Your son had his Barclays account closed, because, intentionally or not, he was a young, naive money launderer at 17, says TONY HETHERINGTON
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 M.D. writes: I hope you can assist my son Jack. In 2017, when he was 17, he had his Barclays account unexpectedly closed. When we pressed, Barclays explained that someone had deposited money in his account from an account which was ‘flagged’.
Since then, Jack has been blacklisted by every financial institution in the country. He cannot have a bank account.
Fraud prevention body the Credit Industry Fraud Avoidance System (Cifas) confirmed there is some – thing recorded against his name, but will not remove it as it feels Barclays acted with a valid reason.
Checks: Jack appeared on the Cifas database which tracks fraud
Tony Hetherington replies: Intentionally or unintentionally, your son was a young, naive money launderer. He is now paying the price for letting other people pass thousands of pounds through his bank account so their dodgy dealings would be traced back to Jack and not to them.
Your letter says that ‘someone’ deposited money in his account, which makes it sound as if the cash was never withdrawn and came as a complete surprise to him. But when I asked for details, you explained that Jack had been operating a small business with a friend, buying clothing that they reckoned they could sell online at a profit.
Jack decided to try this on his own, and found himself doing business with someone who asked for his bank details. Jack gave his full online bank account details, and even his address and phone number – everything that was needed to allow deposits and withdrawals to be made.
Within 24 hours, thousands of pounds had been paid into his account and then broken down into different sums that were transferred out to people whose names meant nothing to Jack. This was classic money laundering. Every time stolen money or drug money is passed from one account to another, with the amounts changed each time, it becomes more and more difficult for the police to prove that the money at the end of the trail is the same as the money at the beginning.
Jack did not even get a decent payoff from the crooks. Professional money launderers take a percentage cut. Small-time amateurs might settle for a reasonable lump sum. But out of thousands of pounds, all Jack was left with was £6, which does suggest that he did not know what he was doing. Cifas holds a database of suspects, and Jack is on it. The entry made by Barclays says he had a personal current account – not a business account – which was fraudulently misused. But the database is not a blacklist. If a bank or building society decided to let Jack open an account, then it could.
I know that Jack has applied to NatWest, Nationwide and HSBC, and all have turned him down. No company is forced to do business with someone it decides to reject, and in your son’s case they probably decided he might be more trouble than he is worth.
Imagine the reaction from financial watchdogs if a bank let your son through the door and his account was again used to launder money. The victims might well sue the bank for giving Jack an account, knowing what he had done in the past.
Your son may be able to relax a bit in a year or so, though. Cifas records are mainly held for no more than six years, so Jack’s 2017 misconduct will drop off the system in 2023, which should make it easier for him to rebuild his banking arrangements.
Why did my car cover suddenly leap from £233 as I looked online?
A.J. writes: I was searching online for car insurance, and Hastings Direct quoted £233 for comprehensive cover, though the policy mandated that a black box had to be fitted.
I was unsure what this entailed, so I called them to enquire about installation costs. While the staff member was looking into this, out of curiosity I looked online at what difference it would make if I lowered my excess from £250 to £150, but it appeared to make no difference.
I decided to proceed with the policy and was told to proceed online, only to find the £233 quotation had risen dramatically.
Finger of blame: Hastings said there was a technical fault
Tony Hetherington replies: You had been told that the original quotation was valid until mid night that day, but when you asked Hastings Direct why the premium had risen, you were told that because you had considered lowering the excess, the original quotation had automatically been cancelled, even though a change to the excess would make no difference to the premium.
I asked Hastings Direct to explain, and staff blame a ‘technical issue’ that meant customers who applied for the company’s YouDrive product were incorrectly shown a much higher price if they experimented with possible changes, such as a lower excess. The system should have taken you back to the original figure of £233.
This does not, of course, explain why staff did not correct this when you complained, before you contacted me. You have told me you have now taken out cover elsewhere.
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 [email protected] 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.