Julie, a woman from Devon who lost £3,900 after fraudsters posed as her bank spent a total of seven hours on the hold at HSBC, racking up a £50 phone bill, as she tried to report the fraud.
The process took so long that Julie's landline provider temporarily cut her off.
It was four days until HSBC contacted her after she had been scammed to tell her that she would be refunded. Julie was so disappointed with the service she received from HSBC after the event that she switched bank.
She says: “I don’t blame HSBC for the scammers, but it was completely inaccessible by phone.
“I was terrified because I didn’t know what information the scammers had got… I didn’t know whether they could get hold of my card details, or whether they could get something else from my laptop.”
Julie is just one of a ream of consumers to have experienced substandard treatment from their bank, leaving them exposed to further fraud attempts, according to research from consumer watchdog Which?.
Of the people who reported fraud to their bank via phone or webchat, one in seven (15%) said that they waited 30 minutes or more to speak to someone.
The consumer champion also found that a third (32 per cent) of victims of fraud or attempted fraud said that their bank did not offer advice or resources to help them better protect themselves in the future.
The figures come amid growing concerns over ‘recovery fraud’ - where victims are scammed again by fraudsters pretending to help them recoup their losses. This type of fraud has seen a 39% increase since last year, with victims losing £14,408 on average.
Most major banks have signed up to a voluntary reimbursement code on bank transfer scams which not only instructs them to reimburse customers who are not at fault, but also to provide them with adequate support.
However, firms signed up to the code have been criticised for how they are providing support to customers. A recent report by the Lending Standards Board (LSB) found that some firms were failing to meet the requirements of providing a response on reimbursement claims within 15 days, or 35 days in ‘exceptional circumstances’.
To make matters worse, the LSB said there was little evidence in these cases of firms providing any updates to the customer about the delay and when they could eventually expect a decision.
As the information about how banks handle cases of bank transfer fraud is currently anonymous, Which? is calling for the regulator to introduce greater transparency so customers can clearly see how their bank chooses to treat victims of crime.
Jenny Ross, Which? Money Editor, says: “Fraud can have a devastating impact on victims. When banks fail to offer proper support, it can make a nightmare situation even worse, and an absence of information from firms about how people can protect themselves could even lead to ruthless scammers striking for a second time.
“The lack of help provided to some victims of bank transfer scams is particularly concerning, and protections for this type of fraud have to be strengthened."