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.
N.P. writes: About £20,000 has been stolen from my HSBC account. HSBC refuses to return it.
Tony Hetherington replies: Here is something I do not often say to readers: the bank is in the right; you are in the wrong. And here is what you told me. You live in Surrey, but were stranded in Thailand after going to visit your mother in 2019. There were no flights back to the UK for more than two years because of Covid.
You were penniless. Unknown to you, your son in England had spotted a new HSBC bank card that arrived in the post for you, and he had used it hundreds of times until your account was empty. You knew nothing of this, and your son has since been arrested.
But here is what you did not tell me. Before you contacted me, you had been to the Financial Ombudsman, who had carried out a full investigation, as a result of which HSBC had already paid you the full amount awarded, which was £5,859. You wanted me to persuade the bank to increase this to £24,000.
Claim: You say you were stranded in Thailand when the cash was taken from your HSBC account
If I had known of the Ombudsman’s investigation, I would never have begun my own enquiries. But even when I did, it was not easy to get coherent answers. I asked you why you could not check online for two years, and see the money taken from your account. And if you made ATM withdrawals, did you not see your decreasing balance?
You replied that you did not need ATMs as you had taken enough cash to Thailand, and you were confident your HSBC account was in good shape because although you were not in the UK, your account was receiving UK Government grants paid to self-employed claimants during Covid. These grants totalled £15,000. You did not explain why you failed to check your account online.
It was only when I approached HSBC that I discovered the Ombudsman’s involvement. Its report mentions two bank cards. It says whoever used your original card for online shopping had details of the card and your shopping account, which can only have come from you or your computer. The renewal card was never validated by you, so spending on this has been refunded to you.
The Ombudsman has also made the point that you applied repeatedly for UK Government grants which were paid into your HSBC account. And there were payments out of the account, as well as two transfers.
Like me, the Ombudsman found it was reasonable to expect you to know how much was in your account. I asked you for copies of bank statements as evidence you lost £20,000 or £24,000 (you mentioned both figures at different times), but you told me your son had stolen them.
Your son is now awaiting trial for theft, and you believe this is enough to make HSBC responsible for all your losses. I disagree. Nothing you have told me places responsibility at HSBC’s door, except to the extent found by the Ombudsman and accepted by the bank.
I will not be pressing HSBC to pay you any more. Perhaps you should sue your son.
Beware, this scam car website is still running
S.W. writes: I received an invoice from car valuation website Upvehicle, which you warned against. I heard nothing from them for some time, but have now received an email demanding £99.
Tony Hetherington replies: The website at upvehicle.co.uk is dead, but this scam lives on. It has used various names and websites, including car-rate.co.uk and the Upvehicle site, but both lead back to Quotient Int Ltd, registered in Ireland.
The scam is simple. Anyone wanting to value their car is invited to enter the details online and then press Continue. It looks like a normal website page, but if you scroll down past the Continue button, up pop terms and conditions saying you now owe the Irish company £99.
Finger on the pulse: The website at upvehicle.co.uk is dead, but this scam lives on
I warned against this scam last March, when it was emailing motorists and using two London addresses, though it was not at either of them. All Quotient wanted was for victims to pay by bank transfer or card.
Anyone who refused was threatened with legal action. And I warned again in May, after I found that Quotient was set up by a woman who gave the Irish authorities an address in Polegate in East Sussex.
Naturally, she was not there and the real occupant had never heard of her. The Upvehicle site displayed an address on the edge of Dublin, but again, it was fake.
As it is an offence to give false details to set up a limited company, The Mail on Sunday gave its evidence to Ireland’s Corporate Enforcement Authority. It looked like an open and shut case for closing Quotient down, so I was surprised that you received a fresh demand.
Quotient told you: ‘We have given you sufficient time to settle this matter. You now have one last chance to resolve this situation and avoid further action.’ I traced the bank code on the demand, to see where your £99 would end up. It came back as a business park in Bulgaria. If Quotient ever carries out its threat to take legal action, I will give evidence in court for you, showing them to be crooks.
But what happened to the Irish authorities, who were supposed to be investigating all the offences and bogus addresses used by Quotient? Dublin officials told me: ‘Owing to statutory obligations of confidentiality, the CEA does not comment on its investigative activities.’
Quotient changed its Dublin address soon after my second warning, which suggests the authorities in the Republic are happy to ignore the fact that it was based on lies in the first place. So be warned – the fraudsters are still there.
If you believe you are the victim of financial wrongdoing, write to Tony Hetherington at Financial Mail, 9 Derry Street, London W8 5HY or email firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.