Dutch Trial Shows Potential of Debt Recovery Expertise in Fraud Cases

A pilot scheme in the Netherlands which saw debt recovery specialists brought in to investigate online fraud cases resulted in half the victims getting at least some of their money back.  

The trial focused on incidents where people had made a purchase online but never received the goods they paid for. Working with Dutch police, two debt collection organisations were asked to step in to track down the scammers and work on recovering funds.

In total, a quarter of the victims ended up getting all their money back, while another quarter received some of their money. In total, 87% of the fraudsters either paid back the money or went on to face police charges.

Online fraud has seen a sharp spike over the last couple of years, fuelled by the fact that people are spending a lot more money digitally as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. While bringing fraudsters to justice is obviously a matter for the police, what most victims are immediately concerned about is getting their money back.

Left to the individual

As things stand, this is very much left to the individual. The standard advice related to digital transactions (including card payments) is to contact your bank or your payment platform. In many cases, it is up to the bank or provider to try to recall the payment, or else offer a refund under consumer protection laws.

The protections are reasonably solid for so-called unauthorised payment scams, where criminals steal or otherwise obtain an individual's card or bank details and make a transaction without their permission. 

But things can be trickier if you have knowingly authorised a payment. In that case, you have to prove a purchase hasn’t arrived - which can be delayed for months by slippery fraudsters using every excuse in the book to explain why the goods have been held up - or that the items didn’t match the description.

If you fall for a money transfer scam, your bank may put the onus on you to prove you took all reasonable steps to check the recipient was genuine and that you weren’t negligent in making the payment. There’s also a much lower chance of getting your money back if you use a wire transfer service like MoneyGram, PayPoint or Western Union.

All in all, tackling payment fraud often seems to fall between two stools - between recovering the money and catching/prosecuting the fraudsters, between the banks and the police. Debt Recovery Specialists have the expertise to plug this gap, skilled and experienced as they are in both investigation and recovering funds.

It would be interesting and useful to the victims of fraud to see the trial in The Netherlands picked up and built upon elsewhere.

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