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When Grace lost €6,412 in a scam, she asked her bank for help. Here’s what happened

Pricewatch: ‘How on earth can a refund be achieved if there is no investigative fraud unit?’

Another week, another scam story – this time from a reader called Grace who was hoodwinked by a criminal pretending to be her daughter.

“I was the subject of a scam known as ‘an authorised push payment [APP] fraud’, from a text message,” her mail starts. “I am writing to you regarding my experience in trying to get a refund from my bank, PTSB, and to shed light on the system they operate for refunds.”

Her story started on Wednesday, April 19th, last year at exactly 10:48am.

“I received a text message from an unknown number, sayingHi mum’ and saying the texter was texting from a friend’s phone, having smashed theirs. They gave me a new number and said to call/or text on this new number.”


Now Grace – like so many of us – is aware of the fraudsters out there, had heard the warnings about scams and has successfully rejected the advances of many of them, but on this occasion, things were working against her.

“It so happened that Wednesday, April 19th was a ‘perfect storm’ day for the fraudsters to make contact,” she says. “I believed this text was from my daughter, as something similar had happened to her before with her phone, and as it transpired she was stressed and worried as she was due to go to Dublin for a back operation the following day, and we had spoken of it the night before.”

As it happened Grace’s husband was not around “to bounce the text request off due to work, so I was sucked in. When I did attempt to call the texter, I received a text to say that calls couldn’t be answered as the microphone on that phone was bad. The texts then went on to say that texter had dropped the phone and was stressed and hoped they wouldn’t lose pictures.”

You might be able to guess what came next.

Grace got a message from the person she thought was her daughter asking for a favour. “The texter said that because of this change of phone her bank had blocked this new phone number and she needed to make payments and was stressed out. As I still believed I was texting my daughter, who had been stressed the evening before, I agreed to make a payment. The bank details of the payee were then sent by WhatsApp to me, and I transferred the amount requested, €6,412.14.”

She actually received a call from PTSB to verify that it was she who was transferring the funds and, because she was so convinced she was sending the cash to her stressed-out daughter, she confirmed it to be the case.

“It was only later that same evening when my daughter called to my home that I asked her what had happened with her phone, and she replied ‘nothing’. Then I realised I had been scammed. I am an OAP, so was devastated at the loss of this amount of money,” Grace says.

She immediately phoned PTSB’s fraud number. It was about five hours after she had transferred the money, and she spoke to a man who said he was sending her details to the non-plastic fraud department who would contact her the following day.

Early the next morning, “after a sleepless night, I phoned the fraud number again as I didn’t know when I would get a return call and was in a such state after losing so much money. I wanted this to be in the pipeline as fast as possible.”

Grace was transferred to the “non-plastic team [and a woman] who took the details said she was attempting a recall on the transfer, and someone would call me again later that day. At 1.30pm a lady from the [PTSB] fraud department phoned to say that the recall as of that time was unsuccessful; she also informed me that [the staff member] I had first spoken with the night before had applied for a recall when I phoned at 7.15pm. She said the case was closed, a record had been made that a fraud had been committed, and I wouldn’t hear from the fraud department again.”

She was told to keep a watch on her bank account to see if the funds were refunded.

Grace went to her local Garda station and reported the fraud, and contacted the Central Bank to find out whether a new UK code of practice called the contingent reimbursement model (CRM), designed to reimburse victims of APP fraud, might apply in the Republic.

The short answer was no.

“The garda who I reported it to advised me to keep in contact with PTSB regarding the recall. This I did for several months. I went into my local branch, who directed me back to their fraud department, but there was no sign of the funds.”

Fast forward to October, and Grace happened to be listening to Morning Ireland and heard PTSB chief operations officer Peter Vance being interviewed about a new protection software for scam text messages with embedded links.

He was asked by the journalist was “the money gone” after a fraudulent act, and he said: “No, contact your bank immediately on the 24/7 fraud line and we will do our best to retrieve the funds before being released.”

Grace says that by then she “had given up hope of getting my money back, it was worth a try, so I emailed Mr Vance and relayed to him my ‘scam’ story, giving him all my information, and copies of the text messages, as I had not been able to get any information from PTSB on the time frames for stopping a transfer, even though a bank-to-bank transfer takes 24 hours in Ireland”.

Her query was sent by Mr Vance to the fraud unit and she got a promise that the matter would be further investigated. A few weeks later she heard back from PTSB, saying the findings of the original investigation had been correct and she would not be getting any money back.

“While this did not come as a complete surprise, as I had myself transferred the funds [and] my card was not scammed, so Permanent TSB were ‘off’ the hook regarding a refund. But what really surprised me in the reply was the statement which said that “Recalls are sent to the beneficiary bank, who are not under any obligation to take any action or respond to the request... If there are no funds remaining, then the recall fails, but should there be any funds remaining, these may be credited back to the sender’s account, if the recipient bank chooses to do so. We are unable to force another institute to respond to any request as they are all done in good faith.”

She asks “what is the point of PTSB or any bank issuing a recall to a bank, when they have absolutely no idea if that email is ever read, ever acted upon, if the receiving bank has a fraud department and then if they will even issue a refund? I am dumbstruck as it seems no one who is the victim of a bank fraud has any chance of having their funds returned with this ridiculous system, and PTSB’s fraud department have no idea what happens to a recall email involving a fraud once sent.”

But what has really struck her during all her correspondence with PTSB was the “all done in good faith” line. “That is the killer,” she says. “How on earth can a refund be achieved if there is absolutely no investigative fraud unit, no exchange of information by national points of contact unit, no 24/7 channels that facilitate reporting of the offences? And do financial institutions and other legal persons report suspected fraud or counterfeiting to law enforcement authorities?”

She concludes by saying she hopes “the banks get their act together soon, to combat the amount of fraud that is happening”.

We contacted PTSB to find out if it was happy with how it had treated Grace from the time she first informed them of the scam and to see if they would respond to the broader questions about dealing with cases of fraud.

We got a statement in which PTSB said it recognised “the distress scams of this nature can cause and we will engage with the customer directly to discuss her experience.

“PTSB takes all fraud extremely seriously and we have invested significantly in fraud prevention and detection in recent years,” it said.

It pointed to a “dedicated fraud team [which] carries out 24/7/365 real-time fraud monitoring of all transactions and also provides 24/7/365 agent support”.

The statement added that “Every incident of fraud is thoroughly investigated by our team on a case-by-case basis and customers who are victims of fraud are advised to report the incident to the gardaí. In cases where a customer willingly authorises a payment to a third party, the bank is not liable to reimburse the funds.”

We also decided it might be worth getting in touch with the Central Bank too and got a very interesting response.

“The Central Bank expects firms to report all cases of suspected APP fraud directly to An Garda Síochána and to provide effective assistance to An Garda Síochána when a fraud is suspected. In November we directed firms to review and change their existing processes to ensure they are effective in monitoring and reporting APP fraud and support their customers should they fall victim to such scams.

“We expect firms to take responsibility for compensating consumers where a consumer’s loss has resulted from a failure of the firm’s own established systems and controls. If a consumer believes they may have been the victim of a scam or a fraud, they should contact their financial provider and may wish to report the matter directly to their local Garda station or to the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau.”

So then we went back to PTSB as it was clear it had not reported this fraud or others. We asked if it had reviewed and changed its processes in recent months and if not, why not? And if so, how many such crimes had been reported since then? We also asked for proof that it had, in fact, “thoroughly investigated” this case and others.

In a follow-up statement a spokeswoman said “the scope of any fraud investigation may vary depending on the complexity of the case but in all instances, our team conduct a thorough investigation.”

And when it comes to the reporting of the crimes, she added that the “Central Bank communicated its expectations relating to APP fraud to regulated firms in November 2023 and as a regulated firm, we have evolved and continue to evolve our processes on APP fraud. PTSB engages with An Garda Síochána on an ongoing basis to ensure our reporting is optimal and serves the best interest of our customers.”