VICTORIA BISCHOFF: Fraud fail at Metro Bank

VICTORIA BISCHOFF: How is it possible that Metro Bank hasn’t yet introduced the vital name-checking fraud prevention system?

Earth calling Metro Bank. Did you somehow miss the memo that Britain is at the centre of a global fraud epidemic?

Every day sophisticated scammers are seeking to rinse your customers’ accounts for all they are worth. So how is it possible you have yet to introduce a basic yet vital fraud check to help prevent this from happening?

When making payments online, customers are asked to enter the recipient’s name, account number and sort code.

Metro Bank still has to bring in the new system called ‘confirmation of payee’

But — until recently — the name was just for show. Banks didn’t actually check it matched what they had on record.

It meant that it was all too easy for scammers to convince victims they were transferring money to HMRC or a ‘safe account’ in their own name.

Most people assumed that, if the account holder’s name differed from what they had entered, banks would block the transfer.

In fact, it could have belonged to Joe Fraudster and the payment would still have been made, as long as the account number and sort code were correct.

However, in a major step forward, most major banks have now introduced a new system called ‘confirmation of payee’.

It’s not rocket science. It just means firms now ensure the name and account details marry up.

And, if they don’t, a warning message will flash up, alerting customers to the fact that something is amiss. The simplicity of it all makes you wonder why this check wasn’t in place all along.

So it beggars belief that some banks are yet to bring it in. We’re still waiting on around 11 firms to upgrade their systems, despite the idea first being mooted more than six years ago, and rolled out among the big players in 2019.

And, as I discovered last week when trying to pay a tradesman £250, Metro Bank — with around two and a half million customers — is among them.

It resulted in my bank issuing a stern warning: ‘We can’t check the details you entered, as their bank doesn’t offer this service.

‘By choosing ‘Continue’ you accept you could send money to the wrong account and may not get it back.’

Although I was confident I was not being scammed, it was still unsettling. My bank didn’t like it either. I promptly received a voicemail demanding I answer a series of security questions over the phone before it would release the money.

While I appreciate that at least someone was paying attention — and, to my relief, picking up the phone — none of this should have been necessary.

If we are to have a chance at stopping scammers, some banks really do need to up their game.

Mixed messages

While on the topic of fraud, I was disconcerted to also receive a text message from my bank containing a telephone number to call.

The experts always say you must never trust numbers provided via text, and should instead use the one on the back of your card.

We’ve seen people caught out time and time again by scam text messages. This sort of inconsistency is very unhelpful when trying to raise awareness of simple fraud prevention steps we should all be taking.

Agents of chaos

Booking a holiday is enough of a faff right now, without online agents such as advertising sold-out flights.

Fortunately, I’d paid by credit card, otherwise I’d have been left waiting days for the money to be returned to my bank account after it later cancelled the booking.

In the end, we saved a packet by booking direct with the airline. Lesson learned.

I was also interested to see that — which already offers customers a plethora of insurance add-ons — hadn’t wasted any time in cashing in on the ongoing lost luggage debacle at airports. ‘What if your bags get lost? Protect your luggage for just £6.90 per person,’ the advert said.

Apparently you’ll get £1,000 if your suitcase doesn’t materialise within 96 hours. I’d just check the small print first.