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TONY HETHERINGTON: Wizz Air settles customer's case

TONY HETHERINGTON: Wizz Air settles customer's case

Last September I reported how a reader – Ms JS – lost an inheritance of £41,627 when a check made out to her name was stolen and then paid into an account at Barclays. The thief had opened an account a few months earlier but barely used it. She then simply told Barclays she was changing her name to match the name on the cheque, paid it, then withdrew all but a few pounds.

Barclays told Ms S. to contact Action Fraud, but Ms S. responded by refusing to investigate on the grounds that she saw no possible lines of inquiry.

This is despite the bank having a copy of the thief’s driver’s license showing her name and address, as well as a recent image of her using the bank’s online video service.

I asked Barclays why no one noticed the check had been altered with Tippex to delete Mrs S’s bank details and insert the thief’s account number. And I asked why no one noticed that the thief didn’t change her name until after the date of the check. The bank was not happy to give detailed explanations except to say that they were following their rules.

Well, Ms S. has since filed a complaint with the Financial Ombudsman Service – and won her case. The ombudsman ruled that Barclays was negligent in not reporting suspicious activity on the account.

It ruled: “The account was opened with very little activity, followed by unexpected and unusual large credit.”

The Ombudsman added that this “coupled with the change of name to that of another ethnicity two days previously, should have prompted further consideration”. And he blamed Barclays for not noticing that the deed changing the thief’s name was dated after the check was written. The bank has now paid Mrs S. the full £41,627 plus interest at 8%.

As things stand, the thief and his possible accomplices were allowed to keep the stolen money. However, a commendable local police officer is still investigating, despite the case being dismissed by Action Fraud. And Ms S. contacted the Financial Conduct Authority, rightly arguing that it shouldn’t be as easy to change the name of a bank account without the same level of checks as those carried out on a brand new account.

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