How long does a bank fraud investigation take?

Falling victim to bank fraud can be emotionally as well as financially devastating.

And with cases of bank fraud, including push payment fraud, quickly growing, banks are having to conduct more bank fraud investigations than ever before. Unlike credit card fraud, where one phone call to your provider can often be enough to ascertain you’ve been a victim of fraud and put the wheels in motion to ensure you get a refund and aren’t liable for the debt, investigating bank fraud is often a more complex affair.

But as a scam victim, it’s perfectly understandable that you want things resolved as quickly as possible so you can get your money back and stop worrying about what has happened.

Let’s explore what bank fraud investigations involve and how long they can take.

Best case scenario: A matter of days

It doesn’t happen often, but there are still occasions when you’ll be able to call your bank and inform them you’ve been a victim of fraud, and they’ll be able to investigate pretty quickly and get you your money back.

However, it’s best to anticipate that things will take longer than this. If you do get a quick resolution, treat that as a stroke of luck rather than the norm.

Your bank has eight weeks to respond to a complaint

If you speak to the bank in a branch or over the phone and they tell you they can’t help you, the natural next step is to formalise your complaint in writing.

By law, UK banks and building societies must have a written complaints process that outlines how you can make a complaint and the timelines in which they will respond to you. The legal obligation for providing you with a response and a clear answer is within eight weeks, but some may commit to getting back to you more quickly. Your bank or building society should have their complaints process available in branches or on their website, so check the specific details for your banking provider where you can.

If you can’t find this information, you can ask your bank or building society to send it to you.

While you may have to follow specific stages, what you should get within eight weeks is either:

  • An initial response, which allows you to respond to your bank or building society if you’re dissatisfied with their answer or the outcome of their investigation.
  • A final response, which is your bank or building society’s “final answer,” essentially saying they consider the matter closed.
  • A notification that eight weeks have passed, and you now have the right to take your complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS). This typically happens in complex cases where your bank or building society is still investigating and needs more time to look into your complaint, make a decision, and give you an initial or final response. If you receive this letter, it is your decision whether to give the company more time to respond or to escalate your claim to the FOS.

What should I include in a bank fraud complaint?

Firstly, contact your bank or building society as soon as you can so that they have the chance to put things right. Ensure you record the dates you contact them, keep copies of physical letters, and send any such communication by recorded delivery so you can verify a letter was delivered. Keeping this information may be vital if you don’t get a response within the timeframe you should and wish to escalate your complaint.

Here’s a list of what you should include in a written bank fraud complaint:

  • Write the word “COMPLAINT” at the top of your letter or in the subject line of your email. This will help ensure that your correspondence reaches the correct person as quickly as possible.
  • If you have documents, such as bank statements, that you are using to highlight where fraud has taken place, particularly if you have made multiple push payments to what turned out to be a fraudulent source, then include copies of these with your letter or email. Cover up any sensitive or personal information as you wish.
  • Explain the issue in full. List all the facts, dates of what has happened, and any other information you deem significant. This will help your bank or building society better understand your issue and investigate your claim.
  • Outline what you would like the company to do to put things right. In this case, it’ll be to refund you the money you lost due to a scam.

What if you need to complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service?

You can complain to the FOS if:

  • Your bank or building society doesn’t deal with your complaint and respond within eight weeks.
  • You receive a final response from your bank or building society that you’re dissatisfied with.

You can only escalate your complaint to the FOS after complaining to your bank and if you’re dissatisfied with their response, and you must complain to the FOS within six months of:

  • Receiving your final response
  • The end of the eight weeks, if you haven’t received a response

How quickly will the Financial Ombudsman respond?

According to the FOS, as of June 2024, it will take around a month to allocate your complaint, after which they will start to investigate. If you’re in severe ill health or facing financial difficulties, you can outline this in your initial letter to the FOS, which may expedite its handling of your case.

The FOS then aims to give you an initial assessment of your case within 90 days, but this may take longer, depending on the complexity and specific details of your complaint.

If the FOS requires additional information for its investigation, you will have two weeks to provide this. It’s always advisable to do this immediately to keep your case moving smoothly.

What factors can complicate bank fraud investigations?

The most significant obstacle to a bank fraud investigation is often the time between the push payment taking place and you realising you’ve been a victim of fraud.

For example, if you fall victim to an investment or cryptocurrency scam or are a victim of romance fraud, it could be months or even years before you realise you’ve been defrauded.

In addition, scammers will typically move your money from whatever account you send funds to almost immediately after receiving them and will often close accounts shortly after successfully committing a scam to reduce the potential paper trail.

While those factors can slow down the bank’s investigation and the time it will take to get your money back, they shouldn’t be obstacles to getting bank fraud compensation. This is because bank fraud claims are typically against your bank or building society on the grounds they failed to safeguard you from the scam or fraud in question. As such, the grounds for complaint is the money you lost, not where it went.

How long does a bank fraud investigation take?

In an ideal world, your bank will review your case and refund your money within days. While that may happen, it’s very much the exception rather than the norm. However, as of June 2024, there are plans for a mandatory reimbursement scheme to take effect from 7th October 2024, which should make it easier for fraud victims to get their money back.

At present, here’s what an investigation into your bank fraud complaint may look like:

  • Initial complaint to the bank – Up to eight weeks.
  • Initial response from FOS – Up to four months (one month to allocate your claim and up to 90 days to send an initial response).

Which brings us out at six months.

How long it takes until you get your money back after that may depend on how you were defrauded and the complexity of your case. If the FOS makes a final decision in your favour, they will outline in that decision the timeframe within which your bank or building society should repay you.

Start your bank fraud claim with LawPlus Solicitors

If you don’t want to manage your bank fraud claim yourself, LawPlus Solicitors can help.

Our sympathetic team of specialists are waiting to lend an ear to learn more about what’s happened, investigate your case, and let you know if you may be owed compensation.

We understand how devastating falling victim to fraud can be, so we want to make the process as hassle-free and stress-free as possible for you. Don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed about getting in touch; anyone can fall victim to bank fraud and scams – even experienced investors have been caught out in recent years.

Contact us now for a free, no-obligation review of your potential claim and let’s start putting things right together.

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