Barclays Bank is not liable for restitution to a woman who was conned into handing over £700,000 to scammers claiming to be fraud investigators, a High Court judge has ruled.

Fiona Philipp transferred two sums of money from her Barclays bank account – one amounting to £400,000 and another £300,000 – to accounts in the United Arab Emirates.

She and her husband were under the impression that they were helping a serious fraud investigation being run by the city watchdog, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

The bank said the customer had made the payments willingly, adding that any further safeguarding checks would not have prevented the scam.

“You must transfer your money into safe accounts”

The fraud started when Philipp’s husband, a doctor, received a phone call from a man who claimed to work for the FCA.

He claimed his bank, HSBC, and an investment company he had savings in, were unsafe and at risk of fraud.

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In order to keep the money safe, the criminal said it had to be transferred into “safe accounts” before his investigation could be completed.

Dr Philipp, a retired consultant, said it was like “being squeezed in a very unpleasant vice, not knowing who to trust”.

The couple visited Barclays branches in Gloucestershire and Bristol to pay £400,000 into the “safe accounts”.

Mrs Philipp, a retired music teacher, emailed copies of her passport and driving licence to the fraudster and then the next day visited Barclays’ Westbury-on-Trym branch to make a second £300,000 payment.

The con artist manipulated the couple to the extent that they allowed him to listen in to meetings they had at the bank on an open line on the man’s mobile phone, a High Court judgement said this week.

The fraudsters were more convincing than the cops

An officer from Avon and Somerset Police visited the couple three times to warn them they were the victims of fraud after receiving intelligence from other police forces.

But only on the third meeting did they accept they were being defrauded.

At the time, the couple were preparing to process another £250,000 to the “safe account”.

The transfer failed after Barclays blocked any further outgoings.

In it, Judge Russen QC said he felt “acute sympathy” for the couple who had “fallen victim to the dishonesty” of the fraudster but added “it would not be fair, just or reasonable to impose liability” on the bank.

The court heard that the woman’s disclosure of security details to the fraudsters “involved clear breaches” of the bank’s terms and conditions.