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Metro Bank Customer Awarded £20,000 Compensation after Bank Failed to Protect Her from a Romance Scammer

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Miss P believed she was in a relationship with a man she met online and that the money she sent was helping him cover solicitors' fees.

A Metro Bank customer has been awarded £20,000 in compensation after a Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) investigation found that the bank could have done more to protect her from a predatory romance scammer.

The Financial Ombudsman Service is an independent government-backed body responsible for investigating and resolving disputes between financial institutions – such as banks – and their customers. Increasingly, FOS is finding that banks in the UK are not sufficiently carrying out their duty of care to customers who are vulnerable to fraud.

TLW Solicitors’ scams and fraud team can help victims of fraud explore avenues for compensation and reimbursement with banks and FOS.

In 2017, Miss P started speaking to, and sparked a ‘relationship’ with, a man she met online. She had not used a dating site before and, therefore, was not necessarily aware of how romance scammers use them to con unsuspecting victims. Her match convinced her of his identity using a range of tactics, including sending numerous photos of ‘himself’ that confirmed his alleged:

  • Place of work
  • Overseas travel
  • Child

Miss P and the scammer also regularly talked on the phone, which further cemented her acceptance of his story.

Unfortunately, as is the case with romance scammers, once he had convinced Miss P of his authenticity, he began to ask her to transfer money, which she did willingly. Miss P believed the money was to help him cover solicitors’ fees and transferred £20,000, in two transactions of £10,000, to an international bank account.

The scam was uncovered once Miss P’s bank, Metro Bank, intervened when she tried to make a third payment, which was subsequently stopped. Miss P raised a fraud claim with the bank, which was declined, and no money could be recovered from the banks to which the money was transferred.

After the bank refused to accept her compensation claim, Miss P referred the complaint to FOS for an initial investigation, which ruled in Miss P’s favour and recommended that Metro Bank refund her in full, plus 8% interest.

The bank did not agree with the investigator’s conclusion on the following grounds:

  • The bank believed the first two payments (to pay solicitors’ fees for a friend) were genuine and didn’t raise any further questions
  • The bank intervened once the third payment was attempted, and a pattern emerged
  • Romance scams weren’t as common in 2017

As a decision could not be agreed upon by both parties, the complaint was escalated to the Ombudsman for a final review.

If both parties do not agree on a FOS investigator’s decision, it can be escalated to the Ombudsman, whose decision is final.

In Miss P’s case, the Ombudsman reviewed the findings of the initial investigation and took into account Metro Bank’s reasons for not accepting the decision. Ultimately, the Ombudsman agreed with the investigator’s decision, regardless of Metro Bank’s arguments, on the following grounds:

  • Miss P did not use her Metro Bank account for payments over £1,500, so payments of £10,000 should have raised red flags.
  • Miss P did not regularly use the account for international payments, so two payments of £10,000 on the same day to two different international payees should have been cause for concern.
  • Metro Bank did not ask sufficient questions about the first two payments and their purpose – paying solicitors’ fees for a friend – which they no longer accepted once the third payment was attempted.
  • While romance scams may have been ‘less prevalent’ in 2017, scams in general were not, and, as the expert in the relationship, Metro Bank should have probed further into the reasons for the large transactions.

Banks in the UK have a duty of care to customers to protect them and their accounts from scams and fraud. Metro Bank should have had sufficient procedures in place to monitor accounts and payments for any unusual activity that may indicate fraud and should have taken extra steps when the first payment was attempted to ensure Miss P was protected.

The Ombudsman agreed that Metro Bank was liable for the total loss of £20,000 and instructed the bank to refund Miss P in full plus 8% interest per year from the date of the payments to the settlement date.

According to a recent Lloyds Banking Group report, romance scams have risen by over a fifth in 2023, with the average amount lost reaching almost £7,000. Romance scammers usually connect with their potential victims on dating apps and websites or social media platforms and use social engineering techniques such as ‘love bombing’, manipulation and deception, to gain their victims’ trust before requesting money.

Most romance scams involve Authorised Push Payment (APP) fraud where the victim willingly transfers money to their new ‘beau’ because they believe the request for money is genuine. Because of this, they bypass their bank’s security ‘authorisation’ procedures – think about the pop-up on your mobile banking app that asks, ‘Do you know the person you are sending money to is genuine?’ – and the money leaves their bank instantaneously.

Once the money is in the hands of the scammers, it proves very difficult to recover, but there are options for compensation. When you report the scam to your bank, they should conduct their own internal investigation; in some cases, this is sufficient to secure a refund. However, where the bank believes that the victim should be liable for the money lost due to their own action or inaction, the complaint can be escalated to FOS for an investigation, as happened in Miss P’s case.

TLW Solicitors’ experienced scams and fraud team can help you take your complaint to your bank or FOS and even help if your initial FOS case was rejected.

Sarah Spruce, Legal Director and Head of the Scams and Fraud team at TLW Solicitors, commented:

“Miss P’s case is a perfect example of how the FOS claims system can work in a victim’s favour, even if the bank continues to refuse liability for their loss. The FOS application procedure can be incredibly daunting and time-consuming for anyone who has never had to deal with it before, so getting expert advice can take away some of the stress and improve your chances of getting your money back.”

When dealing with FOS claims, the specialist scam team at TLW Solicitors understand the time limits to be followed, the information needed and the claims and appeals processes.

If you, a friend, or a loved one has been conned into making payments to fraudsters via online banking, then please get in touch with our specialist team for a confidential, no-obligation discussion. We can explore whether you can make a ‘no–win, no–fee’ refund claim.

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

Time limits can apply, and so anyone wishing to bring a claim should do so without delay.

Minimum case values may apply.

Meet Our Team

Meet Sarah, who heads up our experienced Authorised Push Payment Fraud Claims team.

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