tricked into transferring money to fraudsters.

Which? says UK consumers now make over 70m bank transfers a month, compared to just over 100m a year a decade ago.

But the organisation says protections have not kept up with the pace of change: victims conned into transferring money by bank transfer currently have no legal right to get their money back from their bank, unlike with many other payment methods.

Which? says making banks shoulder more responsibility for money lost to scams made by bank transfer will give them an incentive to develop better mechanisms to prevent the fraud in the first place.

A spokesman for RBS, which owns NatWest and is still 72 per cent owned by the taxpayer, said where a customer has suffered loss, their situation is reviewed. He said the facts are established and a decision is made on a case-by-case basis.


Q&A: How likely would you be to get a refund after a bank scam?

WE report today that consumers’ association Which? have hit out at the banks who refuse to compensate fraud victims. It followed a warning from the chief executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland that people taken in by bank scams should not expect automatic refunds.

But how likely would you be to get your money back if you discovered you had been scammed? It could depend on how the money left your account.

What are the rules protecting people from fraud?

Here are consumers’ rights when it comes to different payment methods according to consumer group Which?: Cheques – If a cheque is forged, the bank should not honour it. If the bank does pay out, you should be able to recover your money from them. If you have paid a scammer by cheque, there may be time to stop the payment, as generally clearing a cheque can take a few days.

Credit cards – If you have paid a scammer using your credit card, you should be protected under the Consumer Credit Act, allowing you to get your money back for transactions between £100 and £30,000.

Debit cards – If you pay a scammer by a debit card you may be able to claim your money back through the voluntary chargeback scheme with your bank.

Direct debits – If a payment is made to a scammer through an authorised direct debit payment, you are covered by the Direct Debit Guarantee, meaning you could challenge and the payment to have it reversed.

What about bank transfers?

There is a difference between unauthorised transfers and authorised transfers.

Unauthorised transfers happen when a scammer accesses their account without their knowledge and drains cash out.

Authorised transfers happen when the scammer tricks their victim into transferring money themselves directly to the scammer.

Last year, Which? made a “super-complaint” about banks not shouldering enough responsibility when people are tricked into making an authorised bank transfer, saying people have a better chance of getting their money back when they fall victim to fraud in other ways.

Responding, the Payments Systems Regulator (PSR) said the industry should do more – but it stopped short of proposing changes to make banks liable for reimbursing victims of such scams.

What if I transfer money to a wrong bank account simply by mistake, for example by typing the wrong digits?

You should tell your bank or building society straight away. They may be able to claw the money back, but this does not guarantee you will get your money back.

What scams should I look out for?

Common hallmarks of a scam include unsolicited emails, “too good to be true” offers, being asked to share personal details, being put under pressure to act quickly, correspondence with spelling mistakes and vague contact details, and being asked to keep something quiet, according to Which?.

What should I do if I think I have been the victim of a scam?

Tell your bank, building society, card company or whoever your firm is immediately. Fraud and cyber crime can be reported to Action Fraud - the UK’s national reporting centre. Visit

What if I am not happy with the way my financial firm has dealt with the issue?

If you cannot come to an agreement after the firm has had a chance to sort it out, you can ask the free Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) to step in. Visit their website at