Featured on BBC One’s Northern Justice & Morning Live



FOS overrules Tesco’s offer of ‘very little help’ to cryptocurrency scam victim

Latest News

A woman who lost money to a cryptocurrency scam has been refunded by Tesco Personal Finance after complaining to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Ms H, was unemployed and keen to save what money she had. She was cold-called by a company (‘A’) and persuaded to open a trading account, on the promise of better returns than the banks could offer. The adviser gained her trust and remotely accessed Ms H’s computer to help her deposit money into the new account.

Rather than paying (‘A’) directly, she was told to buy cryptocurrency with another company (‘X’) and then transfer it to her account with (‘A’). Ms H made a number of payments, all on the same day in September 2019, using a Tesco Mastercard credit card and another credit card from a different bank.

When Ms H later saw that the value of her investments had increased and tried to withdraw her funds, she was unsuccessful. Both (‘A’) and her money had disappeared. Thinking she may have been the victim of a scam, she contacted Tesco for help to get a refund of her lost money.

Tesco looked into Ms H’s case and said that she was not entitled to any refund of the payments she made using her Tesco credit card (totaling over £3000). She had not directly paid the scammer (‘A’), but had purchased cryptocurrency from (‘X’), a legitimate ‘crypto dealer’. The payments were authorised by Ms H, and it was Tesco’s duty to process the payments. As a result, Tesco took the view that Ms H was responsible for the losses and offered no further support. She turned to the Financial Ombudsman (FOS) for help.

FOS is a Government backed independent body set up to resolve disputes between customers and their banks. They make decisions based on what would be considered ‘fair and reasonable’ in each circumstance.

In response to the complaint, Tesco argued that Ms H had dealt with the company, (‘X’), previously in other crypto transactions and was happy with the payments she wanted to make. Tesco also added that (‘X’) was a genuine company and there was no suggestion that (‘X’) or (‘A’) had been involved in scams before.

Following an investigation, the Ombudsman concluded that Tesco was, in fact, liable for Ms H’s losses. Just because a firm was not on City watchdog, the Financial Conduct Authority’s warned list did not mean they weren’t involved in a scam. When Ms H’s money was lost in late 2019, Tesco would have known that cryptocurrency scams were on the rise, with fraudsters using cold calling tactics and placing adverts on social media to lure people in, as happened in Ms H’s case.

FOS also highlighted that Tesco had a duty to monitor customer accounts and had systems in place to ‘red flag’ any unusual transactions. They should have helped protect their customers’ money by looking out for risks to vulnerable customers, unusually large or frequent transactions, or payments to or from new accounts.

Banks have the power to block or delay payments if they need to carry out additional checks to help prevent money laundering and scams. Ms H’s first two payments to (‘X’) failed and Tesco declined the third as a high-risk transaction. A fourth payment did go through, but Tesco blocked Ms H’s credit card immediately afterward. Ms H had to call the bank and have the block removed, to make the payment.

The Ombudsman was provided with a recording of the conversation Ms H had with Tesco and concluded that the adviser failed to pick up on any warning signs that Ms H may have become the victim of fraud. Nor did they warn her about common cryptocurrency scams and the tactics involved.

The fact that she was cold-called initially and was now being assisted by a third party, who had access to her online account, was particularly worrying. The Ombudsman also said there was no reason why Ms H should necessarily have known about sophisticated cryptocurrency scams.

As a result of the Ombudsman’s investigation, Ms H was refunded all of the payments she made to (‘X’) using her Tesco credit card, plus interest and charges.

Authorised Push Payment (APP) Fraud happens when a customer authorises a payment to a third party in good faith, believing it to be for goods or services, only to find out later that the third party is a scammer. The money is quickly moved on to another account, making it very difficult to trace and recover.

Sarah Spruce, head of TLW Solicitors’ Push Payment Fraud Claims team said:

“Ms H’s case is another example where a sending bank is responsible for payments it processes on behalf of a customer. If you have been the victim of a cryptocurrency scam, don’t feel embarrassed. Get in touch and see if there is a possibility to make a complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service and claim compensation.”

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.

If you, a loved one or someone you know has been conned into making payments to cryptocurrency fraudsters, then please get in touch with our specialist team for a confidential, no-obligation conversation.

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.

Meet Our Team

Meet Sarah, who heads up our experienced Fraud and Scam Claims team.

Sarah and her colleagues are on hand to help with your claim.