I’ve had extensive work done on my property and quickly paid an invoice that the builders emailed me a couple of weeks back. All was fine until I received a second invoice for a different amount and with different bank details. Having spoken with the contractors it turns out the first invoice was fraudulent, sent by scammers, and now I’m potentially out of pocket to the tune of hundreds of thousands of pounds. The bank says it might not be able do anything as I sent the funds. Is there anything I can do?
Mike LaCorte, chief executive of the private investigation and intelligence agency Conflict International, says you should take comfort from the fact you are far from alone: you’ve fallen victim to what’s known as authorised push payment (APP) fraud, which official figures show is growing significantly. Most banks have dedicated teams to provide support to victims of push payment fraud whilst reimbursement rules are also set to be changed to make it easier to get the money back.
In the immediate term you will need to persuade your bank to help. If you have sent the money to a UK-based account your bank will have a facility that may allow it to recall part or all of the payment. Fraudsters typically quickly disperse money through various different accounts, but, provided these are also UK-based, the bank may still be able to recall the money.
Multiple accounts mean the bank’s fraud team has to invest more time investigating, so they could just be reluctant to act. Equally, given that APP fraud requires you to make a payment yourself, the bank may not be convinced you have actually been defrauded.
Demonstrating to the bank that you are a victim, or suggesting it has been negligent, should spur it into action. To do this you’ll need to build a case, with a clear timeline of events and all correspondence with the contractor and fraudster collated. Make sure you note the email addresses that contacted you: if the contractor’s address has been “spoofed” — or faked — this will only strengthen your claim. Also, note any phone calls you received from the bank (or anyone claiming to be from the “bank”).
You say your works are extensive, so the next step is to collect all the invoices for any deposits or payments made in instalments. If you’ve been paying regularly and this instalment was early — and it sounds like it was two weeks premature — the bank’s monitoring system could have spotted this. Equally, any changes to the regular amount should also have been flagged up internally.
If payments haven’t been in regular or equal instalments, the bank could have spotted a change to the payee details. And if this was a one-off payment, the bank could have required second confirmation given the sum involved. Take this detail to the police and obtain a crime reference number. Presenting this and all your evidence to the bank — making sure you send it to the fraud team and your bank manager — should result in action.
It’s important to keep all replies and correspondence from the bank, because if you’re still having no luck, you can escalate your complaint to the financial ombudsman. I understand there’s a backlog of complaints, but if you’ve followed the steps outlined this could secure long-term financial redress.
How can I broach the subject of money with my parents?
I am a married 46-year-old man and to this day, other than talking about and receiving monthly pocket money as a child, I have never properly discussed money, wealth or any inheritance with my parents, who are now 71 and 73. I am being pestered by my wife to talk to them as it is in the interest of my own young family and their future. How do I even begin the conversation? Should I involve a financial planner? Am I being disrespectful to my parents?
Jade Rose, wealth planner at Kingswood, a wealth and investment management firm, says it’s culturally engrained in us to loathe talking about money — it’s considered impolite or uncouth. Without proper financial literacy on the curriculum, it’s little wonder that many people feel this way.
However, these conversations are important, as various consequences can arise as a result of not discussing family finances. These range from the inconvenient, such as clumsy admin and the delay of asset distribution, to the frustrating including paying more in inheritance tax than necessary, to the downright devastating — such as losing the family home or finding out there’s nothing left of an inheritance at all.
With both life expectancy and age-related incapacity on the increase, children of parents whose retirement provisions don’t provide the required standard of living or meet the cost of potential care home fees, may find they have to shoulder the financial responsibility. Planning the family’s finances ahead of time can ensure our parents are taken care of in their elderly years with agency and dignity.
Broaching the conversation isn’t just number-crunching and a question of who receives what inheritance; it’s an opportunity better to understand each other. Starting with non-invasive, big-picture topics, such as how parents envisage spending their retirement, or if they plan to downsize, is a great way to gauge their financial landscape while learning more about their future plans.
By emphasizing the catalyst for the conversation — to protect the interests of your own young family — you can involve your parents in teaching your children good financial habits for the future, which is the foundation of good generational wealth.
Show mutual respect by sharing information about your own financial planning and seek their guidance if appropriate. If you’re still unsure how to start the conversation, there are various online forums and support groups, such as Money and Pensions Service, where peer support is available. When you do converse, be sure to take note of important details and wishes.
A financial planner will advise on the intricacies of estate planning and put strategies in place. However, the quality of advice is only as good as the information provided. Honest and open communication with our parents is the primary conduit to successful planning.
If it’s truly difficult for parents to talk to their children about their finances, having them speak privately with a financial planner is a way to ensure provisions are still made.
The opinions in this column are intended for general information purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for professional advice. The Financial Times Ltd and the authors are not responsible for any direct or indirect result arising from any reliance placed on replies, including any loss, and exclude liability to the full extent.
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