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Gloria Hunniford: ‘Unquestionably, banks can do more to stop scams’

Steal savings

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?

Comments
Profile photo of AlanEntwistle
Member

I couldn’t have a water meter and so was put on the single person’s rate. I found out that although the water usage was cheaper this was cancelled out by the fact that the single person’s sewage charge was nearly £100 more than the normal multiple occupancy charge. This frankly was a spectacular rip off. Why would the sewerage charge be more expensive for a single person than for a family?

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

Have you asked your water company for an explanation, Alan? It does seem strange. There might be more information available on the company’s website. Your enquiry is not related to the subject of this Conversation but if you look up ‘water charges’ or ‘water supply’ in the Search box on the Home page you might find a similar question has been raised in a previous Conversation.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
Member

Water companies (England ) vary their prices but under –unmetered you pay a set amount for your domestic water +sewage regardless of how much you use BUT it is based on the Rateable Value of your home . Do you have a big house Alan ? I notice a lot of complaints about single house ownership in relation to water are about RV when a meter cant be fitted , although there is a reduction for a single person so it looks like its a bit of a “catch 22 ” situation.

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

A possible explanation, Alan, is that your water is supplied by one of the remaining private water companies which has low charges for water supply [whether metered or unmetered] whereas waste water disposal and various environmental functions – like flood prevention, river water quality, and clean beaches – are dealt with by your regional water company that has set a flat rate per property for that service. In that situation the local water supply company does the billing and payment collection so is merely acting as an agent for the regional water company’s charges to householders.

Member
michael howells says:
21 October 2016

I think transfers from one account to another are open to abuse. I think bank account holders should have the right to get a text message every time a transfer is for £100 or more. Also the legal right to say no to same day transfers and be allowed up to 5 working days to challenge or cancel proposed transfers. This would, I hope, deter hacking by criminals including terrorists.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
Member

I have used bank transfers several times – one to Australia -one to the USA -one to the EU , no problem . Bank transfers work -bank- to- bank using their own Internet transfer system which is a lot more secure than any normal Internet one . As a matter of fact I have a Payment Confirmation receipt directly from my issuing bank. It requires the following – payee name ( overseas bank, either in the UK or abroad ) NOT the actual recipient – Payee account -Payee reference – -Funding Account -debit date-credit date-charge ( 00.00 ) payment amount – Authorisation code . Not only that when I made it I was able to watch it happen and the banks security system checked out the transfer ALL the way to see if it was kosher , then the teller said – it transferred with no problems. Now compare that with Pay Pal through normal Internet channels not bank HIGH security channels .

Member
stuart graham says:
21 October 2016

Why dont the police want to get involved in bank fraud, it is a crime after all
see–http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/news/article-3536632/You-conman-raids-bank-account-fraud-epidemic-sweeps-Britain-just-two-1-000-cases-investigated.html

Profile photo of duncan lucas
Member

A lot of the time banks want to cover it up unless it involves a very large monetary loss or a large number of people defrauded by one organization which has got into the media . The British police wont give any details of how they trace the culprits but in many cases the banks wont prosecute . Having said that ,its different in the USA , two or more government organisations including the FBI trace the culprits ( and you are told how they do it) and that includes devious Internet use . I have already posted on Which that when asked earlier , I said that it is a Federal offence in the USA and two that I mentioned were caught , given jail sentences and made to pay back the money. They dont “muck about ” in the US , little remission for good behavior- food is rotten, and you will be “attacked ” if you know what I mean.

Member
bill mitchell says:
22 October 2016

Now that Jessie James has been and gone what risks do banks face?
Why do they need to make charges for handling our money ?
The idea was that they kept our cash safe,invested some of it to make a profit and cover their costs,have they now become so bloated that they can’t do the simple things or has greed, big salaries,big cars become the norm ?

Profile photo of duncan lucas
Member

Bill , the same big bankers in the US say we are heading for another bank collapse and an even bigger recession is forecast for the world because of monetary failure . This isnt coming from left-wing radicals but far right neo-con,s who run world banks and our economic system , they are all saying-buy gold . Economists say the “balloon ” is about to burst because of those polices have failed to revive economies, printing money–“quantitative easing ” to get out of a hole can only be done so many times . Have you seen the US debt figures ?

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

Bill – There is no need to pay bank charges for basic money-handling services, providing and processing cheques, debit cards, regular statements, counter services, advice, convenient withdrawal facilities round the clock via ATM’s, access to other services. So long as customers take care over their own security their money is safe in the bank and protected from fraud provided the customer has not in some way contributed to it.