TV presenter, Gloria Hunniford, had £120k stolen from her Santander savings account when four strangers went into a different Santander branch and had themselves added as signatories to her account. Gloria joins us to tell us why financial institutions must do more to stop bank transfer scams.
I’m used to dealing with scams of all sorts on Rip Off Britain, but in my case, and in lots of others I’ve heard of subsequently, there’s nothing I could have done to prevent the scam that happened to me.
Now, I genuinely don’t expect everyone to know who I am. In court, the girl from the bank who served the scammers was young, so hadn’t heard of me and I do understand that. But the main scammer, the woman who is still on the run, used a fake licence to access my savings account and subsequently added her so-called grandson as a signatory on the account.
There are many things that don’t add up. I don’t know how they knew that a) I banked with Santander and b) what my account number was. It’s an account locked away and untouched for nearly two years. It also has no bank card or passbook attached to it, and even I wouldn’t know the number without looking it up.
However, according the police, in all probability this driving license was probably made in a sitting room somewhere. On top of that my driving license is in my married name and not that of Hunniford.
So when this scam happened last June I was mystified. I now feel very violated and exceptionally mystified. Even though there has been a court case, there are many angles to it I still don’t understand. The two women are still on the run, the alleged grandson was given a suspended sentence and, at the time of writing, the second boy has not been sentenced.
Bank account fraud
The young boy, who was allegedly my grandson, was withdrawing £1,000, £2,000, £5,000, and £10,000 at a time. In the end, he’d taken over £101,000 in one day and a further £18,000 the following day!
The scam was uncovered by the bank of the scammers, who in turn got in touch with Santander to say that this is not correct and it’s not the normal activity on this particular account.
Since my case, Santander tells me it’s installed state-of-the-art IT in every branch in the country that’s supposed to pick up on fake licences and other documents. But this is 2016, for me it’s like closing the gate once the horse has bolted. Scams have been going on for decades and are getting more sophisticated year-on-year, so why is it only coming in now?
It leaves me feeling very insecure. The Santander account is what I’d thought was a safe savings account. This experience has totally affected my trust in Santander and in banks in general.
Banks can do more
For the older community and long-standing customers, banks just don’t have anything to give you these days. They don’t have any interest on savings so the only thing they can give you is trust. And loyalty. And security. So I’m very disillusioned.
It used to be, as a child, you could go to the bank and deposit your £5 and you’d have great faith that you knew it was safe. You’d get a little bit of interest on it and you were proud of saving. My dad taught me to save when I was a kid; you had that joy of going to the bank and knowing that your money was looked after. I’m afraid with scammers around that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore.
So if your money isn’t safe in a bank and you’re not getting any interest on it, what do you do with it?
Protection from bank transfer scams
Recently for Rip Off Britain I did an interview with the former head of the fraud squad and he confirmed that the banks could be doing so much more, by putting investment into highly sophisticated tech which could prevent scams like this. In my case, the bank teller said in court that she had checked the driving licences under UV light. But my expert tells me that UV light will never tell conclusively whether a document is fake or not.
Unquestionably, companies could do much more to prevent bank transfer scams from happening and protect their customers. I don’t want what happened to me to happen to anybody else. In reality, with my scam, it proved more difficult for me to access my own money with all the security questions than for four complete strangers to get to it.
Loyalty, trust and credibility are the only things that any company has to offer you. My advice is that you can never ever be that trusting and think that everything’s locked up safely, because that isn’t necessarily the case. The reality is that you can never be too diligent or careful about monitoring what you have and where you have it.
This is a guest contribution by Gloria Hunniford, TV and radio personality and presenter of Rip Off Britain. All views expressed here are Gloria’s own, not necessarily those shared by Which?.
Have you been affected by similar bank transfer scams? Do you think banks need to do more to protect their customers from scams?