NatWest customers will be able to set their own limit on how much can be transferred from their bank account online in a move designed to protect them from falling victim to scams.
The bank is to cut the default limit on online transfers from £20,000 to £5,000 a day for most account holders, but will let them decide if they want to set it higher or lower.
The Covid pandemic has fuelled fraud with agencies including the police and trading standards warning against a range of scams designed to get hold of account holders’ details or persuade them to transfer cash between accounts.
According to the banking industry trade body UK Finance, £479m was lost in 2020 to authorised push payment fraud, where individuals are convinced to move money into criminals’ accounts.
The figure, which was 5% higher than the previous year, represented 38% of total losses to fraud, second only to credit and debit card payment fraud.
NatWest said its customers would be able to go online and set their own maximum daily transfer limit, which could be increased or decreased when needed.
It said that as 95% of personal customers had never made a payment of more than £5,000, it was reducing the daily limit to that level as a default. Those who have made larger transfers in the past will keep the current £20,000 limit unless they choose otherwise.
Although the limit can be moved up again at any time at the customer’s request, the bank said that the account holder would need to go back online and to use one of its card readers to do so. It hoped that this extra step would give customers a chance to consider why they were being asked to transfer a large sum of money.
The limit will only apply to digital payments, but it said there were other safeguards in place for when customers wanted to transfer money by phone or in a branch.
Jonathan Leslie, fraud prevention manager at NatWest, said: “For the first time customers are being given the ability to set a payment limit most suitable to their needs which in turn will help to protect them from the life changing impacts of fraud and scams.”
The Guardian has reported on a large number of scams involving bank transfers. In some cases customers believed that they were moving the money to solicitors or other firms whose emails had been hacked, but in others they had been called by fraudsters pretending to sell investments, or impersonating a bank’s fraud department and asking them to transfer money to a safe place.
The launch of a confirmation of payee system was designed to reduce transfer fraud, by checking that the name on a receiving account matches the one given to the person making the transfer. But not all banks are offering the service currently.