Help needed: Handing £130 million to victims would be a terrific first step in tackling Britain’s fraud epidemic.
Every time Money Mail hears from a fraud victim who has been denied a refund, my heart sinks.
It’s bad enough to have your trust abused by a crook with nothing better to do than hoodwink strangers over the phone.
But when someone loses their life savings and their bank turns a blind eye, that’s devastating – and for the unwitting victim, there is often no way back.
Victims such as 58-year-old nurse Linda Walker, who lost £8,000 to a fraudster and faces postponing her retirement plans, and 71-year-old retired hotelier Gillian Barton, who’s been forced to change her way of life after being conned out of more than £18,000.
These fraudsters are so clever, and their scams so sophisticated, that ordinary people in their busy lives barely stand a chance.
That’s why the discovery of £130 million sitting in accounts opened by criminals and frozen by the banks – which almost no one outside the industry knew about – is such a big deal. With a minor tweak to the law, this money could be used to cover payouts to fraud victims when all other attempts to recover their cash have failed.
Ministers must act urgently to free up the funds.
The Government must also make it crystal clear that the cash is to go directly to victims, lest it gets requisitioned for the ‘fraud awareness’ efforts that firms currently pay for themselves.
Handing £130 million to victims would be a terrific first step in tackling Britain’s fraud epidemic.
The next phase is mending the gaping hole in consumer protection law that allows criminals to get away with daylight robbery.
It was difficult to reunite victims with their cash when highwaymen roamed the roads. But these days, there should be no excuse.
The details of the sender and receiver of every banking payment are logged on computers. It should be simple for an investigator to trace your money.
Yet banks say arcane money laundering and data protection laws get in the way.
The rules must be overhauled so that banks can seize stolen funds and return them to the rightful owner at the touch of a button.
That would make the proposed new 555 fraud line (as revealed by Money Mail’s Victoria Bischoff last week) a real weapon. Similar to the 999 emergency number, one call could spur the authorities into action.
And if your money cannot be traced? Well, that’s where the £130 million compensation fund comes back into play.
It’s a simple, but powerful, blueprint to beat this blight on daily life. Now we just need our banks and Government to get behind it.
Mobile phones should come with a big red wealth warning.
It was news to me last week that six million loyal mobile contract holders are being overcharged.
This is because when you buy a new phone on contract, part of your monthly bill pays for the handset and part of it for your minutes, texts and data.
By the time the typical 24-month contract ends, you’ve paid for the handset and own it – but all providers except for O2 keep charging you the same if you let the contract roll on.
Many people, particularly the elderly, don’t want or need a new phone and get royally ripped off, according to Citizens Advice. Pay-as-you-go customers who have a mobile for emergencies only are similarly exploited.
Every week, our agony uncle Tony Hazell receives letters from people who’ve been robbed of the credit on their pay-as-you-go mobile.
This is usually because they haven’t used it for six months – the cut-off point at which providers disconnect your number.
Snatching this money is plain profiteering in my book. Either return the cash to customers or stop these disconnections.
Mail is asking readers to donate their old pound coins to our Quids for Kids appeal
Quids for Kids
Don’t forget to dig out any old £1 coins you may still have stashed in drawers and savings jars.
Take the money to a Nationwide Building Society and it will go towards giving a seriously ill child a Christmas experience they can only dream of.
Nationwide has kindly agreed to collect the money for our Quids for Kids campaign. Let me know how much you find.