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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

This was not some devilish sophisticated scam. It was so poor, i would be surprised if they could have tricked a child out of a packet of polo mints!! The amount they took and the ease with which they fooled the staff, beggars belief. I am lost for words. An utter disgrace!

I have to agree.

Chris Sterry says:
30 September 2016

Can you really ever have trusted banks for when I was working in the finance industry in the 70-90s I was aware of many errors banks were making, but they never admitted these errors and were well prepared to lay the blame on other organisations which were not guilty of these errors.

However, my current bank does appear to be looking after my interests as over the last 5-10 years they have been able to spot a number of fraudulent transactions. One where a cheque had been created which had not even been issued by the bank and others being card transactions from recreated cards from details obtained through one or two retail outlets.

I do however, keep a close eye on my transactions stated on statements and will query any that I can not easily recognise.

Scammers are getting better all the time. Blame the internet, Blame the Police forces in all countries who do not track them down. my view there must be pay offs by the scammers to Police forces all over the world to allow them to continue. CORRUPTION everywhere look at MPs Look at Football managers. Look at councils, look at insurance companies. Solicitors, the list goes on and on. Look at it all the whole world is full of SCAMMERS legal and illegal

Barrie Sutton says:
30 September 2016

I fortunately bank with Lloyd’s who are keen as mustard and do not believe this would have happened if Gloria had
banked with them. I used to have a mortgage with Santander and the way they treated me was shameful. I would not recommend them to anyone

It would be interesting to know which was the receiving bank for the series of money transfers [possibly up to 20 of them] that emptied Gloria’s savings account within 24 hours of the addition of a new account signatory, because it was due to their diligence and reporting of it to Santander that alerted her bank to the fraud. The receiving bank deserves some credit for their response.

i changed my account from Santander soon after they bought out Abbey National whom I had been extremely satisfied with for over twenty years. I was making a routine cash withdrawrall from one of their [Santander’s] branch machines .The machine did not give me enough notice to withdraw the cash and so swallowed it. Despite the staff member’s polite dealing with me to my face, I believe, after further enquiries about why the money was not refunded to my account were fobbbed off with lame excuses, The originalstaff member may have thrown the form I filled in into the waste after I left the branch. Does anyone agree this to be the case,or have had similar shabby dealings from Santander staff?

Yes, of course they should do whatever they can – but we must not forget that we are responsible for looking after our own cash and it is not really fair to expect banks to stump up in every instance, and to take some instances case-by-case depending on the “scammed” person’s circumstances. Ignorance cannot always used as an excuse but can be taken into consideration.

Any comments that suggest that customers have responsibility for looking after their money attract a lot of negative reactions.

I wonder how much the opponents think it would be reasonable for banks to charge for unlimited liability for unauthorised withdrawals from customer’s accounts as a result of the customer’s negligence or the actions of criminals.

Derek Jacobs says:
1 October 2016

Perfect are you?

Whilst some people do not take care with their financial details, experts are satisfied that banks can do a lot more to protect us. However, banks are more concerned with flogging us the latest financial gimmicks such as PPI. If we all moved en masse to credit banks or other institutions, they would be forced to improve. In the UK, people are more likely to divorce than switch bank accounts.

Very likely, Gloria had her mail stolen, which is how they knew about her account. This is what i assumed had happened when fraudsters opened accounts and tried to borrow large sums of money in my name. Tesco and Sainsbury’s banks were very helpful. My own bank Natwest were also constructive. Barclays were a disaster, refusing to explain what identification had been used to open an account. Their complaints team were rude and obstructive. The Chairman did not reply to my letter.

Recently, Natwest stopped a legitimate bank transfer of mine to perform security checks. It caused me a bit of a worry at the time as there was a delay in communicating with me, however, I am happy that the checks were carried out.

Banks must do more to protect their clients from fraud. The woman who impersonated Gloria Hunniford looks nothing like her in any way – and Gloria is one of the most famous people in Britain. If Gloria can get cheated in this way than any of us can.

You have to bear in mind that the perpetrators of this particular crime were not pretending to be the recognisable Gloria Hunniford but Mrs Gloria Way [as she uses her married name for her savings account].

Although the banks could do more the lenient sentences for fraudsters by the courts positively encourage criminals to give it a try and some by their own admission on national TV have said they will go straight back to doing it after their sentence.

If I am scammed and give out information that allows money to be taken from my account that is my problem.
When a bank is defrauded and it results in money being taken from my account then its the bank’s problem. We both have roles and responsibilities in protecting our money.

I am 83and I am very careful with anything that comes though on the e mails or the web, but I am sure thatone if these days I will get caught !
I did all if the7 Scams that you put up and I did not believe any if them,even though some were genuine.

I hold shares in a couple of banks. The measures they put in place to restrict voting at their AGMs to current shareholders are sometimes stronger than those that they use to prevent their customers making mistakes in transactions, or being victims of fraud.

HSBC/Standard Chartered fined $2.6 bn by US. RBS fined £846 M. Deutchebank facing $14 bn fine by US “roughly the same as the bank’s entire stock market value” according to one report. Failure of the latter could trigger another international banking crisis of confidence.

Presumably settling these “fines” all
ows continued trading in the US and associated territories. And since the US was a prime mover in the original banking crisis, where are the fines that the UK imposed on them?

Who pays these fines? Customers and shareholders, affecting interest and pension funds for example that many of us depend on.

So is this not a real “banking scam” that eclipses the others?

This comment was removed at the request of the user

I agree. The Standard Chartered “fine” was sheer blackmail by the US authorities because transactions made by a UK bank with clients in Iran do not come under US jurisdiction. US sanctions against trade with Iran are not enforceable worldwide. The US was demanding money with menaces: the threat of withdrawal of Standard Chartered’s licence to operate in the US. No other country in the world would get away with such overt extortion.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

The bank receiving the fraudulently-acquired funds on behalf of a crook is acting as a ‘fence’ for the crook who has opened the account. Surely, if a bank has allowed a crook to open an account, it must be made responsible for his or her actions and arrange repayment of the stolen funds.

Only, surely, if the bank knows the funds are fraudulent and knows the client involved is a crook?

No. If the bank finds out retrospectively that it is holding stolen funds, it should refund those funds to the lawful owner.

Alexander says:
3 October 2016

Donald McLeod is quite right concerning the responsibility of the receiving bank.

The banks put you through the mill these days. I recently raised a complaint with the Financial Ombudsman Service because I couldn’t even open a Post Office card account in my own name. That’s a clear sign that financial institutions regard themselves as responsible for their customers’ funds. Naturally, the complaint was a waste of time because it is now taken for granted that draconian anti-fraud measures override the exercise of all rights, including that of your own name.

4caster says that “If the bank finds out retrospectively that it is holding stolen funds, it should refund those funds to the lawful owner“. How will the bank know who is the lawful owner of those funds? The deposit might be a mixture of money from various sources and there could be several claims that exceed the amount left in the account. Moreover, the lawful owner might have had their lost money refunded to them by their own bank [or even a different branch of the same bank].

As we have to use a password for our accounts. We should be able to supply a ‘password’ to our bank that ‘they’ would have to quote to us,when they phone (when asked by us) and at a bank teller we have to use our pin numbers.

That’s not a bad idea.

JWICK says:
2 October 2016

That is not possible since it is not only ONE bank employee who will need to know that password/pin number !

Alexander says:
3 October 2016

What B W Brightwell says is crucial. It is high time that banks were statutorily made subject to our own personal security measures. The fact that every single employee can get instant access anytime to my date of birth is ridiculous. I once advised HMRC that I was not willing to have such information shared of the telephone, and the person I was dealing with actually quoted the year of your birth at me and asked me to confirm it. The Data Protection Act 1998 actually allows them to do that even whilst they’re banging on about not being able to confirm who you are. It’s unacceptable.

Alexander says:
3 October 2016

JWICK misses the point. All bank employees would be required to produce the password linked to B W Brightwell’s account. If they can access the account, they can access the password. It’s simply the reverse of the security information exchange that currently happens.

I was caught out a few years ago, but Barclays stopped the the transactions before they got much. They rang me up to say my card had been canceled, and would I check to see if any withdrawals were not authorised. I had to tell them 3or4 items were not mine and they refunded me all my losses. It would appear my card was scanned at a petrol station I only used once, on my way home from working away.
I was told later, that the scammer was caught serving at the same station.

The onus is on the banks to protect their customers.

Which – a campaign please.

Eileen says:
30 September 2016

My gut feelings is that someone at the DVLA could easily get a copy of your driving licence

Scot Beattie says:
30 September 2016

Until banks are prosecuted for every negligence or failure to properly verify all transactions that are unusual the lowlife scum who target vulnerable people will be dismissed by judges who are so far removed from normality they believe they have the wisdom of Solomon instead of the reality that they have the wisdom of goldfish.

Judging by the amount of crime going on today, the Police & other authorities have their work cut out to deal with the after effects of crime, let alone prevent it in the first place (surely the most desirable of options?) Crime is now a mammoth industry. On top of their existing problems, the Police & justice system now have to deal with a whole new range of “crimes” whose identification and presentation are apparently completely outside our previously enshrined evidential and positively and independently proven policies! Many people’s very existence (on both sides of the line!!), their income, mortgages & quality of life depend on criminal activity. So I try to practice the best security and protection of property and other matters that I can. It wont prevent me entirely from becoming a victim, but many more careless people are helping feed the criminals (physical & cyber attackers) by their own lax behaviour and practices. That also encourages criminals (as does over leniency in subsequent legal deterrence) and adds to all our costs in paying for dealing with their cases. In this particular case, the ease with which the scam was carried out so (initially) successfully beggars belief. I hope that Santander meant what they said because now many more of their clients could be seen by some to be sitting ducks for something similar!