How is it that fraudsters are able to open multiple accounts to launder the money they steal from bank accounts? We are now 20 times more likely to be robbed through our online or telephone bank accounts than mugged in the street. The Office of National Statistics reported last year that there were 5.8 million fraud and computer crimes in the UK in 2015.
Hundreds of millions of pounds are stolen each year aided by the ease with which thieves can set up new accounts. And while fraudsters seem able to open lots of accounts using dodgy documents to cash in their ill-gotten gains it is becoming more difficult for the rest of us.
Banks make it difficult for the rest of us
We need birth certificates or passports and recent bank statements or utility bills to open accounts. Partners, who are not named on accounts or who have opted for paperless accounts can have problems in opening new accounts without paper copies of these documents.
As a trustee of a charity I regularly had to visit bank branches with my passport and to sign account documents. It often took weeks to set up a new account to get a better rate of return. Others have their accounts closed with no notice because they have not provided sufficient information or because they have received money from abroad.
Banks allow the fraudsters to get away with our money
Meanwhile fraudsters seem able to open an account in minutes as soon as they have defrauded us. And banks seem unable or unwilling to stop the money being withdrawn even when they are told of fraud.
This is because customers usually pay the cost, as the banks say we must have handed over security details or authorized the fraudulent payments. So the banks do not seem to be worried about the problem and certainly do not stop unusual transactions from our accounts.
If the banks suffered the loss they would make sure that they made proper fraud checks. Not only should they refund money to their customers when the fraudsters have used bank account details to gull their victims and when they have allowed fraudsters to syphon off money through phoney accounts.
We cannot believe anything bank callers tell us
Something needs to be done, and in the meantime any of us who gets a call purporting to be from our bank asking us to move money should report it to Action Fraud, their local police and their bank. Many of those callers give correct account details but these should also be ignored, as there seems to be a wealth of banking data available to fraudsters and is no proof of legitimacy. And we need to check out if any tradesmen, solicitors or retailers send an email suggesting that they have changed their bank accounts.