Email scammed? Who is responsible?

“I recently fell for an email scam where I provided my banking details. The scammer proceeded to use my account to pay out a sum of money from the bank. The bank now wants to hold me liable for this money as they say it is my account and my negligence led to the scammers using my account. However, I don’t have a credit facility with the bank and yet the bank paid out a large amount in credit on my behalf. Surely the bank should not have done that?”

Cyber scamming is at an all time high, with scammers becoming increasingly sophisticated in their approaches to victims. But where does it leave you if you get scammed? Are all the resultant damages flowing from the scam yours to bear, or does your bank also have to shoulder some responsibility?

Firstly, it should be clearly stated, that it is very difficult to formulate a one-size-fits-all answer for this, as every situation may have different circumstances that could affect the ultimate responsibility.

In general though, an individual account holder is contractually required to protect and keep private his or her sensitive account details and not share such with anyone. If you then fall foul of a scam and so divulge information that the scammers use to hack your account and use it to cause damage either to yourself or the bank, there is a good chance you will be liable for the resultant damage. 

That said, your bank has a reciprocal duty to protect your interests and ensure they act within what was agreed with you in respect of your account. Our courts have confirmed that if your account for example does not have a credit facility, but the bank paid out credit to a third party, even though such payment was initiated by scammers using your account details obtained from you through a scam, the bank acted outside their mandate and is therefore also negligent. 

In your situation, it is therefore important that you engage with your bank to ascertain exactly what happened and why money was paid out, and if necessary, consult your attorney to assist you in dealing with the matter on your behalf.

October 12, 2021

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