Are banks inadvertently colluding with online fraud…?

by Pseud O'Nym


Until a few hours ago, I had never even thought this a possibility, but now however, I’m not so sure. Let me explain why.

A couple of weeks ago I had an event to attend, which meant me wearing a suit and consequently trainers. The trainers I wanted were not easy to find online, but eventually I found them and bought two pairs of them. My doubts regarding this purchase grew with every passing minute I didn’t get an email confirming my order. Too late I checked and realized there was only an email contact form. I’d been scammed.

Within the hour, I asked my partner to ‘phone my bank. You’d think that a bank would want to make reporting suspected fraud as easy as possible for the customer. Think again. After putting in my details to the automated service, she was told that her call was important to them and would be answered shortly. If it was answered shortly, curtly or dismissively, I don’t think she have minded too much after ten minutes holding for a human voice that didn’t materialize. I mean, if you are already worried about fraud and you think that as you wait that your bank account is being siphoned away – that literally time is money – the last thing you want to do is to put in the very details that a fraudster would need to do that into an automated whatever only to be put on hold. Yeah that helps reduce your anxiety levels!

My partner ends the call and tries another number that the bank encourages you to call if you suspect any fraudulent activity. Same thing as above. Details and hold. And more hold. Eventually someone answered. Eureka! Once again details are given – not doing anything to allay my mounting paranoia – and eventually details of the suspected fraud is given. This takes a while and he confirms that yes the payment has gone out. To somewhere in China! A freeze is put on the card that used immediately to prevent any more activity and he arranges for a new one to be sent out. A text confirming that this has been done arrives a minute later and is the first piece of good news in this whole sorry episode. But he also says that if the trainers don’t arrive, to get back in touch with the bank to sort out a refund. So a happy ending then?

No. Because this isn’t a fairy tale

Earlier today my partner calls the bank. Same thing, details and hold. And more hold. Eventually someone answers. And asks for details, the details which the bank has already been given and which should be on a screen right in front of him. But no. Despite banks and others banging on about how your calls are recorded for this and that, her call was not, it seems recorded and the only information he has was that a new card was requested.

So the whole rigmarole begins anew. He can’t find any details regarding the affair. My partner is, understandably, beginning to lose her cool at this point. I don’t blame her. If it weren’t for my speech impediment, I’d be calling into question his both his legitimacy and carnal relationship with his mother. Her call is as labourious as it is unproductive. But he transfers us to another department. More hold. And more hold.

Eventually I ask my partner to hang up and give her an ‘0207’ number to call. Ostensibly this is a number to call from abroad, but I figure, ‘what the f-‘ Eventually this too is answered. But not by a human. Details have to be given first. Then more hold. Then a human. But first I have to answer some security questions, most of which anyone posing as me would know. And then she asks me in what month and year did I open the account I’m calling about. ‘Seriously ‘I exclaim, ‘that was over two decades ago, how do you expect me to answer that!’ She admits rather sheepishly that she couldn’t. But my partner is allowed to speak on my behalf. She explains again the situation and what led us to talking to her. Then she explains that this isn’t the right number we need to call, the right number is inexplicably not publically available and we should call this number in the early evening when it’ll be easier to get through.

So that’s the current state of play. And I can’t help but think that if banks want more of us to switch to online banking, they might possibly want to put in place fast and effective fraud resolution systems to give their customers some confidence. Not just say they’re doing it, but actually do it. But then my bank has cut 57,000 jobs in the last few years and like an increasing amount of companies uses automated switchboards and has websites that rarely give out direct numbers. This is efficient apparently, only not that efficient if you want to speak to someone, but efficient if you’re a shareholder in said company. This a gripe shared by others, raking in money from putting callers on hold or charging them for using mobiles. Nor can I forget the nearly £21 billion that we, the taxpayer, paid to pull my bank out of a hole they’d dug themselves into. If only the taxpayer had put them on hold!