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Tony Hetherington is Financial Mail on Sunday’s ace investigator, fighting readers corners, revealing the truth that lies behind closed doors and winning victories for those who have been left out-of-pocket. Find out how to contact him below. 

Ms C.W. writes: Please help – you are my last hope before possibly losing my first property purchase. In 2019, I lost my purse containing bank cards and my driving licence. 

Some months later I found that a loan had been taken out in my name with Hillingdon Credit Union, and after much correspondence this was cancelled. Recently, I found my dream home, but when I applied for a mortgage, NatWest said my credit record was unacceptable. 

A £750 loan had been taken out in my name, from the Thamesbank Credit Union, which has given me a bad credit rating as the loan was not repaid. 

Debt: Graham Tomlin suggested repaying a Thamesbank loan taken out fraudulently

Debt: Graham Tomlin suggested repaying a Thamesbank loan taken out fraudulently

Tony Hetherington replies: Sometimes the readers’ problems and complaints that land on my desk turn out to be not quite as bad as they appear. Yours turned out to be far, far worse, with Thamesbank Credit Union throwing up obstacles at every turn, rather than treating you as a victim of identity theft. Incredibly, when you said to Thamesbank that you were not the real borrower of the missing £750, you were told: ‘One simple solution of course would be to repay the debt.’ This, you were assured, ‘would immediately resolve your credit history’.

Thamesbank is fully authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, yet it is suggesting a victim of ID theft takes responsibility for a fraudulently obtained loan, and Thamesbank will in return clean up their credit agency file. Blackmail? Or bloody-minded stupidity? 

The suggestion to pay up came from Graham Tomlin. He is not even a boss of Thamesbank. He runs a company called Credit Union Solutions, which provides administrative back-up to a number of credit unions. 

But Thamesbank’s real directors allowed him so much power that he felt he could do as he wished. 

In November, he twice told you that Thamesbank was far too busy to deal with your problem, as Thamesbank’s members were his priority. He even told you that removing the adverse credit record would involve applying for a County Court Judgment. 

This is garbage, as a CCJ against your name would be even worse than defaulting on a loan repayment. However, a court case would at least have let you file a defence, so you asked whether Thamesbank would go down this road. Tomlin replied: ‘We did not apply for a CCJ as it tended to be too expensive for such a small loan.’ Reading this, I did wonder how expensive it might be for them if you sued Tomlin and Thamesbank for defamation! 

One obstacle thrown up by Tomlin, to you and me, was his demand that you must report the loan fraud to the police. You did, only to be told quite correctly by the head of Action Fraud that the report had to come from Thamesbank, which had lost money. You, of course, had only lost your good name, which is not a crime. 

So did Tomlin and Thamesbank report the fraud to the police? Did they heck. And yet the evidence is in their files. You were told the loan involved the use of a Virgin Money account, pay evidence from an engineering firm and a National Insurance number. All were clues to the real identity of the borrower, but it was easier to blame you. Thamesbank’s complaints procedure is slipshod. You complained on November 1, but Thamesbank learned of the complaint from me on December 24. Tomlin kept it in the dark.

The man most in the dark was Paul Oppe, the Thamesbank director responsible for looking into complaints. He took just over a fortnight to decide on January 12 to apologise and ask credit agencies to remove the debt warning from your record. By last Wednesday, your credit rating had shot up to ‘Excellent’. 

So is this a happy ending? Maybe not. Oppe drew my attention to the ‘coincidence’, that you had ‘on two occasions misplaced ID which resulted in a fraudulent loan application to a credit union’. He also told me his board is ‘confident that Graham Tomlin and CUS (Credit Union Solutions) perform their operation roles.’ 

But hang on. Why did Oppe think you lost ID twice, each time followed by a fraudulent loan application? He said: ‘CUS found out in investigations, and it does seem unusual.’ 

The implication is clear, and Tomlin pressed the point, telling me: ‘I have contacted the Association of British Credit Unions, who shared my suspicions. I am on the executive of the London region of the association and will raise this experience with them.’ 

I think Tomlin has lost the plot. He seems to be treating the original fake loan from the Hillingdon Credit Union as if it resulted from a different loss of ID, not that some crook simply used your ID twice. This means he has reported you as a suspicious character to his national organisation. This could come back to bite you. 

Fears over funeral money

Ms T.P. writes: My partner was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer and passed away two months later. He had paid £3,239 to Rest Assured Funeral Plans Limited. 

However, the hospice arranged for a local funeral company to collect and store his body. They told me that RAFP said there was not enough money in the plan to pay for the funeral. 

RAFP did contribute £1,100, but I cannot see how the balance was spent. 

Concern: Ms T.P.'s partner had paid £3,239 to Rest Assured Funeral Plans Limited

Concern: Ms T.P.’s partner had paid £3,239 to Rest Assured Funeral Plans Limited

Tony Hetherington replies: Funeral plans can be tricky. The Financial Conduct Authority will regulate the industry from July, but funeral plans now are only overseen by an industry body providing voluntary rules. That said, your partner’s own plan with RAFP looks flawless. 

Knowing he was dying, he wanted to spare you his funeral expenses, and despite the short time left, RAFP helped, even offering a £360 discount. 

The £1,100 was just part of the funeral bill, covering payments to third parties for the service and cremation. The local funeral firm used by the hospice billed RAFP directly for the rest, and in total the plan paid out £2,900.

If you believe you are the victim of financial wrongdoing, write to Tony Hetherington at Financial Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TS or email tony.hetherington@mailonsunday.co.uk. Because of the high volume of enquiries, personal replies cannot be given. Please send only copies of original documents, which we regret cannot be returned. 

Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on them we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money, and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to affect our editorial independence.


My husband and I paid £4,693.20 for a cruise to the Azores. We were due to travel on March 24 last year but it was cancelled due to Covid on March 20.

On July 21 of last year, our travel company, Cruise & Maritime Voyages (part of South Quay Travel & Leisure), went into administration.

We submitted a claim to ABTA [the UK’s trade association for travel agents and tour operators]. 

Blame game: Barclays bank refused to refund a couple's cash after their dream £5,000 Azores cruise was cancelled due to Covid

Blame game: Barclays bank refused to refund a couple’s cash after their dream £5,000 Azores cruise was cancelled due to Covid

It said that as we had paid by Barclays debit card we must apply to the bank for a refund via a dispute process known as chargeback.

Barclays refused. ABTA needs to know the reason for refusal before considering a refund. Barclays has ignored requests for a letter of explanation.

On November 6 last year, we asked the Financial Ombudsman for help. But it said it was unable to appoint an agent because it had a huge backlog of cases due to the pandemic.

M. V., Bexley, South-East London.

Tony Hazell replies: Book and travel with confidence, says the ABTA website.

Well, any idea that an ABTA logo was a short route to holiday protection was blown apart by Covid cancellations.

Various sectors of the travel industry booted claims and clients between one another.

While air-based holidays fall under the responsibility of ATOL [a financial protection scheme operated by the Civil Aviation Authority] when a firm fails, ABTA covers non flight-based holidays.

But read into its smaller print and it says that travellers must use chargeback if they paid by debit or credit card.

So I think it is legitimate to ask, what’s the point of ABTA?

When you tried chargeback via your bank, Barclays, Cruise & Maritime Voyages’s bank bounced back the requests.

broadband

You were credited for your first payment of £154. But the third-party bank refused the other three payments saying you would be protected by ABTA.

Your attempts to get more information from Barclays were frustrated because the person responding appeared to be under the impression that Cruise & Maritime Voyages was still in business, even though you told them it had ceased trading.

That advice that you contact the company directly suggests you were receiving ‘cut-and-paste’ responses from staff who had failed to read your letter properly. So you were stuck between ABTA telling you to ask for chargeback and Cruise & Maritime Voyages’s bank arguing you should use ABTA.

Barclays has now stepped in to fix the issue and acknowledges it had enough information to escalate the dispute. It has returned the remaining £4,539.20, plus £277.24 compensatory interest. You’ve also had £150 redress as apology.

Incidentally, the interest has had basic rate tax deducted. You may be able to reclaim the £69 tax from HMRC, using a form R40, if your total savings interest this tax year is less than £1,000.

An ABTA spokesman says: ‘If an ABTA tour operator fails financially, customers who have booked protected packages are entitled to a refund.’

That may be the case but there are plenty of complaints from Cruise & Maritime Voyages’s customers who have struggled getting refunds via chargebacks or from ABTA. A spokesman for the Financial Ombudsman Service says: ‘We are sorry that we were unable to deal with this complaint more quickly.’

It says it received nearly 280,000 complaints last year and resolved nearly 250,000.

Phantom eight hour TalkTalk cost me£163

I called an 0330 customer service number of a delivery firm from my TalkTalk mobile phone. TalkTalk has charged £163 claiming the call lasted for eight hours.

How could TalkTalk think that a customer would be on the phone to customer service for eight hours?

TalkTalk demanded instant payment and has now blocked my wife’s phone even though the call was made from my phone.

A. G., Edgware, North London.

Tony Hazell replies: Eight hours does seem a little excessive. But, of course, there isn’t anybody looking at bills to decide whether they make sense. The computer rules, OK?

TalkTalk has now written off the £163 as a goodwill gesture and your wife’s phone is working.

Are husband’s old bonds worth anything? 

My husband passed away in February last year.

Whilst sorting through his papers, I found some old Axa Equity & Law distribution bonds in his name.

Since then, I have been trying to get a response from Aviva, which took over Axa Equity & Law investments.

I was told it could not find any records but would investigate. For several months I have heard nothing.

V. C., Salisbury, Wiltshire.

Tony Hazell replies: It seems these bonds were cashed in more than two decades ago. Aviva accepts that it should have written to tell you this and apologises.

A spokesman says: ‘We’re sending some flowers as a goodwill gesture.’

Straight to the point 

I insured my car with Be Wiser in October 2014 and cancelled my policy the following January. 

The firm said I would be refunded £113 but I never received the money.

D. B., via email.

The refund was incorrectly made to an old bank card. The insurer said it had no further contact with you until September this year, but has now refunded the premium owed.

*** 

Three companions and I were due to stay at Warner Leisure Hotels in Cricket St Thomas, Somerset, in August. 

We had to cancel a month before our trip after one of our party was diagnosed with cancer. 

We were promised a refund but this has not been paid and no one is responding.

L.W., via email.

A spokesman for the company apologises for the delay, which it blames on very high levels of customer enquiries. It has now processed the full refund of £1,326.

 ***

When shopping in Sainsbury’s I was told I had £17 of Nectar card points but could only use £15 of it. 

When I called the firm’s helpline I was told my balance was £50. What is going on?

V. H., Maesteg, Wales.

Sainsbury’s doesn’t know why you were told you had £17 worth of points, as you do have £50. However, you cannot spend any of this until you activate the card. The supermarket will be in touch to explain how to do this.

 

  • Write to asktony@dailymail. co.uk or Ask Tony, Money Mail, Northcliffe House, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT. Please include your phone number, address and a note addressed to the offending organisation giving permission to talk to Tony Hazell. We regret we cannot reply to individual letters. Please do not send original documents as we cannot take responsibility for them. No legal responsibility can be accepted by the Daily Mail for answers given 

Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on them we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money, and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to affect our editorial independence.


Tony Hetherington is Financial Mail on Sunday’s ace investigator, fighting readers corners, revealing the truth that lies behind closed doors and winning victories for those who have been left out-of-pocket. Find out how to contact him below. 

Mystery: RBS looked in the wrong place but finally the £2,000 was returned

Mystery: RBS looked in the wrong place but finally the £2,000 was returned

Ms L.S. writes: I sent £2,000 from my Lloyds account to an account at the Royal Bank of Scotland, but I mistyped one digit of the RBS sort code.

I realised this the next day and informed Lloyds, and after I contacted the Ombudsman, Lloyds tried to recover my money. However, RBS responded months later, saying the RBS account had been closed since 2015 so it had returned the money to Lloyds. 

Despite this, Lloyds says my money is still with RBS. We need this money badly. 

Tony Hetherington replies: The original mistake was yours, and Lloyds Bank did query the sort code and account number when you made the transfer, but you have spent months since then, trying without success to find out where your £2,000 went. Your own bank, Lloyds, has even paid you £50 twice, after accepting that on two occasions it did not move quickly enough on your behalf, and the Ombudsman approved these payments. 

The major stumbling block all along has been RBS’s insistence that you sent your money to an account which no longer existed, so I asked officials at NatWest Group – RBS’s parent company – to take another look at this.

They came back to me with an answer that was just as puzzling, saying they had found a £2,000 payment from you on the date in question, but it had gone through without a hitch. 

Meanwhile, adding to an increasingly confused picture, your own bank had been contacted by Yorkshire Water, asking Lloyds to explain an unexpected £2,000 that had popped up in the water company’s account. 

This made even less sense when NatWest Group told me the £2,000 had gone to a personal account and not a business account. 

And whatever happened to the suggestion that the money had gone to a dead account that was closed in 2015 and that it had been returned to Lloyds? 

When I discussed this with you, things became a little clearer. The £2,000 was to help your daughter whose central heating boiler had failed. When the first £2,000 vanished into the banking system, rather than let her down, you paid all over again. 

What NatWest Group had found and reported to me was your second payment; the first £2,000 was still missing. And then, out of the blue, Yorkshire Water re-entered the picture and returned the missing £2,000 to your account at Lloyds. 

It had been sitting in the water company’s NatWest Group holding account, not allocated to any of its customers because, of course, it had only gone there by accident. 

NatWest Group and RBS had been looking in the wrong place, concentrating on the £2,000 that you had successfully transferred, and not on the initial £2,000 that had gone to Yorkshire Water whose account was one digit different. 

Reliance on sort codes and account numbers is clearly helpful to the banks, but bad experiences like yours show that making a single slip is as easy as mis-dialling a phone number – but a lot more expensive and far harder to put right. 

Why is Halifax refusing to accept my shares?

B.H. writes: I have been using Halifax Share Dealing for over 20 years. I read with interest about Primarybid’s service, and I applied successfully for shares in Draper Esprit plc. 

However, Primarybid then told me that Halifax refused to accept the shares into my portfolio. 

The Halifax website says nothing about why it would reject shares acquired via Primarybid, so I rang and after 90 minutes in a queue, Halifax simply told me that its dealer did not want to deal with them. 

Tony Hetherington replies: Primarybid is a useful service that allows ordinary investors access to Initial Public Offerings, rather than those IPOs being the privileged province of the big financial institutions. 

You used it to apply successfully for shares in Draper Esprit (recently renamed Molten Ventures), a venture capital firm that invests in technology companies. Normally, your shares would be passed to your broker, but Halifax Share Dealing would not accept them. Staff there tell me that this was not because Halifax has a blanket ban on shares bought through Primarybid. The problem was with Draper Esprit itself. 

Halifax’s share dealing arm is intended for ordinary investors to trade in shares that are easily and freely bought and sold. But when Halifax looked at Draper Esprit’s own paperwork, it warned that typical investors were expected to be experienced traders, institutions, investors with professional advisers, or people wealthy enough to risk a complete loss. 

Since Halifax was never intended for this, I cannot criticise its decision. You have reached the same conclusion and have told me you have now switched to a different broker that will accept your shares. 

If you believe you are the victim of financial wrongdoing, write to Tony Hetherington at Financial Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TS or email tony.hetherington@mailonsunday.co.uk. Because of the high volume of enquiries, personal replies cannot be given. Please send only copies of original documents, which we regret cannot be returned. 

Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on them we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money, and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to affect our editorial independence.


Tony Hetherington is Financial Mail on Sunday’s ace investigator, fighting readers corners, revealing the truth that lies behind closed doors and winning victories for those who have been left out-of-pocket. Find out how to contact him below. 

Mrs K.A. writes: Our premium bond accounts were infiltrated by fraudsters. 

My husband and I found out when our bank account received £22,000 which was a complete mystery. 

The bank said the money came from premium bonds, and I then found my NS&I account was missing £22,000.

Infiltrated: The premium bond crooks got into two NS&I accounts and took £22,000

Infiltrated: The premium bond crooks got into two NS&I accounts and took £22,000

Tony Hetherington replies: Fraudsters are supposed to be clever and cunning. The fraudsters who tried to rob you were just plain incompetent. 

They managed to get into your NS&I account. They instructed NS&I to encash £22,000 of your premium bonds.

And then instead of transferring the loot to their own bank account, they sent the whole £22,000 to your bank account by mistake.

By the time you checked, the crooks had realised their mistake. They had deleted your bank from premium bond records and inserted an account they controlled at the Clydesdale Bank. 

You reported this to NS&I and were told that you and your husband must have gone into a fake National Savings website and given all your details – something you deny. 

Your husband asked how anyone could have answered your confidential questions, used to double-check who is accessing an account. It turned out that at least one question was answered incorrectly, but NS&I allowed the fraudster to continue. 

When your husband checked his own premium bond account, he found that £19,000 of his bonds had been encashed and the money was on its way to the Halifax, where he has no account. 

He immediately contacted NS&I but ran into a big problem because the crooks had not only changed the linked bank account, but also the confidential test questions. Your husband could not answer them, so was shut out of his own NS&I account. 

Fortunately though, staff at NS&I were uneasy enough to halt the £19,000 transfer. 

I asked officials at NS&I whether there were any indications to explain how two accounts could have been accessed by someone who apparently knew how to log in while appearing to be both you and your husband. 

All I can tell you is that there were no signs the details leaked from inside NS&I. However, you are right that one of the crooks did give the wrong answer to a security question. 

NS&I told me: ‘When answering security questions, if a customer answers a question incorrectly, they will be provided with an alternative question.’ 

It says this is normal industry procedure, allowing customers to make one genuine mistake before locking them out. 

NS&I has offered to reset your accounts with new security credentials, but you and your husband have declined and decided to close your accounts.

In safe hands?: Under the Government-backed Deposit Protection Scheme, landlords and letting agents hand over tenants' deposits for safe keeping

In safe hands?: Under the Government-backed Deposit Protection Scheme, landlords and letting agents hand over tenants’ deposits for safe keeping

My fight for ten-year-old deposits 

C.J. writes: I am having problems getting the Deposit Protection Service to reimburse deposits I lodged more than ten years ago.

Trying to resolve this with the service is like walking through treacle. 

I have written and spoken with staff many times but the DPS seems to follow a standard script, asking for information I have already given. 

Tony Hetherington replies: Under the Government-backed Deposit Protection Scheme, landlords and letting agents hand over tenants’ deposits for safe keeping until the tenancy ends satisfactorily, when the scheme returns the cash to the tenants. 

And this is the point: the scheme returns the money. As you discovered after mistakenly refunding your tenants personally, you can struggle to recover the money from the DPS. 

You supplied statutory declarations, explaining what had happened, but you got nowhere, and meanwhile the tenants had moved away and had no interest in sorting out what was your problem and not theirs. This did not mean the DPS should keep the money, of course. But it showed no signs of returning it either, until now. 

It told me: ‘The law sets out very clear parameters for dealing with deposit claims and payments as well as the validation of landlord and tenant information, including stating explicitly that landlords should never use their own money when protecting a tenant’s deposit.’ 

However, scheme bosses should have sorted this out earlier. They have now apologised and handed over more than £2,500 to you.

Energy firm’s £150 for this nightmare is not enough 

Ms E.S. writes: We moved into a new-build property in 2016 and I contacted Scottish Power to set up a dual fuel direct debit. 

I was told there was no need to take any action yet, and it would be in touch. After three failed attempts to set up a direct debit, I kept money aside and waited for the company to get in touch. 

Its first communication was a debt collection letter, with the threat of a visit from its operatives, plus a visitation charge. 

Scottish Power used a debt collector to threaten a visit from its operatives & a visitation charge

Scottish Power used a debt collector to threaten a visit from its operatives & a visitation charge

Tony Hetherington replies: Forgive me for publishing only the first few sentences of your letter, which cover just the start of a nightmarish experience. 

When the debt collection letter arrived, you called Scottish Power and found there had been a mix-up between your address and your meter number. Nevertheless, you paid the full bill, and you managed to set up a direct debit. 

All was well until 2020, when a letter arrived, saying: ‘Welcome to your new home.’ This was closely followed by a demand for £2,579, supposedly for gas used since 2016. 

The demand showed a completely new account number. When you contacted Scottish Power, you were told your own gas meter number really belonged to a different property nearby. 

You made a complaint, but after that the demands poured in, even though you were still making monthly payments to Scottish Power. Nobody was willing or able to sort out the wrong account numbers, meter numbers or addresses. 

At one point, Scottish Power refused to speak to you, insisting you live at the ‘wrong’ address. 

Then, last March, it closed your account, opened it again under another number, and claimed you owed £994 because the monthly payments it collected had been credited to your original account. You ended up with five different account numbers, and you complained to the Energy Ombudsman. 

Scottish Power has told me there is a widespread problem on your housing estate, with meter numbers not matching addresses and a number of different suppliers trying to unravel this mess. 

After I contacted officials, it froze the demands. It has since closed your gas account, scrapped the charges, and tidied up your dual fuel account. 

It has reinstated your direct debit and credited you with £150 as what it describes as a goodwill gesture. Frankly, I think this is far too little but at least the nightmare is over – I hope.

If you believe you are the victim of financial wrongdoing, write to Tony Hetherington at Financial Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TS or email tony.hetherington@mailonsunday.co.uk. Because of the high volume of enquiries, personal replies cannot be given. Please send only copies of original documents, which we regret cannot be returned. 

Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on them we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money, and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to affect our editorial independence.