Do you think your bank’s security checks are thorough enough? When we investigated the banks’ telephone security systems, we found big differences between the best and worst banks.
Most internet banking involves jumping through hoops, like using card readers or inputting unique confirmation codes. So we wondered whether telephone banking was a weak link in the chain for customer security.
‘Trying to remember security details is a nightmare, especially when the online ones are separate from the telephone ones.’
‘A long time ago I chose the name of my first school as one of the “memorable” passwords for telephone banking and other online activity. I am able to remember the name all right, but I’m blowed if I can remember how I spelt it – is it Mount Edgecombe, Edgcombe, Edgcome, Edgcumbe, or some other variation?’
Which? investigates telephone banking
We made more than 100 calls to nine of the UK’s biggest banks to see how hard it is to break through their phone banking security procedures. We wanted to find out what would happen if someone else tried to access your account without your permission, so we made the calls without using any previously set-up passwords, codes or Pins.
Our aim was to get through to find out personal information, such as your balance or overdraft limit. We rated each call on how many questions we were asked and the security of those questions.
We found that First Direct was way ahead of the competition for phone banking security. In our test scenario, it asked callers the most high-grade security questions. In addition, each caller was asked to go somewhere we couldn’t be overheard – important if you’re going to let slip personal details. I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve used telephone banking on the train in the past without much thought as to what I might be giving away…
However, at the other end of the scale, Halifax and Santander both scored poorly for their initial security procedures in our test scenario. In one call to Santander, we were asked for nine ‘easy’ pieces of information that would be relatively simple to get hold of, but nothing more challenging. In a call to Halifax, one of our testers told us it was ‘frighteningly easy to get my balance with only card details and my date of birth’.
Getting through telephone banking security
You can normally answer a number of questions to ‘pass’ initial security and speak to someone about your account. I’ve certainly got no problem with this, but there needs to be a robust level of security. For example, there’s no use only asking questions with answers that could easily be found in your bag or wallet if someone stole them.
According to the National Fraud Authority, most telephone banking losses involve customers being duped by criminals into revealing their details. If there was one thing to remember, it’s that it’s very rare that your bank will contact you out of the blue. So if you are contacted by someone claiming to be from your bank, whether by phone or email, don’t give them your personal details.
Do you have any concerns about the safety of telephone banking? Have you been a victim of fraud as a result of poor phone banking security?