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Kent restaurant forced to close following devastating push payment fraud

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‘Impersonation’ scammers successfully defrauded owners of popular Margate restaurant, Barletta, out of £50,000

It has been reported that a popular Margate restaurant has been forced to close and lay off its 17 staff after its owners lost £50,000 following a sophisticated impersonation scam.

The owners raised the fraud with their bank, Tide, which has recovered just over £2,000 from the receiving bank but the online bank claims that it has done as much as it can to help return the money. The case is currently being investigated by the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) – an independent Government-backed body that deals with complaints between financial institutions and their customers.

Natalia Ribbe, the co-founder of Barletta Margate, was contacted by individuals impersonating her bank and claiming to offer help to secure her accounts after she had noticed some small transactions that she thought may have been fraudulent.

The scammers successfully convinced Ms Ribbe to transfer a total of £50,000 between two of her accounts held with two online banks and then ultimately onto a ‘safe’ account, set up by the criminals as part of the scam.

In a statement to The Times, Ms Ribbe, who at this point fully believed that the callers were who they claimed to be, said:

“They talk really fast at you, they use all the right language, they give you their names and identification numbers, they tell you all the worst-case scenarios. You just want to get out of this ‘panic bubble’ and say yes to everything to try and get out of it.”

The scammers kept Ms Ribbe on the phone for over five hours initially, transferring her between ‘departments’ in a sophisticated and well-thought-through process, which did not raise her suspicions. It was only after a planned follow-up call from ‘the bank’ did not take place that she became concerned. She called her bank who confirmed that she had been scammed.

As a result of the financial impact of the scam, coupled with the continuing rise in the cost of living and energy prices, the popular restaurant opened by Ms Ribbe and her co-founder Jackson Berg in 2019 is no longer able to continue trading.

The impersonation scam was immediately reported to the online bank, Tide, with which the couple held the accounts for the restaurant on the day that the scam was detected. Tide did successfully recover around £2,000 that had not yet been moved on from the receiving bank but claims that it has done all it could with no further funds having been recovered.

Tide’s approach is now under investigation by the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) to independently determine if the necessary due diligence was carried out and appropriate safeguards were in place to protect their customers’ accounts.

Authorised push payment (APP) scams are an increasingly common form of cybercrime where victims are encouraged to transfer money or approve transactions that they believe to be legitimate but are in fact fraudulent.

As in this case, victims are often instructed to move money to a ‘safe account’ set up by fraudsters and because they believe the instructions are in good faith, they do so willingly; however, as these payments are real-time and the funds are often moved on straight away to another bank, it can prove very difficult to recover what has been lost.

Commenting on the case, Sarah Spruce, head of TLW Solicitors’ Push Payment Fraud Claims team said:

“This story highlights exactly what the TLW APP Fraud team have been seeing regarding the increase of these types of scams. And it is important to note that the scammers are not only targeting individuals but as we have seen here, businesses are also affected too, with devastating consequences.

There are protections and bodies in place to safeguard consumers, but we are still seeing banks rejecting refund and compensation claims.

Whilst the FOS investigation is still ongoing for the Barletta scam, we will be awaiting the decision with interest.”

If you, your business, loved one or friend have been targeted and lost money to a push payment scam, get in touch with our dedicated, specialist APP Fraud team who can discuss the case in detail and advise whether there is any way you can get your money back.

We understand the complexities and strict timescales involved in these types of cases and our sophisticated case management systems mean we can maintain the momentum in bringing these claims as well as keeping you fully updated on the progress throughout.

It will cost you nothing to make an enquiry and once our team has reviewed your potential case and if we feel it suitable, we will enter into a ‘no-win-no-fee’ agreement. This means that, if the claim is unsuccessful, we will not charge for the time we have spent on the case.

Call us on 0800 169 5925, email info@tlwsolicitors.co.uk or complete one of the forms below.

It is important to get advice as soon as possible as strict time limits can apply.

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