Woman 'horrified' at losing £71,700 inheritance from her late dad 'within an instant'

On BBC’s Dirty Rotten Scammers yesterday, Claire recalled how scammers had tricked her by pretending to be her bank Santander to steal £71,700 from her account. At the time of the scam, Claire was seven months pregnant and was working full time. She had just got home from work at around 5:15pm when she received a text message claiming that there had been fraudulent activity on her Santander bank account.

Claire then called the number listed on the text message thinking that she could resolve this quickly as she was rushing to a baby event that evening.

Claire got through to what she thought was the fraud team who Claire described as being “professional and helpful”.

As she was driving, just after she ended the phone call, she began to doubt herself and pulled over to check her online account.

She then realised that scammers had accessed her bank account and were spending thousands every few minutes, with payments of £5,000 and £10,000 coming out each time Claire refreshed the app.

Claire said: “The horror of seeing that money leave my account, I was screaming at my phone and the panic of trying to fumble with my phone to find the number for Santander’s fraud team, I needed to stop it now.”

woman 'horrified' at losing £71,700 inheritance from her late dad 'within an instant'
© BBC Santander bank customer looking shocked as she recalls scam

She pleaded with Santander to close the account as there were hackers in there but she was too late.

Overall, the fraudsters managed to take Claire’s savings of £71,700 which she had received as an inheritance from her father when he recently passed away.

Claire said: “My dad’s inheritance meant a lot to me, it was going to help me pay for my maternity leave and it was going to be the deposit on a house. I lost it within an instant.

“I lost my peace of mind, I lost my security, it was devastating, it was absolutely devastating.”

To make matters even worse, Claire was told by Santander that she had acted in “gross negligence” and they refused to pay back the money that was stolen from her.

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woman 'horrified' at losing £71,700 inheritance from her late dad 'within an instant'
© EXPRESS Scam warning infographic

Claire said: “I felt instantly dismissed by the bank and I felt not listened to. It was so hard to take.”

Claire became determined to take action against Santander and found more fraud victims who were in the same position as her with other banks at the time. She then was contacted by independent bank fraud expert, Richard Emery.

Mr Emery had been contacted by multiple people who had also fallen foul of the bank’s systems with the total loss for those cases being between £350,000 to £400,000.

Mr Emery explained that the banks were rejecting the cases like Claires accusing them of being negligent.

However, according to regulations the bank had to prove that the victim was “grossly negligent” and there was no legal definition of this term despite it being used commonly in contracts.

My Emery wrote a definition of what “gross negligence” could be in this instance after researching legal regulations.

Mr Emery concluded that the term needed to describe “a foreseeable risk of loss” and in Claire’s case, he explained that she was not acting “voluntarily” as she was being “socially engineered” so did not understand that there was any risk associated with what she was doing, therefore was not “grossly negligent”.

The case was successful and Santander then repaid Claire the money that was stolen.

Santander has confirmed that since the incident, it has changed its approach to scams and has signed up to the Contingent Reimbursement Model which sets out the consumer protection standards for Authorised Push Payment (APP) scams which banks have to follow.

Santander was one of the original participants for the code and now actively works on fraud protection for its customers.

Claire said: “It had been going on for so long and the day that I received that letter was, it was elation, and it felt so good to be back on track.”

“I had a bottle of champagne in the fridge, ready and waiting, and the day the money was put back in my bank account, I opened it and had a very nice glass, finally it was over!”

Mr Emery continued working on the cases and teamed up with the Financial Ombudsman Service to force banks to change their interpretation of the word negligence in their regulations.

He was successful which now means that unless a person “personally authorises” a payment then they would be deemed responsible.

Mr Emery comforted Claire during the segment and said: “No one should be embarrassed to come forward to say that they have been a victim of fraud.

“The fraudsters are manipulative and they make people feel embarrassed, and they make people believe that they need to be silent.”

A Santander spokesperson said: “Santander has the utmost sympathy for all victims of the criminals who carry out these scams.

“We invest a great deal in detecting and preventing scams to protect our customers and we have been committed to the Contingent Reimbursement Model for authorised payments since its inception.

“We continue to work with the industry and other third parties to improve protection for the victims of fraud.”

If people believe that they have been a victim of fraud then they can report it to their bank and to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.

Dirty Rotten Scammers continues tomorrow at 10am on BBC One.

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