September 6, 2022

Authorised Push Payment Fraud – The Invisible Baddie

Posted in Dispute Resolution

My three year old asked me if we could watch a movie the other day. Not an unusual request, but this time he specifically wanted to watch a movie “with no baddies in it”. Baddies are too scary, he said.

This surprised me. I thought we all liked a good Baddie. Disney certainly does. Someone the Goodies can join forces against. But what about the invisible Baddie?  Gone are the eccentric deep sea monsters and scheming uncles with British accents of Disney’s golden years. These days monsters attack from behind their computer screens. They infiltrate your emails, pretending to be your client, your colleague, your customer, your accountant. How do you defeat the invisible fraudster?

A common form of Authorised Push Payment fraud is when someone pretends to be a person you would normally send money to, often by using a near identical email address to that person (perhaps with an extra character – very easily missed). They request payment into a bank account controlled by them. By the time the victim realises that they have sent the money to the wrong person, that money is often long gone. The Baddie prevails. But not always.

Authorised Push Payment fraud - an example

A client came to us a few months ago, having been victim to just such a scam. The corporate client was based in Italy, and the money had gone to a UK bank account. The client realised fairly swiftly that it had been defrauded and immediately contacted its Italian bank, who reached out to the UK bank just days after the payment had been made. Unfortunately, nothing happened quickly after that. The client’s bank was told to expect a response within 30 days, and after several chasers communications ended with a vague reference to an undisclosed court order.

We were instructed and promptly wrote to the UK bank. As is often the case, a formal letter before claim from a firm of solicitors prompted a swift reaction. As the story unfolded, we discovered that the invisible fraudster in question must have been on the police’s radar at the time our client was defrauded, because shortly after that the fraudster’s bank account had been frozen. Enough time had passed since freezing the account without objection from any third parties or the fraudster, and the contents of that bank account had been forfeited. The money had passed to the Treasury. The only way to get the money back would be by court order, and we therefore made an application on our client’s behalf to the Magistrates Court to release funds up to the amount taken from our client.

The police did not oppose the application. They were represented at the hearing and made helpful practical suggestions to ensure that our client’s money was returned without any risk that the fraudster might be able to regain control. After all, the police and the courts are concerned with stopping fraudsters, not depriving innocent victims of their money. The client’s funds were returned in full following the hearing. A true example of the Goodies joining forces to defeat the Baddies. My son would love it.

Of course the only foolproof way to prevent Authorised Push Payment fraud is to be extremely vigilant. Always check payment details on the telephone before sending money and scrutinise email addresses with care. However, the moral of this story is that in the event you do fall victim, the chances of recovering the money lost are greatly increased by taking swift action. Our team would be happy to help, should you need another Goodie on your side.

Are you a victim of Authorised Push Payment Fraud?

Contact our specialist Civil Fraud & Investigation Lawyers to find those responsible and recover your assets.

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