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JEFF PRESTRIDGE: Expose banks that shun victims of fraud

JEFF PRESTRIDGE: Expose banks that shun victims of fraud – it would make them think twice before routinely rejecting a plea for help

Transparency makes for a fairer personal finance world. Sadly, many myopic financial companies resist it, even though it tends to work in their best long-term business interests. 

A few years ago, I remember some financial protection insurance companies crying wolf over plans to get them to disclose details of their claims data. 

Yet the information, now made available by most (annoyingly, not all) insurers, has helped remove some of the myths surrounding the industry’s handling of claims: namely that more are rejected than accepted. 

Accountability: Although we know that more than half of the money lost by customers to ‘bank transfer’ scams is not refunded, data on the reimbursement rates is not universally available

In publishing data showing that claim acceptance rates are often above 85 per cent, the industry has gone some way to restore consumer confidence in its products. 

Yes, critical illness cover does actually pay out if someone has a stroke. Similarly, income protection insurance will pay a regular income if a policyholder suffers a serious long-term illness. 

It is now time for transparency to be applied to the banks’ handling of customers who have been victims of ‘bank transfer’ scams by fraudsters. 

Although we know that more than half of the money lost by customers to such scams is not refunded, data on the reimbursement rates is not universally available. 

Only Barclays and TSB play ball, primarily because their refund rates are way above the industry average. Others, shamefully, hide under a convenient cloak of anonymity. 

Given this inconsistent approach to victims of fraud, it’s high time the banks were required by the Payment Systems Regulator to publish refund rates on a regular basis. 

Customers could then get an idea as to whether their bank is playing hard ball or fair.

 The fact that the industry’s flag waver, UK Finance, vehemently opposes such a move is all the more reason why transparency should be forced on the banks. As our mailbag indicates, too many scam victims are being unfairly treated. 

Of course, transparency wouldn’t end this, but it would make some banks think twice before routinely rejecting a fraud victim’s plea for help.

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It is blindingly obvious that shared bank branches could help arrest the decline of the high street. 

As Toby Walne reports, such a branch (a bank hub) is transforming the fortunes of Cambuslang just outside Glasgow by giving residents and local businesses access to banking services. 

And if it works in Cambuslang, there’s no reason why such hubs could not revitalise other communities that have been made bankless. 

The bank hub’s time has come. The banks, regulators and those inside Government know it. They should, therefore, move heaven and earth for hubs to become a common feature of the high street up and down the land.

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Tomorrow is the start of Carers Week, an annual campaign highlighting the challenges many of the country’s 6.5million unpaid carers face looking after family or friends. 

Supported by many splendid charities, including Age UK and the Motor Neurone Disease Association, Carers Week’s aim is also to recognise the wonderful work that unpaid carers do. Work overwhelmingly driven by love. 

So, to all carers, keep on doing a brilliant job. And to those who know someone who is caring for a family member or friend, give them a ring – or pay them a visit – and tell them how noble they are. More details at carersweek.org.



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