Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Barclays. Muppets.

Wow. Just wow.

I've been with Barclays for over 10 years. I set up a student account with them when I went to University. I took out a loan with them to buy a motorbike. I have a savings account with them. And yet. And yet. And yet, it is difficult to put into words just how large a bunch of muppets they can be.

Difficult, but not impossible.

On New Year's Day, I received an automated phone call from their fraud department - a number of payments had been taken out using my card details, in both London and Manchester (not Brighton), and had been flagged up as suspicious. Fair enough, I thought. I confirmed they weren't me. I canceled the card and got a new one. Game on. OK, I couldn't access my account online without a card so couldn't check the transactions, but small price to pay, huh?

It should be as simple as that, shouldn't it? Barclays worked out they were fraudulent transactions, hurray. Continue.

And yet. Everything they've done since then has been incredulous to the extreme. It has me questioning how they manage to survive, but the only conclusion I can come to is that their greed outweighs perfectly their incompetence when it comes to these matters.

Rewind. I phoned the fraud department and ran through the transactions in question. Yup, all fraudulent. But transactions don't just get blocked, no - companies obviously need to be paid, so instead I would need to check if the transactions came out of my account, and then claim back from the fraud department if so.

To do this, I was told, I had to go into my branch and get a statement - then I could mark up which transactions, if any, were the frauds. Great. One lunchtime I went in, stood in a queue for a while, and then finally asked for my statement. Only to be told that there wasn't much point - the transactions have an expiry date by which the company has to claim, so I might as well wait for that to come to pass before checking. Hmm, might have been useful to have known that before.

So I waited 3 days, then went back in and stood in the same queue. I got the statement. Nothing on it, hurrah - no fraudulent transactions. Had the transactions actually been blocked at this point? I wasn't really sure, but it kind of looked like it, based on what I'd been told.

A few days on, and I get some post. (Or rather, my parents get the post despite me asking Barclays to send it to my own address.) It's a list of the transactions, and a form asking me to mark them up as Genuine or Fraudulent, along with information on my card - could it have been copied, had it been out of my sight, etc etc. If I don't send it back within 10 days, then they'll assume all the transactions are genuine. Fine, I send it back.

I don't hear anything back. No confirmation that the letter got there.

A few days later, guess what. The transactions have been debited from my account. They did go through after all. But no-one told me this. No feedback. I checked my account for a completely different reason. Getting a little annoyed by this point. Not at the actual criminals, mind, but at the company I thought were looking after my money. Chortle.

Ringing up Barclays fraud department who I've dealt with so far, I'm told I have to actually talk to the Debit Card department now. Really? OK, transfer me. I speak to the guy there. Turns out they have no idea what the transactions are - they have to look up my account and ask me which ones we're talking about. Didn't I already go through this with the fraud department? Twice?

The guy in the line is fairly good. He can cancel the transactions, but I need to fill in a form confirming that they're fraudulent, so they can investigate the matter further. Didn't I already do that for the fraud department? Apparently they're on a different planet or something, I need to fill a new one in.

There's some success here - the transactions are re-credited to my account about 48 hours later (not the 24 I was originally told). Yes! Maybe Barclays do care about me after all?

A few days later I get the form (to my own address this time - another win!). It's basically the same as the first, but different. Type written. Underscores for form fields. There are some antiquated-looking questions: "Have you used your card for any transactions via the Internet?" - with half a line for details. I'm a geek that likes eBay. About half my transactions are on-line these days.

There's also the whole spiel about returning the form within 10 days again. I don't really want to get it lost in the post, but the guy on the phone informed me (after I asked) that I could go into my branch to fax it. Sounds good.

My branch is busy when I go in. I make an appointment for the next day.

The next day, I go through the weird little form with a member of staff, who seems very helpful. I can just answer "No" to the Internet question apparently (I guess the questions is from before Paypal, Amazon or iTunes were invented.) He faxes it off and gives me a copy. I ask to make a complaint about the process so far, but the complaint form requires a category, and "general systemic incompetence" isn't among them. We select a random option and add that to the list of complaints. Yes, I complained about the complaint form.

I've lost track of time by this point. I have a 4 month old child. New Year's Day seems like a lifetime ago. I start asking around to find out what other banks people are using.

A few more days later, I get a letter saying I'd be receiving a phone call - apparently something in this has been transferred to a more complex investigation in the fraud department. But I know how the game works now - I ring them up immediately rather than waiting for the call. But they're ahead of me! The phone rings and rings, then changes tone, and I'm diverted into a siding - maybe it's the debit card department again? Who knows?

Explaining the situation, the lady tells me she could transfer me to the correct place, but as I've only just got the letter, they wouldn't have any more details. Fine, I say, transfer me. Oh my, it turns out the person I talk to next can give me more details - one of the transactions in question has been questioned, but I should hear back from them soon.

Then there's a wait. I have my money. It costs me to ring up and find out more. It costs me time, it costs me phone call money. And it costs me Saintly patience. It costs me good will. It costs me any hope of wanting to bank with Barclays ever agsin, or wanting anyone else to for that matter. I consider writing a blog post about it all but it makes my brain hurt.

I don't hear anything for a few weeks, and then yesterday, a phone call comes at 8.30am. Someone's investigating my case, and would like to know if there was any way someone else could have got my card - the same questions that were on the previous 2 forms I already sent back. No, no and no. I still have the canceled card in my wallet if you want to see it. I suggest someone got my details and put it on a blank card with their own signature. The guy agrees, and tells me he'll ring back in a couple of hours.

Do I hear back? Yeah, right. No. The next thing I know, I've logged into my account to check a statement - and the transactions have come back out again. All of them. I'm almost 400 quid down again. I'm getting a mortgage, FFS. I do not need this right now.

So now it's up to me again, to ring up these muppets and not just work out where my money's gone. I also need to work out who to ring, who to talk to, why my money's gone back out agsin, and what to do next. I suspect it involves another form. I suspect it involves printing and faxing something. I'm even starting to suspect I won't get my money back at all. Or that it'll at least costs as much in phone calls.

It'd be funny if it wasn't so painstaking unnecessary. It'd be funny if Barclays acknowledged they could improve. As it is, every moment of imbecility is met with stoic ignorance - it's part of the process, but not part enough to be something I can be formally told about. Disjointed government is nothing compared to this hellhole.

If you're with Barclays, I suggest - emphatically - getting the hell away from them. Before they take everything away from you.


Composing said...

I finally managed to get my act together and defect to the Co-op at the end of last year.

It was more for ethical reasons than because of any major snarl up, but it feels good to have got away.

Composing said...

Also, my mother went through this at her bank. She heard that most card fraud is NOT because the hackerz on teh interwebs is in ur wallet steelin ur dough but actually card details leaked out of the banks by employees. (Makes sense, it's more straightforward.)

However, for understandable reasons, the banks will do anything to deflect people thinking about that possibility, including making them go through the charade of trying to think of all the other people they might have given their card details to or might have caught a glimpse of it somewhere.

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