“Nothing to do with me, guv”

ostrich

The banks’ drive to reduce fraud is obviously paying off. In the first three months of this year, bank account fraud increased by 48%. How much would it have increased if the banks had done nothing? 48%, probably.

At the same time, account misuse has risen by 54%. Over half of this figure refers to customers allowing their accounts to receive false, fraudulent or criminal funds. There were 2,000 cases of this kind every month.

How can we possibly know this? Because the banks monitor our accounts closely. They do this so that they can target their advertising more efficiently, but as a by-product they are able to spot criminal activity.

If they can see criminal and fraudulent transactions as they take place, wouldn’t it be useful if the banks did something to stop them? Out of the question, of course.

The banks will tell you that it’s the responsibility of the police to fight crime, The banks’ only duty is to make profit. Even so, they are better placed than anyone else to prevent this fraudulent misuse of bank accounts.

The characteristics of these transactions are plain to see: A little-used account receives a payment of tens of thousands of pounds from another account that it has never dealt with before. Within minutes, the whole lot is transferred out to yet another strange account. Can you see a legitimate reason for this behaviour? Neither can the banks. This is why these transactions end up in the statistics for account misuse.

Is it unthinkable that the bank should delay the payment for half an hour, while it contacts the account holder for an explanation? Yes, apparently, even though millions of pounds of stolen money could be intercepted in this way.

It’s no good complaining. It’s not going to happen. The banks won’t be losing this cash, so it doesn’t matter to them.

There have been suggestions that the banks should warn customers not to use their accounts in this fraudulent manner. They could be told that their transactions are monitored, and that they could end up in prison. The banks can’t be bothered to do even this.

It’s no surprise, then, that banks do little or nothing to warn customers at the other end of the process, those who are being robbed. For instance, in Limavady, County Londonderry, about thirty people have lost several thousand pounds each in banking frauds in the last two months. This was out of a population of about 15,000.

The spoils were laundered in the same way that we were discussing earlier. Even with an epidemic of fraud going on in this small town, the banks did not lift a finger to obstruct the flow of cash from crook to crook. Perhaps they are more comfortable with criminality than the rest of us.

If they’re not going to inconvenience fraudsters and thieves, perhaps they could alert their customers? If these people had been warned about frauds of this type, would they have fallen for them? We’ll never know, because banks prefer to keep their knowledge of fraud to themselves. It’s not their responsibility to advise customers on these matters.

There’s a notable exception to this rule. Danske Bank has sent letters and emails to its customers, warning them about the scams. This is dangerous, revolutionary stuff. Until now, the banks have insisted that such a thing is impossible. They have claimed that, apart from the logistical difficulties, the cost would be prohibitive. Now it’s been shown that this is claptrap.

You annoy the banks at your peril. How long will it be before Danske Bank is brought into line?

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