In early February, I received a letter from Santander regarding an outstanding repayment on a credit card.
I don’t have a Santander credit card, or indeed a Santander account of any kind – so I immediately contacted the bank’s fraud department which told me someone had borrowed nearly £6,000 in my name.
Santander said it would get back to me but I didn’t hear anything for 25 days, when I received another letter demanding payment.
Hacked off: This reader unfortunately fell victim to online fraud – and Santander’s response left a lot to be desired
I called the bank multiple times, sometimes holding for up to 45 minutes. Every time I did manage to speak to someone, they said they would get back to me – but then nothing.
In late March, I received another letter saying that I would need to pay back the full £6,000 if I didn’t make the required monthly repayment.
It seems the fraudsters managed to access an old email account I had, but haven’t used for years and which I believed to be closed.
They used personal information and documents I had sent in emails years ago to apply for a credit card in my name, as well as making purchases on my debit card with NatWest – who were great and refunded the money almost immediately.
It appears that the Santander credit card was taken out in December 2021 and the thief went on a spending spree pre-Christmas.
Because of the late credit card payments, my previously excellent credit rating is in tatters.
I contacted Experian, who went to Santander on my behalf – but it was told I would need to call Santander and answer some questions. I have already done this on several occasions.
Not knowing what else to do, I sent Santander a special delivery letter in late April with all the information – but it hasn’t been acknowledged.
Although I’m not a Santander customer, I believe that the way I have been treated is extremely poor.
It has been a very stressful situation and me and my wife have have put plans, such as holidays, on hold until we know what the outcome of all this will be. L.T, Surrey
CRANE ON THE CASE
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Helen Crane of This is Money replies: This is truly a terrifying situation to find yourself in.
How many of us have old email accounts that we have forgotten over the years?
Online identity fraud has sadly exploded over the past few years and criminals are thinking of ever more inventive ways to take advantage.
Hacking into an old email account would have given them access to all kinds of personal information, which they could then use to make purchases and borrow money in your name.
In this case, criminals took out a credit card and went on a Christmas shopping spree, burning through nearly £6,000.
As a result your credit rating – which was previously spotless – has fallen through the floor.
Scared and desperate, you went to Santander for help – and were met with what can only be described as total indifference. This is appalling.
You rightly contacted Action Fraud and Experian to try and get it sorted, but again Santander fobbed you off, promising to follow it up and never doing so.
I contacted Santander to demand it took action. It swiftly wrote off the debt, and says it is in the process of amending your credit file.
It has also given you £150 as a gesture of goodwill – though in my opinion this doesn’t make up for giving you the silent treatment in your time of need.
Credit card crime: The scammers spent almost £6,000 on a credit card in L.T’s name
It is also shocking that it took my intervention for the bank to kick itself into gear.
While it’s not your fault that you fell victim to fraud, I hope this will encourage readers to dig out forgotten email accounts and shut them down once and for all.
I will certainly be doing an audit of my teenage hotmail accounts that I know are still lurking around in the wild west of the world wide web.
It can be difficult to do this if you no longer know the password for the account, however – which is why it is a good idea to set up a ‘recovery’ phone number or secondary email address for all your accounts.
This will enable you to get into your account if you don’t have the password, or if it is hacked and the password is changed.
A spokesperson for Santander said: ‘We have a great deal of sympathy for L.T and all those who fall victim to fraud.
‘We have reviewed the case and believe that he was unfortunately the victim of application fraud, and as such we have written off the debt and are in the process of amending his credit file.
‘We are sorry for the delay in responding to L.T and have provided him with £150 as a gesture of goodwill.’
I hope you can finally move on from this sorry episode – and that you and your wife can go on the holiday you were hoping for.
Cancelled cruise: Reader David was pleased to be offered a room upgrade after his trip was repeatedly called off due to Covid – but Tui later removed it from his booking
Hit and miss: This week’s naughty and nice list
Every week, I look at the companies who have fallen short when it comes to customer service, and those who have gone above and beyond.
Miss: Reader David contacted us as he was upset at Tui’s sneaky removal of a cruise upgrade, following a wave of disappointments during Covid.
He, his wife and some friends booked a Mediterranean cruise with Marella, which is owned by Tui, for July 2020. The total cost was £4,400 for two inside cabins and they paid a £1,090 deposit.
That cruise was cancelled due to Covid and rebooked for 2021. David was told the price had increased to £4,800 – and that was with a discount because he didn’t ask for his deposit back.
And the unexpected changes did not stop there. David said: ‘Before we could travel, the ship we were initially booked on was removed from service. Marella booked us on to a new one with a room upgrade to a balcony, which I thought was good.
‘But that cruise was cancelled and I had to rebook once again. I booked the same cruise, with an £880 booking incentive applied as I had still not asked for my deposit back.
‘However, the balcony upgrade was removed and the cost was approximately £,5500, after the discount – a huge increase on my original booking.
Apology: Tui said the reader’s experience ‘didn’t reflect it’s usually high levels of customer service’
‘I therefore downgraded my room to an outside cabin, with the total cost being £4824.84 – more than £400 more than the original booking and for a very similar itinerary, albeit with a slightly better room.
‘I’m annoyed that our upgrade was taken away, and I don’t feel I’ve been rewarded for my loyalty to the brand who have had over £1,000 of my money for more than two years.’
You got your balcony bonus for being a loyal customer, and while Tui was within its rights to remove it, it certainly did nothing to improve your relation-ship with the firm.
Since I got in touch, you have told me Tui has offered you a £200 as a gesture of goodwill. While that doesn’t cover your extra expense, you’ve said it is better than nothing.
A spokesperson for Tui said: ‘We’re sorry that [David] was impacted by changes to his holiday throughout covid.
‘We understand that his experience doesn’t reflect our usual high levels of customer service and have offered him a gesture of goodwill and an apology, which we’re pleased he has accepted’
David told me that it his wife’s 50th birthday while they are on the cruise, and he has told the company in the hope of getting a special surprise.
Hopefully the company will come good and it won’t be Tui little, Tui late.
Free pass: Reader George managed to skip the passport chaos and get his delivered on time
Hit: A somewhat surprising show of support for HM Passport Office landed in my inbox this week.
The Government service has come under fire recently for its tardy treatment of customers wanting to renew their passports.
There is a massive backlog of applications as a wave of would-be holidaymakers seek to venture out to sunnier climes for the first time in three years.
The Government has now said the 10 week target for dealing with applications is ‘not guaranteed’.
But reader George emailed to tell me he and his wife were perfectly happy with the service provided by HM Passport Office.
He said: ‘I keep hearing that it can take up to 10 weeks to get a new passport.
‘I and my wife both applied for our new passports on 4 May and received our new ones on 16 May.
‘The old passports were mailed using the Post Office, one to Bootle and one Belfast, both received the same day via courier. Why all the fuss?’
I suspect you may simply have been one of the lucky ones, George – but it’s good to hear all the same.
Do spare a thought for those stuck in a queue outside the passport office while you are sipping margaritas on the beach.