In a recent example, a woman known only as Antoinette sent $150,000 – her life savings – to a New Zealand-based remittance company (a company specialising in transferring money overseas), with the intention it would be invested.  

Upon discovering the scam, the woman contacted her bank but it was unable to get her money back. Recognising the woman was a victim of a scam, and in recognition of her loss, the bank offered the woman $1000. Rejecting the offer, the woman took her complaint to the Banking Ombudsman.

The bank should’ve noticed who the money was sent to and stopped the transaction, the woman said.

But the Banking Ombudsman said the woman told her bank to make payments to a legitimate remittance company – and it had followed those instructions.

“We told Antoinette we would not be able to uphold her complaint and she should accept the bank’s offer.”

Banks expected to follow up on ‘red flags’

Unless they’re negligent – for example, their card or PIN number is shared – banks have a general duty to reimburse customers for unauthorised transactions – those that come out of their account without their consent.

When customers authorise payments that are fraudulent, banks are expected to act with ‘reasonable care and skill’. This includes following up on red flags, for example, where several investments are broken early, a customer is unwilling to respond to questions about a transaction, or its purpose indicates fraud.

As an example, a bank was ordered to refund…

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