When we think of helping scam victims, the first thought that probably comes to mind is providing reimbursement for lost funds. Making victims whole can certainly help ease some of the stress and anxiety they are feeling, however, emotions often run deeper than just seeing money placed back in their bank account. Many experience depression, low self-esteem, and long-term trust issues; some have even contemplated suicide.

This is the human side of fraud. There is so much focus on the financial aspects of scams and the associated losses that we forget the emotional aspects. There is a person on the other side who is suffering and vulnerable. Banks have a critical role to play as they are often the first line of communication with a scam victim looking for help.

I recently reached out to Ayleen Charlotte, the protagonist in the popular Netflix documentary, the Tinder Swindler, and asked her to share her thoughts on how banks can improve the way they help scam victims. Drawing on her own experiences, Charlotte provided the following three tips for banks:

Tip 1: Hire and/or train staff that specialize in dealing with scam victims

Scam victims require empathy and understanding. Helping them is not going to follow standard bank policy and procedure, and each case is going to be unique. This requires staff who are specially trained to deal with vulnerable customers. These calls will likely be long and may require multiple conversations to come up with a resolution.

Charlotte recalls her experience calling her bank for the first time. “It took me two weeks to digest the totality of the situation I was in and find the strength to call my bank.” When she spoke to an agent to explain her situation, she was stunned by the response she got. “First, the agent told me it was my fault because I transferred the money myself and accused me of trying to defraud the bank. Then, they told me I should sell my house to pay off the debts. Those types of answers made me depressed and put a lot of dark thoughts in my head.”

One example of an approach using specialized staff has been adopted by Santander’s “Break the Spell” team which has reportedly stopped customers from handing over £13.7 million to scammers since launching in 2021. The team reports that in extreme cases, it can take months to convince a customer the person they have been talking to is actually a criminal.

Tip 2: Reimagine customer education

Raising customer awareness about scams and the warning signs to look out for goes a long way. But those well-meaning efforts go out the window when a person is in the midst of being scammed. From romance and investment scams to bank impersonation scams, a victim’s emotions are always heightened by the scammer who create a sense of urgency (e.g. “I need the money for an emergency,” or “You need to transfer the money now to protect your account”). Common sense and the feeling that something is not right get lost in the moment.

While banks strive to provide the most seamless user experience possible, there are times when adding some friction is necessary. The closer a prompt or warning message is to the point of payment, the more likely it is to get a person to stop and think. This is not only limited to online transactions either. This should be extended to withdrawals in the branch.

There are many examples of banks utilizing payment prompts or other intervention methods to alert customers to a possible fraud or scam.

National Australia Bank has developed a comprehensive payment prompts initiative to address the scam epidemic which includes the use of behavioral biometrics to identify potential scams in progress, partnering with telcos to prevent spoofing, and payment prompts within their digital banking apps to help customers spot red flags. NAB has reported that payment alerts stopped $50 million (AUD) of scam payments from being sent in only eight months.

• Santander has recently added payment prompts to prevent purchase scams on platforms such as Facebook Marketplace. Customers might be asked questions at the time of payment such as, “Have you seen this item in person?” If they answer no, the payment will not be sent. Research by Santander revealed that over 70% of purchase scams originate on social media.

• An in-person example from an alert teller at National Australia Bank prevented a couple from an investment scam when they attempted to withdraw $40,000 from their account. The “opportunity” promised a 12 percent return, but with quick action from the teller and the bank’s fraud department, they were able to intervene and save the couple from losing a significant amount of their savings.

Tip 3: Enable better information sharing about fraud and money mules within and across banks

Banks want to do more to share information with peer institutions and even law enforcement, but their hands are often tied by regulation and privacy restrictions that limit what they can share. This one is not 100% on the financial industry, and lawmakers need to be doing more to facilitate data exchange.

However, banks can start by enabling better information sharing and improving collaboration across Fraud and AML teams within their own organizational walls. A study by Forrester of more than 150 financial institutions found that less than ten percent have integrated fraud and AML operations. Without the right technology and process in place, up to 90 percent of mule accounts are reportedly going undetected.

Charlotte said, “I think we need to make it easier for banks to share information about criminals and money mules. It is too easy for them to just open up accounts somewhere else.”


While banks can certainly do more, as a society, we can all be doing more. This starts with removing the stigma attached to victims of online scams (e.g. “How could they be so stupid to fall for that?”) so more will come forward and report the crimes. Many victims never take action even after realizing they were defrauded because they are ashamed and embarrassed. We don’t blame victims of other brutal crimes. Scam victims deserve the same dignity and respect.

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