" class="no-js "lang="en-US"> EXCLUSIVE: "Sky-high and scary" - Doug Mackenzie in 'The Fintech Magazine'
Tuesday, April 23, 2024

EXCLUSIVE: “Sky-high and scary” – Doug Mackenzie in ‘The Fintech Magazine’

Incidents of both authorised and unauthorised fraud have fallen slightly, but that’s no comfort to victims like our own Doug Mackenzie

Unauthorised financial fraud losses across payment cards, remote banking and cheques totalled £726.9 million in 2022. Admittedly, that was a small decrease (less than one per cent) from 2021, but the numbers are still staggering.

Unauthorised use of debit cards is an unsettling experience that can leave victims feeling vulnerable and helpless. My own recent fraud story starts with me being stuck in LaGuardia Airport, New Jersey, waiting eight hours for a delayed flight to Cincinnati, Ohio. I was surrounded by husky Midwesterners, all chomping at the bit to get back home, or in my case, the Holiday Inn.

This was no holiday, though. I was set to meet several of the biggest players in Ohio’s fintech and insurance ecosystem, which is the fourth largest in the United States. The day after flying into this ‘flyover’ State, I discovered that my debit card had gambled £850 on Sky Bet while I was mid-flight. Alarm bells rang.

Had I, at 30,000ft, managed to procure an internet connection, decided that the Cincinnati Bengals were going to make the Super Bowl again and gambled a huge part of my rent away?

Obviously not.

I was asleep and nine kilometres skywards where there is still a blissful respite from the work emails. I was banking with a fintech company in the UK, so I knew that timezones were going to force me to be patient. What I wasn’t expecting was just how long it would take to get the funds back. When a similar thing happened before in the United States with the same bank, it was resolved almost immediately.

But this time it took around a week of chasing, nudging and polite haranguing on my part over a faceless chat, built into the banking app. The text-based chat that fintech banks use as their method of communication was not up to the complexity of this task and it certainly made me realise how scary this would be for someone not proficient in tech or banking.

This alarming situation is unfortunately a reality for many individuals, highlighting the need for heightened awareness and security measures by providers. I knew I had a concrete alibi and the evidence to prove it. And, eventually, the funds were returned to me – but there was no talk of how this was resolved, or who ended up with the liability. Did they catch the fraudster?

“The United States is famously a laggard when it comes to updating technology around card payments”


I’ve only ever been the victim of unauthorised debit card use on or just after a trip to the United States – three times now.

The country is famously a laggard when it comes to updating the technology around card payments. The US was the last G20 country to adopt chip-equipped cards. And there is one element of North American payments culture that has always blown my mind. At a restaurant, you surrender your card to the staff to input the amount and swipe it, figuratively and literally, out of your account.

Due to all the added tip charges, there are often delayed notifications from a transaction. As a European, so used to chip and pin and, obviously, now contactless, this seems absurd. I’m not accusing the collective waiting staff of North America of being the cause of my misfortune on this occasion, I’m only drawing attention to the fact that this is simply the only time I would ever let someone walk away with my card.

When your card is taken out of your sight, you lose control over the transaction process. This opens the door for unscrupulous individuals to make unauthorised copies or use your card details for fraudulent purposes.


I was a victim of unauthorised fraud – which makes up the vast majority of the £1.2blilion lost from accounts in 2022. Banks stopped criminals taking a further £1.2billion, according to the UK Finance Annual Fraud Report.

Meanwhile, Rein Graat, ING’s group chief compliance officer, told me that banks worldwide managed to claw back an additional £294million from criminals. But the annual investment needed by banks to do this was £1.1billion.

So, banks aren’t being complacent, but they are still losing as much as they’re preventing. And customers are still left frustrated, shocked and with lots of unanswered questions.


This article was published in The Fintech Magazine Issue 29, Page 86

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