Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Is your money safe in your bank?

Drawn by Lawrence's 5 year old daughter Maddie
Well it's been a while but I had to get this out there, please take the time to read this and pass it on to as many people as you can, Thank You, Neil

I am posting this on behalf of my good friend Lawrence Harvey to raise awareness of this issue and hopefully to prevent it happening to anyone else:

A cautionary tale of how the contents of my bank account held with Yorkshire bank was transferred into someone else’s account in less than two hours. Right under Yorkshire Bank’s nose, without them smelling a hint of rat.

I've held business and personal accounts with Yorkshire Bank for nearly thirty years. You would think they would know my spending habits like the back of their hand. But you would be wrong, they didn't question the transaction, didn't check with me, they didn't raise an eyebrow, just paid out my money to an online fraudster. You might assume after thirty years of building up a transactional history they might question sending every penny in my account to an account labelled ‘DORU D RUSU” at an undisclosed account with Barclays Bank. 

You would also assume as a trusted bank Yorkshire would have processes in place to prevent this sort of crime? That's what passwords are all about isn't it? The thieves that hacked my account with Yorkshire bank messed up the password twice, but the nice people at Yorkshire bank let them have another go, then POOOF! I was cleaned out, every penny I had worked so hard to earn gone in a flash, no money to pay regular bills, nothing left to pay the mortgage let alone feed my kids. Thanks Yorkshire Bank. Champion!

You might also assume that there would be an emergency number manned by people, should disaster happen. Well, you would be wrong. You might assume that they, and Barclays, could follow the money trail like a rat through an aqueduct. Modern banks should be able to do that financial forensics stuff, they have the technology, don’t they? Surely they can tell me where my money went? 

It all began 6 days before the online theft, on July 22nd, when I lost my internet connection. Me and the Missus are self-employed – both relying on the internet for work. So I contacted my Service Provider (Utility Warehouse) who, after a few checks with my help to test the equipment and the phone socket, announced that it was definitely a line problem, therefore BT would need to ‘sort it’ by fixing it remotely or making contact with us. 4 days went past, by which time we were pulling our hair out. By Tuesday 26th we still had no internet. We were getting desperate then, hallelujah, we had a call, supposedly from BT, who told my partner that we had been under attack, malware had probably been installed and the ‘line’ was being hacked. Someone would be back in touch to help us ‘protect’ our line. We waited, then Wednesday 27th saw a slight improvement in internet function and finally on Thursday 28th (approx 10.00am) I received a call from the BT engineer. We were on the line for about 2 hours doing ‘remote diagnostics’ before my suspicions were raised as it seemed that someone else was in control of my computer, obviously helping themselves to sensitive information on my hard drives. I know, I know… a dumb thing to do but with a memory like mine, I needed to have a list of information easily to hand – so I’d set up a word document with stuff I couldn’t remember easily. My logic was that I’d rather have that info hidden away in my computer than in a notebook that any burglar could help themselves to. Big mistake, huh?

We hoped we could stop this fraud straight away before any more damage was done. So I called the Yorkshire Bank branch, 01419587830, twice, no reply. So I then phoned their 08705 168656 number – another automated line, call back later message. Then tried their 08705 168658 number – same automated message.  Staff shortages I guess? I finally got through to a person, as opposed to a machine, a couple of hours later.  A very polite lady verified who I was with a couple of security questions and then asked me if I'd transferred £3,450 from my savings account to my current account?’ Errr… no, not me. ‘And had I then transferred £7,455 to our mysterious DORU D RUSU?’ That also wasn’t me. After all, why would I remove the entire contents of my account at the end of the month when most of my standing orders go out? She sounded worried. I was terrified.

By the end of the 28th, the Yorkshire Bank Fraud Team had traced the money to the recipient Barclays Bank. A letter has since arrived from Barclays Bank Investigations (dated July 29th by the way), which means that within not many hours of receiving the information from Yorkshire Bank, they’re already satisfied that they had complied with all regulatory requirements concerning the opening of the DORU D RUSO account and have looked into the matter ‘very carefully’ and they’ve put all that down in this letter to me. I smiled briefly at the Barclays liability-disclaimer…”a transfer you made into a Barclays account”… er, wasn’t me C. Watkins (the name at the bottom of their letter). A sliver of good news though, from C.Watkins. They were able to recover some of the funds in that account and ‘… are therefore in a position to return £2,114.65 back to the remitting account holder.’ And they’re not going to make any charges when returning the payment. And Barclays allow themselves up to 30 days to do that. That’s good, because being self-employed with two young children (aged 5 and 2) that pot of money was the only thing keeping the wolf from the door in these disastrous recessionary times. The amount of money that I lost equates to about 6-months survival if I have no work. Yorkshire Bank were very prompt in setting up an emergency overdraft for me (many thanks to the very helpful Nickie Treloar) but that won’t last forever. Friends and family have waded in with some temporary help. As our 5 year-old said “Why would anyone take our money?” Our 2 year-old looked from me to the open window (it was a warm day) and asked: ‘Did they get in through the window Daddy?’ 

Be very careful out there – you can lose the lot in a flash. 

Rant over,  and ‘Game Over’ for me and mine if I can't get Yorkshire Bank or Barclays Bank to see that they are complicit in the loss of my money. They could do more, a lot more, not just for me, but to help protect all their customers. I not only became a victim of online fraud, I also fell foul of banking practices that are not fit for today's new breed of thieves. 

Lawrence Harvey. Customer of Yorkshire Bank for more than a quarter of a century.

Please send this to as many people as you can, maybe we can stop someone else being scammed in this way.

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