A bank's over-zealous fraud department left Building's deputy editor in serious financial limbo recently
I’m furious. My bank, HSBC, has just cancelled all of my debit and credit cards for the third time this month. The first was when I was on holiday in Bulgaria, it was a foreign transaction, and the HSBC fraud department smelt a rat and blocked them in an instant.
This has happened to me several times before when I’ve been abroad, the worse case when trying to settle a bill in a nightclub in Cuba. Perhaps I should have learnt my lesson, but do I really have to tell my bank manager my every move? After all, my mobile phone was on the whole time I was on holiday and if it wasn’t I have a voicemail I check regularly and it would only have taken a quick call to check the transaction was legitimate before leaving me to face off the embarrassment of having card turned away in a restaurant in front of friends.
On the second occasion I was apparently: “blocked as I was selected at random for a security check”. A voice on a crackly telephone line from a call centre in India went on to interrogate me about my £17.20 bill from Waitrose earlier in the month….asking--- was it really me? Well yes it was actually, now go away. I check my account online, regularly, so I’m usually a little sharper than they are at spotting frauds. £65 mysteriously appeared on my credit card billed from a random unknown account about 18 months ago. I spotted it straight away through my online account and reported it by email and phone to the HSBC’s fraud detection service.
But it turned out to be more of a nightmare having my cards unblocked in the end. It took a dozen phone calls to eventually have the fraud removed from my statement and only after a visit to my local branch to see the top man did things finally get moving.
However my real reason for writing is because of the third occasion that this farcical system has ruined my day. This Friday sees the deadline for the renewal of season tickets at my beloved West Ham united football club. I always leave it late and there are always long queues on the renewal hotline. So on Saturday morning I set aside some time to do it, I waited 40 minutes on hold in a queue to eventually reach an operator and when I did everything was going smoothly until bang: “Sorry Mr Broughton your card has been rejected.” Oh god, not again. I had my laptop in front of me so whilst on the line I logged on to find out if I had spent too much. But no, there was sufficient funds and so on, so it must be surely some mistake at the hammers? But it wasn’t, it was the bank again, the card was rejected and I had to call the HSBC, get the cards unblocked and wait a further thirty minutes on the ticket hotline before I could renew.
I appreciate that not everybody checks their online accounts and I also appreciate that these people are doing their job in the big fight against fraud. But surely a call isn’t too much to ask before leaving me penniless in the club Tropicana …is it?