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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

It was the bank that was effectively defrauded; the account was replenished. It may be an old cheque was found with all the details on it? Santander appear not to have used their proper security checks to handle this particular fraud.

Incidentally keeping so much money in one bank is inadvisable, as the limit for recompense if the bank should fail is £75 000.

Perhaps suggestions as to workable improvements in security could be proposed and discussed, preferably with contributions from security experts and banks, Payments UK and so on. “Something must be done” is easy to say; what that “something” is is more difficult. Payments UK as one of their investigations are looking at how, for example, the name attached to an account can be included with the sort code and account number when making an online payment.

As a Convo “Do you support our super complaint on scams” has just been launched could this not be incorporated to keep all relevant comments in one place?

I wonder how common the kind of fraud perpetrated on Gloria’s bank is? Any figures available?

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duncan, I was thinking more about principles that would work than details. Many have asked about account names being part of the process; there are difficulties as I posted earlier in the other Convo but Payments UK are looking at it. We can be party to that without uncovering any secrets.

Banks are the last group I’d want to take security improvements from.

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I have had previous experience of Santander as a very inefficient bank in terms of administration.

On another note, we should not trust contactless transactions with credit or debit cards but insist on using chip and PIN.

What concerns me is how easy it appears to be for a criminal to get access to savings accounts once they have cracked the PIN and password for getting into a current account. Banks are all too ready to link customers’ accounts together so that you can transfer money between accounts via internet banking. One way is to go back to notice accounts with pass books, six-monthly paper statements and no on-line access other than to view the balance. It might not suit everyone but there could be many who would prefer it that way. A better idea is to make more use of National Savings & Investments for larger deposits. I have never heard of any hacking or misuse problems there but that doesn’t mean there haven’t been any.

I hadn’t realised until today, when Ian mentioned it in the other bank scam Conversation now running, that Gloria got her money back; that wasn’t revealed in the Intro to this one. As we have read elsewhere most people are not so lucky and have lost large sums during house conveyancing and when paying firms for work done. The banks might be genuinely innocent in those cases but it is their systems that provide the vehicle for it.

I certainly agree with Gloria’s point that the banks have so little to offer nowadays that the least we can expect is security. I think the ID requirements for large withdrawals need to be upgraded. In Gloria’s case the scammers had clearly done plenty of preparation and probably knew they would have a good chance of getting away with it. If their scam had been foiled by the bank clerk they could have been facing arrest and conviction but they took that chance, so confident were they of not being detected; maybe they knew the counter staff on duty that day were a bit inexperienced.

And I’m sitting here bewailing the fact that the word ‘Scam’ is being used about as accurately as ‘Kerfuffle’ to describe a civil war. No one in this case was scammed. The bank was defrauded, through a combination of factors, which included being in possession of information that was most likely provided through an inside source, apparently lackadaisical security procedures and a gang of thieves, who clearly knew (and I wonder how) that defrauding this particular branch of the bank was somewhat easier than staging an armed robbery.

Now I agree wholeheartedly with Gloria’s assertion that she feels the banks could do a great deal more, and I especially think the advice about monitoring your accounts is essential and crucial advice. But at the end of the day I’m more than a little cynical and wonder if inside jobs can ever really be prevented from happening? The first time Ug put his share of the freshly slaughtered Triceratops at the back of the cave for safe keeping and the following morning discovered the world of fast food had arrived in the shape of a nefarious neighbour, he tried to make sure it wouldn’t happen again by using a bigger rock to cover the joint, and co-opting one of his sons – Ig – to stand guard. In other words, he reacted to the theft, rather than build a fortress from scratch to guard against something that he couldn’t know might happen.

But when, several weeks later, a nice side of Pterosaur took flight , it dawned on him that it was barely conceivable that perhaps one of his own kin just possibly might be responsible, and probably the overweight one, with scales in his teeth, snoring peacefully near the doorway.

We have to be careful about herding all fraudulent and deceptive acts into the same corral. Gloria lost nothing in this instance, although it probably was a shock to see the funds disappear so fast, but the point is she wasn’t scammed. The bank was robbed, and probably through an inside information leak. These things happen, and now the banks, with their typical Ug-like enthusiasm, will react, probably by making it close to impossible for the ordinary mortal to access their account. But in expecting the banks to become impenetrable fortresses – well, we might just as well return to hunting dinosaurs. There’ll be as much chance of success.

Agree with you all the way. Like your “Ug and Ig fable”. I use those characters (and Og) in a little “fable” of my own, about “Human Rights”. Nice to read someone who can see through to the basics. Not a disciple of Sam Vimes, are you?

Vimes was a well-drawn character. And Terry knew how t make a point or two.

Gloria states the two women are still on the run! Why are they still on the run if the scammers bank were first to notice the discrepancies? The scammers bank must know their identities, I agree the banks must tighten up on their security in light of the increasing problem of scammers becoming more and more sophisticated.

How many of the scammers have access to inside banking procedures? Bank staff irregularities are normally dealt with by being permanently suspended but it is possible for them to take away customers protected information and banking security measures.

Banks main interests are now focused on lending and investment and savers are still being penalised for past banking mistakes. The BoE at this point in time would prefer that you to spend all of your savings in order to help the economic recovery. They are effectively putting their own competitive interests ahead of their loyal customers, who, unlike them prefer not to take the risks associated with modern day capitalistic marketing procedures. Trust is becoming a thing of the past. It’s a sad state of affairs.

I am pleased Gloria’s money was refunded but the stress the whole ghastly experience must have caused her through absolutely no fault of her own must have taken its toll and I would like to take this opportunity of thanking her for taking the time to join Which?Convo and warn other consumers of the need to stay vigilant at all times with all of your money transactions and concerns.

I don’t think Banks care enough to safe guard our money, so long as they don’t loose out.
Its the same with Bank Charges, no one is going to tell me that is what it costs to a bank for one letter, the Charges should be cut well down. its a scam on the Banks side.

“The scammers bank must know their identities, ” Try: “The scammers bank must know the identities (probably false) used to open the account” TFTFY

My usual comment. Some people will always fall for the most published and known about whatever is done by anyone. You can try in many ways but some will help be some people. ????.

If you’ve not used the account for 2 years, have you looked at those companies you paid with cheque/bank card before then? Fraudsters get their information from numerous sources, many not up-to-date. Or maybe you have a cleaner etc ? Horrible thought I know but in these times, you need to think these things to stay ahead of them. And did you ever use a PC/laptop/tablet/smart phone to access the account? If so have one of more devices been hacked?
On a separate note within a 15 min window i found -10+ scams om facebook, all designed to get ones personal details. So it’s not just banks that need to up their game.

The problem is everybody screaming for more security and rules are making it so complicated to operate a simple account. We have been online banking customers for many years with Alliance and Leicester. Santander took over, placed an overcomplicated system to use banking and my wife can no longer use the banks. She can’t use the telephone service because the security questions to complicated and idiotic. Think before demanding complications for those of us that have difficulty using the service.

All the sophisticated security measures in the world are no use if they are not used. Surely the bank should have been applying the old-fashioned technique of checking your signature on a change of instructions against their sample signature when you set up the account?

Christopher Finn says:
28 September 2016

The Banks would not be able to operate without the wages and savings of the public,being paid into them in the first place.They owe the public a better deal all round,and should acknowledge that!

Until the Bank of England and the Government put REAL pressure on all banks to do more for their clients, including giving far better security, then the banks will do as little as possible, because that would take profits out of investors pockets. When have the banks ever done anything proactive for their clients? Rarely if ever, unless of course you are excessively wealthy or highly in debt to them. Banks like their shareholders are GREEDY, like so much of the population of this planet. Maybe the B of E and the Government should point out that banks have a Duty of Care with other people’s money, no matter how small amount a person might have in their account, as we as customers have a duty to be careful with our own security.
Finally, when these scammers/hackers are caught, lets have laws that make the punishment REALLY hurt, not just 4 or 5 years in jail, they ruin people’s lives, so the perpetrators should have their lives ruined. Give them 20 years and no remission.

Fraud is very low down on all Companies priorities ( not just the Financial world all Companies . Companies are not prepared to invest in strong experienced Fraud teams. I am a retired Fraud Analyst/ Investigator, I retired in the late nineties and Loyalty Programme Fraud was getting very serious, the perpetrators were within and outside of Companies. Companies need to invest in experienced Fraud Teams to protect the Company and Customers.

Brian Molley says:
28 September 2016

Should be better safety measures in place at all times, have to say Nationwide who we bank with have been exceptional

Me too. Nationwide, like other Building Societies, don’t have shareholders., so no pressure to be “greedy”. Can’t recommend them highly enough!

On other banking Convos many people have praised Nationwide – myself included. Why people moan about their present bank but make no effort to move to a better one beats me 🙂

David Chesters says:
28 September 2016

Nationwide don’t know their head from their bum on security. I asked them to get rid of the 8 character maximum password length which can be cracked in 10 seconds, and they refused because they said some people can’t remember long passwords. I use lastpass so don’t need to, they hadn’t heard of it.
16 characters is a bare minimum for secure passwords. Anyone who wanted to used 8 could have done so, I don’t care if other people are uneducated about security, but if I want to be secure myself, the fact that others can’t remember stuff should not stop me being secure myself now should it?

It is about time banks look at all there policy’s especial helping people one a low credit rating who are forced to go to loan companies which charge extortionate rates . Who made such companies legal? they should be put out business.

David Cameron stopped extortionate interest rates from being cut as he is very good friends with the Wonga owner, a well known extortionist who contributes to the Conservative party – of course!

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Kim – But the rates Pay-Day Loans companies can charge have been capped and stricter eligibility rules have been applied. Their advertising has also been heavily circumscribed and a number of them have been forced to make big compensation settlements. As a result many of these companies have now gone out of business and Wonga [amongst others] made a large loss in the UK during its last trading year due to stricter regulation. I think the government has acted properly and has not let the companies off the hook. Several venture capital funds own most of Wonga . A previous large [but not majority] shareholder and other associates have left the company. I am not supporting Wonga and others but the discussion goes better with the facts.

What shocked me most of all about Gloria having her money stolen from Santander, was the fact that she works on shows to stop people from being ripped off. Now I would have thought that someone like her would have been well aware of the £75K threshold in UK for money being safe in any account – so why did she have £120K in one account?! She was leaving a large amount of money very unsafe – which seems very strange to me. I have sent her an email pointing this out and requesting her to put the money in two separate accounts very soon if she hasn’t already!

The £75,000 limit under the Financial Services Compensation Scheme is the maximum that is guaranteed to be paid out to account holders in the event of a bank becoming insolvent. It does not limit the amount that a bank would have to pay in compensation to a customer if their deposits had been stolen as a result of lax controls by the bank. I am sure many people have more than £75K in one bank [or a group of banks under one banking licence] and they take a calculated risk that their bank is unlikely to fail. The amount of money that Gloria Hunniford left in her bank was not unsafe unless you consider that Santander is at risk.

It is perfectly obvious that many bank scams, and especially this one, are operated by bank employees, just as so much “shrinkage” from department stores occur with the connivance of employees. The banks must take responsibility for the actions of their employees, and the police should be MUCH more diligent in investigating scams. They are there to stop crime, for criminals it is so much easier to defraud someone than hit an old lady over the head to steal her handbag (which may not contain much money). In Gloria Hunniford’s case, the bank clerk who allowed complete strangers to make themselves signatories to her account was either acting dishonestly or with gross negligence which in law amounts to the same thing.

Josephine – without additional evidence I don’t think you are in a position to make those judgments. The bank clerk might have been inexperienced on the procedures for adding additional account-holders and perhaps should have consulted a superior before processing it. That is not evidence of dishonesty nor of gross negligence [which implies an intention to act wrongly]. The bank clerk has no doubt been subject to the bank’s management and disciplinary procedures and the bank’s internal audit officers would almost certainly have reviewed all audio and CCTV evidence of the transaction.

The bank clerk surely did not perceive the people who committed the crime to be “complete strangers”. They had meticulously prepared a [fake] driving licence with the correct [not Hunniford] surname, and it has been admitted that the bank branch did not have an up-to-date scanner to check the authenticity of the driving licence, so the clerk’s ability to check the bona fides of the impostors was severely limited.

But what about employees who had left the bank, say a couple of years before? They’re often the ones, especially if leaving after a bad experience, who seek recompense in some form.

Agreed Ian – such people would know exactly how to bamboozle a bank and get away with it, as well as who’s got an untouched stash. The possibilities are endless.

I think one of the big problems in relation to fraud in particular and crime in general is the complete disinterest displayed by police forces throughout the UK in relation to fraud investigations. They seem to try and leave this to the banks who have absolutely no powers in an investigation process. Same goes for insurance companies who are being defrauded out of millions each year by fraudulent claims, in particular relating to injury road traffic accidents, which are required to be reported by law but which police do not investigate – they leave it to the insurance companies to sort. This is wrong.
Banks and insurance companies should report more to police for proper legal investigation.

anthony says:
28 September 2016

I have never had any faith in Santander, change your bank

The staff are the weakest link

No, actually the courts are the weakest link ,only one convicted so far .and sentence,?!!,you get more for parking on double yellow lines . Now if the judge said five years .!!!, sorry that’s called a deterrent ,then its probably against his human rights init

I have been the victim of £104K vishing scam and Ross McEwan, CEO of RBS said in a letter they could not do anymore to help.

The financial ombudsman disagreed! Our MP disagrees.

Since this time the Met Police have confirmed that a bank insider was involved in our vishing scam but they can’t get Police Scotland to arrest the bank insider. So the bank and the police know that our crime was facilitated by bank staff.

The money mules who helped steal our money through the branches of RBS and Santander have not been arrested either.

So one year on – no police action, and no total refund of our monies by RBS (NatWest) despite bank insiders being involved.

#Where is the justice?

Gloria is exposing the tip of the iceberg whilst the bank and their lawyers hide in silence. They are failing to keep their customers’ money secure!

most people are under the impression the fraud protection schemes used by banks are their to protect their money – wrong – they are there merely to protect the bank from its customers…

as Shakespeare might have better put it, “when you go into a bank, you never know which side of the counter the crooks are on.” what is robbing a bank compared to founding one?