One family's nightmare as fraudsters ransack Barclays account by phone

Criminals changed the address on a teacher’s account, then took out a £24,000 loan in her name and stole her savings

Fraudsters can contact Barclays bank, pose as a customer, ask for that person’s account address to be changed, then take out huge loans against their name – as one Nottingham teacher has found to her deep distress. Jude Grundy was just days away from moving home when the nightmare began, with her debit card being refused at a supermarket checkout.

It later emerged that two weeks previously fraudsters had called Barclays, claimed to be her, and changed her address. They were then able to open a second linked account and apply for a new debit card. With that card the crooks were then able to obtain a £24,000 loan from Barclays and a £750 overdraft, as well as topping it off by stealing £4,000 in savings from Grundy and her husband, Andrew. She only found out about the linked account when, curiously, £2,000 was transferred into her account. It was this which the bank’s systems blocked as suspicious.

The fact that Grundy kept failing the security questions, on the account she had not herself opened, might have alerted Barclays staff to the fact that bigger problems were afoot.

Only after Guardian Money intervened was her account unfrozen, which was when Grundy discovered that the £24,000 loan had been taken out and her savings were gone. “When I was finally able to log on I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I had been told the account was up and running again, but no one appears to have noticed it had been ransacked,” she says, describing her treatment by Barclays as shockingly bad. Not only did it hand control over her account to fraudsters, it then closed it, leaving all her usual direct debits unpaid. The timing could not have been worse. The mother of two should have spent the week packing, as the family completed on their first house purchase the following Friday.

“The staff who decided to freeze the account in the first place had not noticed any of this suspicious activity, it seems. They were happy to just pass it back to me,” Grundy says.

She says staff at Barclays were sympathetic, but helpless to stop colleagues from closing the accounts without warning – a week before they were due to move house.

Only the next day did a letter arrive telling the couple that the bank had decided to shut their account, and that they must withdraw any funds held – which was impossible because the account had already been closed.

“Buying a house was stressful enough without having to go through this as well, and you don’t know how many hours I have spent trying to get it all resolved,” she says. “I still don’t know how the fraudsters were able to call up Barclays, change my address and get a loan. I’ve been told they had lots of information on me, but I have two passwords on the account which I don’t think the fraudsters were asked for, and I’ve certainly never divulged them to anyone else.

“The whole thing has been unbelievable, shockingly bad, and I never want to hear their ‘on-hold’ music ever again.”

A Barclays spokesman accepted that the episode had not been the bank’s finest hour and it has now agreed to pay the couple £1,000 in compensation for the two failures. It has also paid for the couple to tax their car, which was one of the failed direct debits. All the other direct debits have now been reinstated, the loan has been cancelled, the savings restored, and the couple’s accounts are now running correctly again.

• Barclays, which has been at the centre of several frauds reported by Money in recent years, has just started offering customers the option to use voice recognition software as a way to establish their identity when they call the bank.

The technology recognises a customer’s unique formation of words, cancelling the need for security questions or passwords. All Barclays’ personal telephone banking customers are eligible to use the system, though they can opt out. This could have saved the Grundys had it been introduced sooner. Several other banks are at various stages of introducing similar technology.

Contributor

Miles Brignall

The GuardianTramp

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