Lauren and Gary were looking for rental accommodation in Auckland. They saw an advertisement for an apartment and contacted the landlord who said he was in Italy.
The landlord told Lauren and Gary they could receive the apartment key after they made a security deposit. The landlord said he did not have a New Zealand bank account. He recommended Lauren and Gary use Money Movers, a transactional service provider, to set up a money transfer in Gary’s name, with Italy as the intended country destination. The landlord said this would ensure the funds were held securely. The landlord told Lauren and Gary that once the transfer had been placed and the details of it had been confirmed to him, he would release the apartment key to them. Once Lauren and Gary collected the apartment key, they were to amend the receiver details from Gary’s name to the landlord’s name, allowing the landlord to collect the funds.
Lauren contacted Money Movers and asked about the security of a funds transfer to Gary Harry Bostridge in Italy. Money Movers confirmed that the funds could only be released if Gary Harry Bostridge arrived at a Money Movers’ agent in Italy, presented photo identification and was able to provide relevant knowledge of the transaction.
Lauren then sent a money transfer of $1500 NZD from New Zealand to ‘Gary Harry Bostridge’ in Italy, and notified the landlord that she had completed the transfer.
The next day, Lauren received a text from Money Movers that said Gary Harry Bostridge had successfully collected her transfer in Milan, Italy. Lauren contacted Money Movers concerned that the transfer had been released.
Lauren said Money Movers unreasonably and incorrectly released her funds to an unidentified person in Italy. She complained that Money Movers had assured her that the funds could only be released if Gary went into a Money Movers agent in Italy with valid identification and gave the transaction details.
Lauren wanted Money Movers to refund her $1600 – $1500 for the released funds and the $100 transfer fee. She complained to FSCL about the loss of her money.
We found that Lauren had entered into a contract with Money Movers to transfer $1500 NZD to ‘Gary Harry Bostridge’ in Italy. This contract was subject to Money Movers’ standard terms and conditions.
We accepted that Money Movers’ staff had told Lauren that her money could only be released if Gary presented himself to a Money Movers’ agent in Italy with valid identification and the relevant transaction details. We found that this advice was appropriate and followed Money Movers’ terms and conditions.
However, we found that Lauren’s use of Money Movers’ services breached Money Movers’ terms and conditions. Lauren used Money Movers’ services to hold her funds, pending a transaction between her and the landlord. Lauren was effectively using Money Movers as an escrow service.
Under Money Movers’ terms and conditions, transaction details are to remain confidential between the sender and the receiver. The terms and conditions also said that Money Movers or its agent will not be liable if the sender gives the transaction details to a person other than the receiver. Money Movers provided a copy of the ‘to receive money’ form. The form had been completed and signed by the person who collected the funds. The person had identified himself as Gary Harry Bostridge and had provided the transaction details. The form also showed that the identification used to collect the funds was a New Zealand passport in the name of Garry Harry Bostridge.
Based on the completed ‘to receive money’ form, the person who collected Lauren’s funds knew the:
- sender’s name and address
- expected money transfer amount
- receiver’s name and country
- unique transfer number.
It was likely that Lauren had provided this information about her transfer to the landlord and this had enabled him to commit fraud. There was no evidence that Money Movers or its agent were complicit in any way in the fraud. Further, there was no evidence to show that the Money Movers agent should have realised the withdrawal was fraudulent. In our view, Lauren’s money transfer would likely have remained secure had she not provided the transaction details to the landlord
Unfortunately, Lauren was a victim of fraud. However, we found that Money Movers’ processes were appropriate and would have reasonably protected Lauren’s funds had confidential information about the money transfer not been released to the landlord.
We did not uphold Lauren’s complaint.