HSBC, surely a giant in the banking world and one at the very cutting edge of managing the security of its clients. Maybe so. But not for me. I am not a great one for change. I resisted the smartphone until someone gave me an iphone a few years back and even now, tend to use it just as a telephone. My car is older than Henry Ford, my computer is a big beige thing and I have only sent two tweets.
Where was I. Okay, HSBC. So I have an account that I sort of forgot about. Not a big deal really, there was little inside it. Then one day I get a letter from the bank advising me that as the account has shown little activity over the past year, they were assuming it was dormant and were going to close it unless I got in touch. I figured an easy fix would be to simply transfer some money into it for a few days, then take it back out. That would show activity and keep it from being closed. As I said before, technology like online banking hasn’t really excited me much so I simply phoned them like I have been doing for a few years. After following the recorded instructions I suffer the elevator music whilst my call was put through to an operator. I finally speak to a human who wants to run through some security questions to ensure I am who I say I am. Easy enough, I know my codes and I know the answers to my personal questions. I correctly answer the code numbers and we were onto the ‘questions only I would know’ part.
“When did you open your account with HSBC?” Pardon I replied. She repeated the question for me, not that I hadn’t understood it, no I understood, I just hadn’t expected a question I had never been asked before and one not on the security questions list. I replied that this question was a little oblique as I really had no idea when I had opened the account. I knew it was around 20 years ago, maybe closer to 30 now but to dig up the specific date from my head was like asking me what was my favourite present from my 7th birthday party. Plain impossible. Not deviating off script the operator asked again. I told her this was silly and plucked a date off the top of my head, the only date I could think of at the time. Mach 21st 1980. The day JR Ewing was shot on the the TV show Dallas. A show I thought was pretty rubbish but was one everyone talked about non-stop at the time speculating about who had killed the nasty oil magnate.
Unsurprisingly, I was wrong. The operator then advised me that as I had answered incorrectly, she would be putting a block on my account. I told her it was going to be blocked anyway which was the reason for my call. I then asked her if she knew the date when she first opened her bank account. She said she couldn’t remember. I then asked that didn’t she think this was a rather silly question to ask customers and she agreed but said there was nothing she could do. Could you ask one of the pre-arranged questions I suggested or put me through to someone higher up the chain or give me the branch number so I could call direct. No, no and no. I would have to visit my branch and resolve it there.
Then a few weeks later I get a letter from the bank. The theme of the letter was their concern for customers security, in order to detect and prevent fraudulent activity they wanted some more information on me. A form was enclosed for me to fill in. Questions included asking me what my annual income is, which countries my net worth was held in and do I intend to continue transactions as I have done in the past and if not, why not. I filled it in. The letter told me I had just 14 days to do this. So I did.
I then get a letter back telling me that the details I had provided were incorrect and that they were placing a restriction on my account limiting me to ATM withdrawals of £50 per day. I am confused. The account they were asking about does not have an ATM card, is, according to them, due for closure and following my telephone call, has been frozen anyway.
On top of that. The account I use for daily stuff has now also had someone review the security who considers my regular US payment to a company called Netflix or something, that has been going out every month for the past two years, as suspicious and have rejected it. Fortunately Netflix have a superb call centre and they apologised for cutting off my service, gave me 2 months free, put me back online and are happy to accept payments from my other online bank and did this all in a single 10 minute telephone conversation.
The bank also decided a direct debit to British Gas could not possibly be for gas used to heat the home or cook, the clue being in the name, but no that must for sure be another one of my clever scams.
HSBC, take some time to listen to me. You know my address, you wrote to me remember, twice, and both times I have responded. You know I have been a customer since forever and you get to see all the transactions I make. My 10 bucks a month to Netflix is honestly not an elaborate money laundering scheme, the regular payment into my personal account from my business account, which has also been with you since Mr and Mrs Bieber took a few sweaty minutes making a baby, is not the result of any drug deals, arms deal, terrorist financing or robbery, if it were, I would certainly qualify as one of the least successful, stupidest and poorest criminals.
Oddly, you are quick to block payments to anyone other than the payment you yourself take for my poorly performing ISA which you sold to me on the pretence that it would grow and grow because your teams are so in tune with the markets. It’s grown very little by the way. Your experts aren’t quite the ‘experts’ you think, unless you mean expert at frequently increasing the fees for badly managing my fund. That transfer continues, them paying themselves they don’t see as suspicious.
Why ask me to make up my own personal security questions if you’re simply going to hit me with one of your own and one I suspect anyone over the age of 40 wouldn’t be able to answer off the top of their head.
I fear for the future if my insignificant financial transactions can in anyway be seen as of concern, especially since you managed to miss the Mexican drug lords who laundered $881 million through you yet crack down on me for having a dodgy direct debit with British Gas. The opening gambit on your letter says you are committed to protecting customer accounts which I guess you are succeeding in doing, my accounts are now so well protected, even I cannot get into them. It will be goodbye HSBC once I have sorted this mess you created out and I offer the few people who will ever reach this far a little advice, do not bank with HSBC unless you want your ISA to go down and your accounts to be blocked for the illegal activity that is subscribing to Netflix.