Number spoofing: another refund after Guardian intervenes

A second fraud victim – duped into believing he was talking to his bank after his mobile caller ID showed the call was from the bank – has been refunded following the Guardian’s intervention.

Bernard Hill* lost £10,150 when he was “number spoofed” earlier this month. His NatWest premium account was cleaned out after fraudsters rang him on a number showing up on his handset as the bank’s genuine number.

As Money revealed last week, criminal gangs are increasingly manipulating caller ID to make calls and send texts that appear to be from the bank. Metro Bank initially refused to refund a Cambridge businesswoman the £90,000 she lost, but later refunded her after the Guardian pointed out its stance likely contravened guidance from the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Hill says he was phoned on his special NatWest Platinum Reward number (part of a service for which he pays £20 a month) and told that he had to move his money into a new account as fraudsters were trying to hack it. In fact, the person giving him this advice was the fraudster. Bernard moved the money, believing he was talking to NatWest staff.

He later received a curt email from NatWest informing him that he would not be refunded because it was not the bank’s fault that he had been spoofed. It concluded: “I appreciate that you will be disappointed with this outcome,” with a list of ways he should keep himself secure in future. Hill, who had banked with NatWest for more than 30 years, was devastated – and angry. To advise him how to keep his money safe after he had lost it all, seemed to be rubbing salt into the wound.

In January Which? published a warning stating that “between May 2018 and the first week of January 2019, its helpline spoke to 42 victims of spoofing – and of the 19 cases where the fraudster pretended to be their bank, 18 banked with NatWest or Royal Bank of Scotland”.

RBS was quoted at the time as saying: “Keeping our customers safe and secure is of paramount importance to us. We understand that it can be traumatic for customers who fall victim to fraud and we have invested heavily across all our channels to continuously enhance security features.”

Yet there was no evidence that RBS had done anything to keep Hill and other customers secure. In the six weeks between publication of the Which? article and Hill being defrauded, it had failed to warn customers that its phone numbers were vulnerable to spoofing.

This week, RBS told Hill that his money would be refunded. He notes that the special phone number now carries a warning about number spoofing.

NatWest says: “We appreciate this has been a very difficult time for Mr Hill and we will be refunding in full as a gesture of goodwill. Keeping our customers safe and secure is of paramount importance to us. Phone number spoofing is an industry-wide issue and we are working with telecoms providers to address it.”

* Not his real name

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