Thursday, 19 July 2012

Barclays Fraud Dept

Well I am bracing myself for my holiday - I have more than one debit card and expect to take some cash too.

It is such a trauma going on holiday - even if you tell your bank - even if you spend thousands on plane tickets to the destination using the very same card - they may - just for the hell of it - block your one and only card when you are there in a queue in a supermarket in a foreign country in the name of "fraud protection".

When we went to Barbados a few years ago that happened. My Barclays card would not work. By some fluke I had with me a Lloyds card for an  account I had opened some years before, still valid, just, and never ever used, but had a £1000 overdraft on the account even if £0 balance from opening. The card was not even signed (oops). That worked, the Barclays one did not. I spent hours on calls (expensive ones) from Barbados getting Barclays to fix it. I was not repaid for that time or money.

So I am dreading my next holiday. Will they will try and protect me from fraud yet again?

But hang on - who are they protecting - who would be defrauded here?

I had this discussion with my bank manager (who comes to see me some times). I said I did not want this hassle - and he was shocked. Did I really want to "disable fraud protection" on my card. Sadly, even though I said yes, he was unable to do this.

You see the "fraud protection" is not actually to protect me!

It is a shame they will not actually be honesty about this even...

I am in very little danger of suffering from fraud - to do that someone would have to "fool" me. Someone would have to lie to me for some gain. What is far far more likely (and did happen once, and was not picked up by these idiots) is someone pretends to be me when asking the bank for money (typically, via some merchant).

Now, if that happens, who has been lied to? The merchant and the bank, that's who! So that is who has suffered some sort of fraud, not me. I would suffer (temporarily) the hassle of the bank mistakenly reducing the balance on my account thinking I had asked for money.

Only if I was somehow careless and gave out some details which I should not have (and contractually agreed not to, etc) like my PIN, would I, perhaps, be in some way liable for a fraud against the bank - i.e. only if they could say "well, we thought it was you because they had your PIN", etc, could they pass on that liability. I am not that daft, and some of my cards do not have a PIN even!

So, at the end of the day, I would far rather they did turn off their "fraud protection". The worst that could happen is they mistakenly take money from my account (which they have to put back when they realise it was not me) and so stop some transaction happening later as no money left. From my point of view this is exactly as annoying as them blocking my account because they think something legitimate is in fact fraud. It does not help me at all, in any way, whatsoever.

Well, we'll see. Listen to Mitchell & Webb's view on this.


  1. I have had my card blocked many times. I don't bother calling them anymore. Instead I just use another card. They call me soon enough.

    1. And when they do call, they do so from a withheld/unavailable number and somebody with barely understandable English language ability asks you for for details to verify you are the person they called. When you ask them to verify who they are first, they act with complete surprise that you should want to do such a thing, then tell you that for data protection reasons they can't divulge any information...

  2. I had one card blocked once because of an "unexpected transaction from France" - actually, I was paying to use WiFi in a hotel in Birmingham. I had another blocked at a garage at the end of a monthly shopping trip, and they did not know how to handle it - it was a very uncomfortable wait while they eventually got the bank on the phone (but the agent did have a northern accent)... and then they had the nerve to call me on the following Monday about the self-same transactions - and also write to me. Fortunately that didn't happen again or I would definitely have kicked up more of a fuss.

  3. Ditto to everything you said Adrian.

    In fact this has become a huge problem for me over the past two years, not least since Visa Security Services changed their online security system to remove the password feature. As a result end-users now have no easy way to override the protection, which I've found can trigger on all sorts of things (e.g. purchasing from Amazon). It's even stopped some of my pre-existing bill payments, which is bizarre.

    Like you I too have complained to my bank manager but they're powerless. Holiday's or business trips, like you say, are the biggest concern. Even when you add your cards to the banks abroad notification list they still warn that you might get a security call to confirm the first transaction. Well that's fine but it assumes that my mobile phone has reception on the country's network wherever I am (often doesn't). Meanwhile hotels are useless at handling automated security calls, as anybody except the account owner would be.

    Instead I have to carry a whole batch of traveller's cheques, which makes me nervous alongside the massive wads of cash. Bizarrely though I have found some simple but annoying solutions to emergency cash woes when abroad, such as using my pre-established account relationship with Western Union to send money to.. myself! All because my bank doesn't let me use it for what I want.

    /end rant

  4. The banks store all sorts of verification crap - mother's maiden inside leg measurement etc. Why can they not take the simple measure of remembering a pass phrase which they give YOU when they call. Sheesh.

  5. I have recently left Barclays after being unable to use by card for pretty much a whole month - 5 transactions in a row to merchants I've used previously (including the local council) were flagged by their VbV system and blocked.

    When I called to unblock the card the second time, I couldn't tell them how old I'd be on my next birthday (really - I gave up counting a long time ago!) so had to take time off work and pay £££ in petrol+parking to go into a branch. I also failed the security question the third time (I haven't got a clue what day DDs go out - they just do!) and from then on they refused to speak to me by phone, requiring more time off work, expense, etc

    Even in the branch with passport, driving license, etc I STILL had trouble getting the card unblocked, and even in branch I had to endure both the on-hold time and the attitude of their fraud department by phone.

    Of course, this was the month leading up to my wedding, which made life a whole lot more stressful...

    I switched to Nationwide. You can speak to them on the phone about account stuff with minimal on-hold time and they're actually very nice friendly uk-based people, unlike the positively hostile people Barclays use in both UK and India callcentres. Recommended.

  6. The banks store all sorts of verification crap - mother's maiden inside leg measurement etc. Why can they not take the simple measure of remembering a pass phrase which they give YOU when they call. Sheesh.

  7. It might be worth you getting a pre-paid foreign currency credit card. That avoids you having to worry about variations in exchange rates etc, and given that they're aimed at travellers I'd expect they're a lot less likely to get blocked.

    1. Seconded, I use them exclusively when living abroad. I'd recommend FairFX for the best rates, though they charge for ATM withdrawals, and CaxtonFX for second best and no ATM charges. Top up when the rate's good (like today) and spend when you want knowing there are no further charges.

  8. I've had this a couple of times. Most recently -

    Buying random electronics components from china off ebay - no problem.
    Buying a sandwhich from tesco using my card - card blocked as suspicious.

    Which wouldn't be so bad except they *wrote* to me to tell me, and in the mean time blocked several recurring payments to my card too.

  9. Seconded. We've found FairFX to be good - exchange rates, service, etc. They even have an app for loading cash onto it now.

    Disclaimer: this is a referal link that benefits me (and whoever uses it to sign up and put money on a card).


    1. Well is mine, and I note that following the http not https it was happy to go as far as taking a card number insecurely - which surprised me somewhat.

  10. Barclaycard is by far the most annoying card I have though to be fair to them I use it for all technology purchases whereas my other cards see a more balanced mix of spending. But they say it takes into account my spending patterns when clearly it does not or technology wouldn't be a problem.

    The bottom line about their fraud protection is that it not only is it inconvenient, it doesn't work anyway. If I put £2 credit on my O2 data SIM on the same day the £7.50 for an O2 broadband line goes out the card gets blocked, but when someone in a cybercafe in Spain ordered several hundred pounds of power tools from a retailer in Devon for delivery to Latvia with a completely incorrect name and address they allow it, and then allow it again the next week!

  11. I travel a lot and have found Barclaycard to be rather tricky although they do seem have an automated system which calls me within a few minutes of anything suspicious when I do stuff on line.

    Having said that, for international travel I've found Amex to be most reliable. Not cheap but converting reward points into Amazon vouchers is financing the occasional Camera/Lens purchase :-)

  12. I'd suggest you get a different card to use abroad. There's a fair chance that your current card will have high fees for using it abroad, where as if you pick the right one for overseas you can get one with no foreign fees, no foreign cash withdrawl fees etc. As an added bonus, because you only ever use this card abroad, it shouldn't trip the fraud detection when you do use it overseas as that's normal!

    Alternately, American Express are generally very good, if you want a card for both home and abroad I'd suggest you get one. (A real amex though, not one issued by one of the other banks, they tend to have all the same problems as other bank cards)

    1. I'll second that - not had a single problem with Amex abroad. As for UK banks, by far the most friendly/helpful/useful is First Direct.

  13. That reminds me of HSBC urgently contacting me because:
    - They clearly identified I bought plane ticket.
    - They clearly identified I used my card at Heathrow car park and public area.
    - They clearly identified I used my card passenger side at Heathrow.
    - Were wondering how on earth I could be withdrawing cash at an ATM at Dubai airport 7 hours later...

    But to be totally fair with them, they were not able to reach me straight away and they didn't block the card, they called back the next day to confirm usage and I used my card in the mean time. That's good service.

    Far worst:
    My other main account is with Santander and I'm a big movies / bluray / music user (and yes I believe that artists have to be paid for their work), so I'm also a very good and regular Amazon customer with a few orders a week. Even if I have been so for a good few years Santander keep blocking my card and automated call me to verify possible fraudulent on "Amazon, an internet merchant" roughly every 6 to 8 weeks.
    1) Their system is not tuned, as this is obviously not out of my usage pattern
    2) They don't even have a script bonded human being to call me
    3) Complaining / letting them now / trying to point out that it is well within my normal usage pattern is totally ignored / meet with incomprehension (why does it bother me? It's for my own benefit....)

    1. I got double-dipped by a merchant on Tottenham Court Road when I had a Santander card. They refused to cooperate with the Met Police and hid behind Data Protection. As I was working in the card industry at the time I was disgusted.

      Needless to say, card and other accounts with them cancelled.

  14. We had a £1,000+ being paid from our Lloyds company account via card every month to another company in the US. It'd been going for a good few years.

    Then, for a period of 8 months, they blocked it every month for "fraud protection purposes" - with no way of preventing Lloyds from doing it - even after carefully explaining the situation to account manager several times as well as the call centres.
    After the first two months we had to preempt them and ring Lloyds immediately after the payment was supposed to go through - but before the US company stopped the service for non-payment that we and our customers were relying on!

    Then they just stopped doing it as mysteriously as they started.

    Personally, after years of only having one current account, I've found it's easier if you have least 4-6 cards in your wallet (except when you lose your wallet, which I did recently)

  15. Halifax used to regularly block my card - they specialised in doing it on Friday afternoons so I'd find out on Saturday when their 'fraud department' was shut for the weekend.

    HSBC have been good - I've had one phone call off them but they didn't block the card just wanted to verify the transaction.

  16. I love how stupidly self righteous you sound in this post. You believe purely because it inconviences your cushty trips abroad that the merchant and the bank must be completely laid bare to potential fraud otherwise you may have to shock horror make a call to verify your transaction! It's actually in most cases the merchant who loses out if a fraudulent transaction is processed and this already costs UK merchants billions each year and the fraudsters 9/10 get away with it. By all means campaign for your fraud prevention system to be deactivated i'll quite my job and just skim cards for a living!

    1. Slightly odd viewpoint. It is the bank being defrauded in such cases, not me. It is a matter between them and the fraudster and no reason to inconvenience me whatsoever. What particularly pisses me off is that they try and claim this inconvenience is to protect me, when it is not. It would be hugely mitigated if they were honest - admitted that they do this to protect them, not me, and apologised for causing me inconvenience over something that is simply not my concern. What they do in the name of "fraud protection" does not help me, it hinders me, and I have every right to be annoyed about that. I am self righteous because I am right, in this case, not stupidly so but actually so.

    2. And I agree wholeheartedly. Just had another run in with Barclays fraud department and an Indian Call Centre

  17. I'm a Barclays customer, I've been trying to purchase a gopro camera and each time I attempt the transaction Barclays blocks my card, and I have to phone the call centre in India. This has happened 3 times now. I've spoken to 3 "advisors" in india, all had a lack of basic understanding of the english language, and all 3 times they were unable to advise how I could make the transaction without the automated fraud detection system blocking my card. Not to mention their attitude toward customers is atrocious, one of the advisors was having a full on argument with me! Right now I simply am lost as to how I can use my card to make this transaction. The fraud detection system simply is not working correctly, and apparently there's nothing that can be done about it. I am seriously considering changing banks, this appears to be my only option at this time.