A woman who sent $80,000 overseas, trying to claim a US$200,000 (NZ$285,000) fake “lottery prize” has had her complaint to the Banking Ombudsman, that her bank should have done more to stop her, rejected.
The woman encountered the scam on social media and sent the money via three international money transfers through her bank.
The Banking Ombudsman’s office said the bank became suspicious when she tried to make a further transfer of $10,000. She was declined.
She went to another bank to send the money overseas but later discovered it was a fraud.
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She engaged an “online recovery” company to help her get the money back – but eventually found this operated in much the same way as the scammers.
She told the ombudsman in her complaint that the bank should have sought a chargeback.
The bank attempted to recall the funds but was unsuccessful. It declined to compensate her for her losses but made a goodwill payment of $1600. She maintained the bank should have stopped all payments.
“We discovered [she] had not told the bank she was sending funds to claim a lottery prize. She said the fraudster had coached her to not tell the bank why she was sending the funds overseas and acknowledged she did not give the bank correct information,” the ombudsman’s office said in a case note.
“Instead, she said she was buying supplies for a wedding planning business. This was consistent with the information recorded on the transfer forms and the recollections of the bank tellers who processed the transfers.”
She had also been questioned about the first transfer because it was unusual. The bank staff knew she ran a wedding planning business and were shown photos of venues.
“It was not until the fourth transfer that her story became inconsistent and the bank declined to move the money,” the case note said.
The bank was ruled not responsible for her losses.
Banking Ombudsman Nicola Sladden said complaints about frauds and scams were increasing in number.
“We have received approximately 70 this year and we know that is the tip of the iceberg,” Sladden said.
“Classic push scams, like this one involving a US lottery prize, highlight the need to be extra careful online. Scammers come in many guises, offering investments, romance and prizemoney to name a few. As a general rule, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
Sladden said, when assessing these complaints, the Banking Ombudsman scheme considered the bank’s responsibility to act with reasonable care and skill, which includes being alert to, and acting on, any “red flags” about customer behaviour.
“In this case, when the bank questioned the initial overseas transfer, the customer explained it was for her wedding planning business, which the bank knew about. However, when the customer changed her story on the fourth overseas transfer of $10,000, the bank acted on its suspicion and declined to put the transfer through. We found the bank was not responsible for the customer’s losses.”
The Banking Ombudsman does not reveal the identities of complainants or banks.