Bank payment delay plan to halt scams

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Vulnerable people should be allowed to place a delay on large payments leaving their bank to protect them from scams, a report says.

A carer or family member should be sent a text alerting them to the planned payment, the recommendations suggest.

The Chartered Trading Standards Institute, which represents officers, said banks and charities could do more to protect potential victims.

The banking industry says a grey area exists in the current rules.

Banks are obliged to make payments when customers demand it, but they also want to, and do, protect those who are vulnerable.

'Suckers' lists'

The Trading Standards Institute commissioned a report from Bournemouth University's National Centre for Post-Qualifying Social Work into scam victims.

Its recommendations to financial institutions and charities include:

  • Recognising a duty of care to dementia sufferers who could make an unwise decision as a result of their cognitive state
  • Allowing vulnerable people to put a 24-hour delay on new or large transactions from leaving their bank accounts and banks, sending an email or text alerting a carer or loved one at the start of that period
  • Ensuring personal data is not shared without a clear opt-in and that it is not held for longer than 12 months before permission is sought again, in order to prevent "suckers' lists"

The estimated amount lost to doorstep crimes in a year is £22.1m, but trading standards officers believe losses could be 10 times greater than this.

Victims of scam mail have an average age of 74 and have typically lost more than £1,000, according to Trading Standards officers who identified 10,843 victims in the year to April 2015.

They identified nearly 200,000 potential victims on suckers' lists sold between con-artists.

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Leon Livermore, CTSI chief executive, said: "Vulnerability is not a term that is defined in law, which means it is difficult for professionals to introduce measures to protect vulnerable people.

"We believe that banks and charitable organisations can do more without the need for legislation and that these relatively straightforward asks would lead to a dramatic reduction in detriment."

Prof Keith Brown, who wrote the report, said: "We believe our three main asks are both achievable and would make the greatest impact in reducing the risk of being scammed for the most at-risk citizens in our society."

But Payments UK, which oversees the way transactions are made, said the idea of a payment delay had not arisen when it previously consulted on the issue.

Industry guidelines have made it easier for customers with special requirements to speak to their bank about a service that they think could be of use, a spokeswoman for Payments UK said.

"All the banks offer different services and products to help vulnerable people manage their finances, and we would urge a customer to speak to their bank if they want to find out more," she added.

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