December 4, 2022

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Today, Money Mail is calling on major banks to restore dedicated helplines for fraud victims.

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Last month, we covered how the High Street giants sounded the alarm about a looming scam epidemic as scammers try to cash in on cost-of-living fears.

But we found that HSBC quietly closed its fraud hotline during the pandemic.

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Suspended: An investigation earlier this year found that some banks are making fraud victims wait more than half an hour to speak to someone.

Others, including Co-operative Bank, Lloyds, First Direct, Metro Bank and Santander, also do not offer a specific number for fraud victims.

Instead, clients are being referred to general helplines, which have seen waiting times increase dramatically in recent years. They then face further delays before reaching the Fraud Department.

Santander will not even allow victims to report the scam to their branch employees. Instead, they are encouraged to call the general customer service.

Even when banks offer a dedicated number, it’s often hidden under endless options and drop-down menus on their websites, making it hard for panicking customers to find.

Money Mail understands that many banks are now relying on a little-known emergency helpline launched in September 2021.

Under this scheme, customers who are afraid of fraud can dial 159 to connect with their bank.

But few people know that this number exists because most large firms do not display it prominently on their websites or affiliates. And, despite its purpose, those who call the hotline are often not even connected to the fraud department at their own bank.

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Our results come after UK Finance reported that scammers stole a record £1.3 billion last year.

So-called push payments or “sanctioned” fraud, where victims are rigged and manipulated into divulging personal details and transferring money, has been the biggest loss driver.

But customers caught in these types of scams usually struggle to get their money back, with only 42 percent of the money stolen coming back.

This is why it is so important that victims can alert their bank of suspicious transactions as soon as possible.

Any delay reduces firms’ already slim chances of recovering lost money.

Consumer advocacy expert Martin James says: “Banks should invest in their advanced anti-fraud services as an absolute priority. Fraud and scams are now widespread and failure to do so would mean that banks could possibly be held liable if they fail to transfer you in time to actually prevent the scam.”

Emergency 159: Banks now rely on a little-known emergency hotline where customers who fear the risk of fraud can dial 159 to connect with their bank.

Emergency 159: Banks now rely on a little-known emergency hotline where customers who fear the risk of fraud can dial 159 to connect with their bank.

Jane Hawkes, Customer Service Specialist, adds: “If someone suspects they have been the victim of fraud, they should be able to report it in the fastest, most efficient and secure way.

“It’s a failure on the part of the bank if they don’t offer a dedicated helpline. There are absolutely no excuses.

One Money Mail reader says she had to wait almost an hour before she could report the scam to Santander.

She spotted a £250 transaction she didn’t recognize, prompting her to overdraft. But after calling customer service, it took about 30 minutes for someone to answer.

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She was then suspended again for more than 20 minutes before being transferred to the correct team. “Having to go through the usual customer service line just doesn’t work when you’re in that mindset. Banks need a dedicated hotline,” she says.

HSBC customer Susan Martin from Norwich was detained for 30 minutes after receiving a fraud alert.

The 59-year-old woman and her husband, David, 62, immediately called the number on the back of their card, but gave up when they were left hanging on the line.

Susan says, “This is unacceptable. The bank should call us or at least pick up the phone for fraud victims. It’s extremely inconvenient.”

Deleted: HSBC has closed its fraud hotline during the pandemic.  Other banks, including Co-op, Lloyds, First Direct, Metro and Santander, also do not offer a specific number for victims of fraud.

Deleted: HSBC has closed its fraud hotline during the pandemic. Other banks, including Co-op, Lloyds, First Direct, Metro and Santander, also do not offer a specific number for victims of fraud.

And their experience is far from unique. An investigation by consumer group Which? Earlier this year, it emerged that some banks were making fraud victims wait over half an hour to talk to someone.

Money Mail’s “Pick Up or Pay Up” campaign has also repeatedly named and denounced banks as one of the worst offenders for long call waiting times.

We are asking for a new law that will force businesses to answer calls within ten minutes or face hefty fines.

Which the? In addition, customers may be charged for calls to the bank’s hotline. If the number starts with 03, calls can cost up to 16p a minute on a landline or up to 65p a minute on a mobile phone, the consumer group warns.

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It can be difficult for customers to find the correct phone number, as there is a jumble of options.

Barclays, for example, offers a number of hotlines for various services on its website, but customers must answer a few questions first.

If you click “contact us” and then “security and fraud” and select the debit card option, you will be redirected to a dedicated anti-fraud hotline that is open 24/7, including holidays.

For now…