Bank fraud victims face a seven-month wait for refunds
Fraud victims whose banks refuse to refund their losses face up to seven months of limbo when they appeal, officials have admitted.
The 215-day average wait for those taking their case to the Financial Ombudsman Service was blamed on the volume of complaints. Campaigners said this was ‘not good enough’.
Those scammed by fraudsters must first appeal to their bank to have their money returned, which can itself take up to eight weeks. If the bank decides the victim was at fault and refuses to give back their cash, they can then appeal to the ombudsman.
Victims of fraud must first appeal to their bank to have their money returned, which can itself take up to eight weeks
But the FOS revealed in a letter to MPs that it now takes 38 days on average for a victim of fraud or a scam to be dealt with by an investigator from the service.
It then takes a further 99 days for the case to be handed over to an ombudsman if the victim does not agree with the investigator’s conclusion. Finally, it takes another 78 days for the victims to get a definitive decision on whether or not they will get their money back.
Writing to the Commons Treasury committee, chief ombudsman Caroline Wayman said the service had received 8,500 complaints about fraud and scams in 2017/18.
She added that in recent years demand on the service had ‘increased significantly’ and it had already received more than 10,000 new fraud cases this financial year.
Nicky Morgan MP, chairman of the committee, said last night: ‘It’s concerning and frustrating that it can take around seven months for victims of fraud and scams to have their case resolved by the FOS. This is simply not good enough. Government and the regulators need to get their acts together to drive this wait time down.’
The Mail’s Stop the Scammers campaign has called for better compensation for victims, banks to be made accountable for breaches of their customers’ accounts, and improvements in how fraud is investigated.
A whistleblower told the Treasury committee last month the time complainants had to wait to be allocated an FOS case worker had increased tenfold since the organisation was restructured in 2016.
The Mail’s Stop the Scammers campaign has called for better compensation for victims
Wes Streeting, a Labour MP on the Treasury committee, said: ‘This level of delay is a serious cause for concern and only adds to the distress and financial pressures of victims.
‘FOS have been challenged in the past about the standard of service provided and this is a topic we will no doubt revisit.’
James Daley, of the campaign group Fairer Finance, said: ‘Having to wait seven months to get a decision, which is likely to end up as a No, is not good enough. You can only imagine how upsetting it must be if you have lost your savings. Hopefully the fact that waiting times are so long indicates they are doing their job properly.
‘But ultimately if the caseload is rising, they need more ombudsmen. It is a matter of under-investment. They need to make a case for more funding as quickly as possible.’
MPs on the committee also heard yesterday from bank bosses who said they close down thousands of accounts every year over fraud suspicions.
Santander said it closed around 11,000 ‘money mule’ accounts used to move stolen cash around, while Nationwide said it closed around 6,000 a year due to fraud.