Pants on fire


Banks aren’t alone in knowing how to kick you when you’re down, but they’re particularly good at it.

The number of people being taken in by ‘vishing’ scams is steadily increasing. How are you likely to be treated when you are robbed in this way?

Let’s use the Nationwide Building Society as an example. I know that it’s not a bank, but if it walks like a bank and quacks like a bank…

A customer services adviser from this organisation told one of its customers that it was her own fault that she had been defrauded. She was old, and she hadn’t watched the One Show when it had warned about ‘vishing’.

You can be sure that she had needed no assistance from Nationwide in feeling stupid and gullible. Frauds of this type are effective enough in producing such feelings.

The banks are skilled at putting the boot into victims of crime, but are strangely confused about their own responsibilities.

They are quick to tell us that it’s not their job to warn their customers about these scams. Plenty of people are ready to agree with them. It’s up to the customers to learn about these matters in the national media and on social networking sites.

This looks like a reasonable stance, but I’m puzzled by this: If it’s nothing to do with the banks, why don’t they stick to their guns? Why do we regularly see statements such as:

‘Nationwide takes fraud very seriously. The society has a dedicated page on our website, regular posts on social media, leaflets in branch and have done targeted mailings to customers. 

‘We have comprehensive systems in place to protect our members. As mentioned above, the society also does a significant amount of work to educate customers about the different types of fraud.

They want to look as if they are protecting us without actually having to do much. They might be good P.R., but these claims are half-truths at best. If these activities were being carried out with any degree of vigour, fraud would be becoming rarer, not more common.

Whatever the banks might be doing in reality, it’s not achieving a great deal. Perhaps it’s not meant to.

Why do I say this? The deeply sympathetic customer services adviser whom we met earlier didn’t say: ‘Haven’t you read our letter?’ or ‘Haven’t you seen the leaflet in branch?’ The question was: ‘Didn’t you see the One Show?’ There was no expectation that the bank’s efforts might have averted the fraud.

If Nationwide had written to this customer, instead of abdicating its responsibilities to the media, the fraud would not have happened.

I don’t want to single out this one employee, or one bank. The attitude is widespread. The chairman of Santander UK, for instance, has expressed the same contradictory ideas: it is up to customers to educate themselves; Santander educates its customers.

He repeats the same claims that we have seen from Nationwide, and adds one of his own: his bank includes warnings about ‘vishing’ frauds on its statements. This is a good idea. It is an efficient way to spread the word. Unfortunately, Santander stopped routinely issuing printed statements some time ago. The claim that he makes is untrue.

We can only imagine the process that led to the chairman of the bank being supplied with information that has no basis in reality. Perhaps we should keep such musings to ourselves.


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