Saturday, 13 August 2022

Handybus fraud complaint

A HENLEY charity has lost almost £8,000 in an online fraud.

The money was stolen from the Henley HandyBus, which provides community transport to elderly and disabled people, after the criminals accessed its bank account.

However, Lloyds Bank is refusing to refund the money, saying it cannot be held responsible.

The fraudsters targeted one of the charity’s committee members, calling him at home pretending to be from TalkTalk, his telephone company, and saying they wanted to discuss his account.

He believed the call was genuine as the caller knew some of his personal details but the charity suspects the fraudsters obtained this information after it was illegally leaked from TalkTalk’s customer database last year.

It insists that the committee member, who it has not named, did not give the scammers any log-in details or passwords during the conversation on September 22.

However, immediately after the call the fraudsters logged into his business bank account and transferred £15,000 into the HandyBus account from where they then took a total of £22,700.

Lloyds sent the man a text message warning him about the payments and asking him to confirm they were genuine but he did not have his mobile with him and the transactions were authorised an hour later. The bank’s fraud prevention team then called him to query the payments and he confirmed they were fraudulent but by then it was too late.

Both the victim, who lost £15,000, and the HandyBus have asked to be reimbursed by Lloyds without success.

By comparison, money that was taken from the same man’s Nationwide account at the same time has been paid back.

The charity, which has been going more than 30 years, has reported the crime to Thames Valley Police and the national cyber and fraud crime reporting service Action Fraud. Richard Hodgkin, chairman of the Henley Handybus, said: “We are very disappointed with the attitude of Lloyds Bank.

“We are a small charity and losing this amount of money is a blow, although it does not affect our immediate operations.

“There’s absolutely no danger that the HandyBus will under as we have substantial assets but it’s the principle of the thing. It’s like being burgled — it feels like someone has been through your personal property without your permission.

“By the time we knew anything about it the money had gone and they couldn’t get it back. We don’t know how hard they’ve tried but I gather these criminals pass it through several accounts so the audit trail is harder to pick up.

“We feel we have a good case. At no time were any passwords revealed or direct access given to our bank account.”

Mr Hodgkin, of Nicholas Road, Henley, said the charity used to have a £250 limit on transactions leaving its account until it switched to online banking about three years ago.

He said: “We can’t remember anyone telling us the £250 restriction didn’t apply online. They say it’s in the small print but they always say that — you can’t possibly read everything in that much detail.

“Nationwide said its policy was that no one should lose from cyber crime. It is a shame for the HandyBus that Lloyds does not have the same principles.

“As for those responsible, I don’t understand how anybody can do something that despicable, especially to a charity, and I hope they’re pleased with themselves. It’s disgusting that some people feel entitled to something for nothing.”

The Henley Handybus was started in 1985 by Henley Lions Club when a bus was bought following a fund-raising campaign.

It serves organisations such as the Henley Stroke Club, the Mencap Meteor Club and local care homes.It also offers a shopping trip to Reading twice a month.

It uses a 14-seater, wheelchair-accessible minibus driven by volunteers who help users to carry their shopping and is free of charge to bus pass holders.

A Lloyds Bank spokesman said: “We are sorry that the charity has been the victim of a fraudster and we appreciate that losing a significant sum of money is very distressing.

“However, it is the responsibility of our customers to take proper care to keep their accounts secure and to not disclose security information to others.

“We take the security of our customers’ accounts very seriously and have robust security measures in place to prevent fraudulent activity.

“The Financial Ombudsman has reviewed this case and has decided that we have acted fairly and that we were correct not to provide compensation for the loss of the funds.”

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