Telegraph Money will be sending our demands to the consultation on the new rule book before it closes next week. If you have thoughts or comments you would like to be included in our submission please email sam.meadows@telegraph.co.uk by close of play on Tuesday. To respond yourself visit appcrmsteeringgroup.uk

Fraud victims risk being failed by new rules on reimbursement of losses unless key changes can be agreed, Telegraph Money says today.

The draft rule book on when those who fall for bank transfer scams should get their money back was finally unveiled at the end of September, after months of work by a group of watchdogs, consumer groups and banks.

Bank transfer fraud is Britain’s fastest-growing crime: £145m was stolen in the first six months of 2018, industry figures show. Shockingly, only £31m was returned to victims.

The methods used by criminals are increasingly devious and complex. This newspaper has reported cases involving fake car websites, hijacked companies, stolen pension transfers and email interceptions that led to lost house deposits.

The new rules establish a clear principle that those who fall victim through no fault of their own should be reimbursed. But disputes over who should pay have already seen the code’s introduction pushed back to the new year.

Submissions to the public consultation on the new rules are due by next week, and before the code is finalised Telegraph Money is calling for the following five improvements.

Consumers must not be made to foot the bill

The code establishes that, in situations where fraud victims were clearly duped, they should get their money back. When a bank has failed to meet the required standards – if it didn’t properly warn the customer of the risks or failed to spot the customer’s vulnerability, for example – the bank will meet the cost of reimbursing the customer.

The dispute is over who should pay when neither party is at fault, perhaps because a third party has had their email account hacked. In these circumstances, the customer will be entitled to a refund under the new code, but the banks, having done nothing wrong, will not want to meet the cost of such refunds themselves.

The consultation document proposes a number of funding mechanisms, including a charge on large transfers and a requirement for the customer to buy fraud insurance. Consumer groups have widely condemned these solutions.

Banks, which make billions of pounds in profits every year, must be made to foot the bill. There should be no additional charges for consumers.

Swift action when fraudulent transactions are reported

When victims report fraud, a delay in communication between the banks involved could give criminals time to remove the funds. The code itself does not include rules on how quickly a victim’s bank should contact the fraudster’s bank. Industry rules simply say action should be taken swiftly.

This newspaper calls for a 30-minute time limit. When you report fraud, your bank should contact the recipient bank within that time to allow the account to be frozen.

Action on recipient banks

Experts say bank transfer fraud would barely exist if the criminals were not able to open accounts to receive the stolen money. Fraudsters often take advantage of lax security measures in bank branches and open accounts in person using false names and documentation.

Banks must already follow strict “know your customer” regulations, designed to prevent money laundering, but these rules do not require them to ascertain beyond doubt whether documents are genuine. Telegraph Money has seen cases in which accounts were opened using falsified utility bills littered with spelling errors.

The new code provides few clear rules for these recipient banks to follow. But any bank that allows an account to be opened using fake documents should be required to refund victims.

Criminal gangs also use legitimately opened accounts of third parties to launder funds – a practice known as “money muling”. Banks must be required to use their sophisticated systems to spot when an account bears all the hallmarks of a mule account – large amounts coming in and swiftly moving on to several different accounts, for example.

They should not be able to hide behind data protection rules when contacted by victims. Telegraph Money has reported on the case of Saqib Qureshi, who lost £55,000 in a solicitor scam but was told by Santander that the bank could not help him because of data rules.

The code should require recipient banks to make every effort to help victims, even when they are not a customer of the bank in question.

A quicker complaints system for customers

According to sources close to the discussions, banks want the rules to say that, unless victims make clear that they are raising a complaint, it will not be treated as such.

This could mean a wait of as much as 70 days before they can approach the ombudsman. For those who have lost life-changing sums, this could be ruinous.

Support for past victims

One hole in the rule book is that it will not apply retrospectively, so will be of no help to the thousands of people who have been victims in the past.

It also creates a cliff edge by which someone who falls victim on Dec 31 may be denied a refund, but someone who falls victim the following day would get their money back.

Jack Warwick of ActionScam, a fraud recovery service, said: “What is the difference between a victim from two years ago and a victim from today? Every day the banks delay is a day when consumers will lose thousands.”

Telegraph Money calls for the finalised rule book to be applied to those who have fallen victim since Sept 28, when the consultation was published.

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