Authorised push payment fraud (APP Fraud) is a crime which affects both businesses and individuals. More than £200 million was stolen from customers through APP fraud in the first half of 2019 and increased use of instant payments means the crime is increasing. 90% of UK APP Fraud is committed through digital channels. Additionally, 93% of fraudulently obtained transfers are sent over a Faster Payments network which means banks have little time to intervene and prevent the criminal from moving the funds*. The best way to protect yourself from APP fraud is to learn about it, so that if you are targeted you will recognise it and know what to do.
What is APP fraud?
Authorised push payment (APP) fraud, also known as a bank transfer scam, occurs when you are tricked into transferring money from your own bank account to one belonging to a scammer.
Scammers use sophisticated technology and manipulative social engineering to trick you into thinking they are someone else. They can send text messages which appear to be from your bank and appear in the same thread as genuine messages, phone you from what appears to be your bank’s phone number or hack into the emails of a company that you trust and send you an invoice with the scammer’s account details.
An example of APP fraud would be a scammer pretending to be from your bank and asking you to move your money to a ‘safe account’, but it is actually an account the scammer controls. Scammers may have hacked communications meaning that they know when you are expecting to pay something and will be least likely to scrutinise a request for payment. They will monitor email threads between consumers and businesses to look for payment dates and details, then use the information they have gathered in order to ask for a transaction to be made at a time when the victim may expect a payment request to hit their inbox. Completion day on a property purchase, for example.
How to avoid APP fraud
If anyone asks you for payment or to move your money, question it. Contact the company directly and ask them to confirm not just the request for payment, but the payment account details. Always telephone to do this, even if the request was made by phone call. Scammers can mask their phone number with the number of a genuine organisation when they call you and they may be able to hack and intercept your emails, so telephoning a company directly is the safest way to confirm the request and payment account details are correct.
If you are requested to make a payment (even if it is one you are expecting) via email, making a small payment first and then contacting the intended recipient to confirm that they got it before transferring the rest can help protect your money. It may be inconvenient to make two payments instead of one, but it could keep your finances safe and keep you from falling victim to APP fraud.
Never feel pressured to hide details about a payment from your bank. Scammers have manipulated victims into giving false responses to security questions so that the scam would go undetected. Please remember that bank security questions are for the safety of you and your money. The police or any other trusted organisation would never advise you to lie to your bank about why you are transferring money. Never rush a payment, as a genuine organisation will understand and be patient.
What to do if you are a victim of APP fraud
If you think you have been a victim to APP fraud, you should call your bank or card provider immediately. Tell the bank what happened and let them know the bank account number your money was sent to.
Your bank may be able to either stop the transaction from going ahead or recover your money from the fraudster’s account. The sooner you report the fraud, the more chance you have of the bank being able to recover your money.
Contact the bank where your money was sent
You should also contact the bank where your money was sent and let it know the account number as it may be able to halt the money and get it back for you.
You can check which bank it was sent to by using the Faster Payment's sort code checker.
If you have formally made a complaint to this bank, but you don't think they acted quickly or appropriately enough you can take this complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service who can investigate further.