‘I never authorized a transfer to someone else’: Victim who lost £40,000 in sophisticated bank scam
Scammers have developed a two-step tactic to fleece savers, as at least three Revolut customers have discovered at its staggering cost.
The first case involved 26-year-old Alina Portnova, who was convinced that her Barclays account was under threat from cybercriminals.
The thieves posed as bank security personnel to persuade Alina to transfer her savings to her Revolut account.
The second step of the scam came when he was told to move the money again, this time to a “safer” Revolut account that was, in fact, controlled by the scammers.
Revolut paid him back the £5,672 he lost after he brought his case to them last summer.
Now I have news of two other victims of the two-step scam.
Yue Yang does banking with Lloyds and Revolut. The scammers started the scam with a message purporting to be from Lloyds warning of a suspicious transaction, followed by one on their Revolut app.
Then one of the thieves called her using number spoofing software to make it look like she was calling from Revolut’s anti-fraud department.
Yue was told to urgently move her savings from Lloyds to Revolut and then upgrade to a supposedly more secure account.
In reality, this meant transferring his savings of over £40,000 to the crooks.
“The most worrying thing, which allowed the scammers to credibly present themselves as Revolut staff, was that they communicated with me using the same SMS thread that Revolut had always communicated with,” said Yue, 26, who lives in London.
“There was no way for me to recognize that it was a fraud.
“I never authorized a transfer to someone else, even now in my Revolut app, the transfer has my own name and details.”
The third case concerns Priya Kapoor, 34, from Bristol, who banks with HSBC and Revolut.
A suspicious transaction warning message was followed by calls apparently to bank numbers urging her to transfer her money from HSBC to Revolut.
Priya was then told to move it to a “safer” Revolut account which, like Yue, she thought was in her name.
He lost £21,000.
“Revolut claims that I checked a box asking if I trusted the recipient, but could only see my name as the recipient,” he said.
“Revolut claims that I knowingly added the fraudulent account name to the payees on my account, which is incorrect. If I had been asked to add an unknown name, I would not have completed the transfer.”
Revolut has refused to refund Yue and Priya, insisting that it “acted based on best practice and that we are not responsible for transfers.”
So why did the scammers first ask victims to move their money from their main banks to accounts with Revolut before stealing it?
Revolut denies having laxer customer security, saying: “The root cause of the problem is consumers overriding the flags and warnings that are presented to them by all banks.”
The victims said the warnings they received did not include being told the names of the accounts their money was being transferred to.
If they had been told the names, they say, they would not have moved the money.
Barclays has issued a warning about the two-step scam.
“This tactic can help the scammer add a sense of urgency to the situation, to quickly move money out of an account that pretends to be at risk,” he says.
“It can also make the initial request seem safer, or more credible, to send money to yourself or a friend or family member, before they request another transfer to the scammer’s account.
“Remember that no legitimate company or organization will ask you to transfer money to a different provider before sending it to you, or to make payments to friends or family.”
Scams in which victims are tricked into inadvertently transferring money to criminals are known as authorized automatic payment or APP scams. From January to June last year, £355.3m was lost to app fraud, up 71% from the previous year and outpacing bank card fraud.
Nine banks, including Barclays, HSBC and Lloyds, have signed a voluntary code agreeing to reimburse victims of PPP fraud, provided the victims were not negligent.
Revolut has not signed the code, but says it follows industry standard client protections.
About half of all savings lost to APP fraud are never repaid.
Yesterday, the deputies of the Finance Commission requested that APP fraud refunds be mandatory. “We recommend that the Government urgently legislate to give the Payment Systems Regulator powers to make reimbursement mandatory, and that the PSR then take swift action to protect consumers,” their report says.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.