Questions of Cash: April 2014

Posted on September 17, 2014 · Posted in The Independent

Q. On 20 January, I received separate letters from T-Mobile, Vodafone, O2 and a mobile phone insurance company, each thanking me for taking out contracts with them. All used my correct name and address, but I had not signed contracts with any of them. I called all four companies and informed them that the contracts were not with me and a fraud had taken place. I also pointed out that the quoted bank details were incorrect. All four contracts had been taken out in person, in mobile phone stores. I notified the police to let them know that someone had conducted an identity fraud.  The police asked me to inform the Action Fraud Team, which I did.  A month later I received a bill from T-Mobile for £24,213.48.  How can someone make £24,315 in phone calls in three days – with the company told the contract is fraudulent – and the line not be disconnected?  This bill shocked me and I could not sleep that night.  I phoned T-Mobile the next day and I was told not to worry as I had previously reported the contract as being fraudulent.  I have since had a series of demands for payment from T-Mobile, O2 and Vodafone, despite having notified them of the fraud.  The Vodafone bill is for £1,476.  I checked my credit report with Equifax, which is showing these debts as outstanding.  I have asked the police why they cannot trace the fraudster on CCTV, but they say they can’t.  MK, Leeds.

A. Vodafone, O2 and EE (the new name for T-Mobile and Orange) all confirm that the mobile phone contracts have been cancelled, the debt cleared and your credit report restored. EE gave us a statement saying: “We have a dedicated fraud department which takes a proactive approach to fraud prevention. Once notified weimmediately marked the account as fraudulent. We can confirm that any marks on [the reader’s] credit file will be removed and apologise for the inconvenience.” It apologises for having issued a bill to you when the account was already marked as fraudulent, which was the result of an administrative error. O2 tells us that it quickly closed the account, given the high volume of calls being conducted on a new contract. Vodafone had put the debt out for collection to Fredrickson International, part of the Lowell Group. Fredrickson ceased collection activity and returned the debt to Vodafone immediately we alerted it of the problem. Vodafone expressed surprise that the fraud had been possible, given its strong protective controls against identity theft.  Mobile phone companies normally require the production of a bank statement and two domestic bills before approving a credit account.  It seems to us that someone may have stolen these to commit the fraud, but you tell us that your house has not been burgled.  You should perhaps improve domestic security, shredding all paperwork being thrown out that contains your address and personal account numbers.

Q. I have a query regarding the Claims Underwriting Exchange – CUE.   When I recently sought quotes for my car insurance I discovered there is an entry on this database – which I had never heard of before – relating to a claim that I made with my then insurer, esure, in June 2012.  My wife was driving and a passing car hit the drivers’ mirror without stopping.   The claim is apparently recorded on the CUE database as an “at fault” claim.   One of the quotes I received increased the premiums because of this entry on the database. I wrote to esure to get this changed as we were not at fault. They did not reply to my letter. I spoke to them on the phone and they said they could not change it on CUE as it was standard practice to record it as “at fault” because they had not been able to recover the repair costs from a third party. It doesn’t seem fair that we should be penalised for something that was not our fault.  BF, Warwick.

A. We raised this esure, which insists that it acted correctly. A spokesman explains: “The claim has been correctly recorded as ‘recovery made – no’. This was because the third party involved in the accident didn’t stop so esure was unable to claim the costs back from them. The customer therefore made a claim against their policy and esure paid out for the repairs that it couldn’t recover from anyone. The customer was provided the option of sending in a cheque for the claim amount which would allow esure to close the claim as ‘notification only’ instead. However, the customer didn’t want to do this. As explained to the customer, esure is quite happy to say that the customer wasn’t at fault for the incident. However, the claim will still be recorded as ‘recovery  made – no’ and other insurers may still rate on this in future. The reason for this is that insurers take into account all incidents. Each insurer rates their policies on what they perceive the risk to be. The customer can contact esure to discuss reverting back to the original option to repay the cost of the claim in order to change the entry to ‘notification only’.”  We suspect that you would have been better-off not claiming for the replacement of the wing mirror.  Our guess is that the cost in higher insurance premiums could be greater than the payout for the wing mirror.  The esure spokesman declined to confirm this, but responded: “When considering on a course of action, it’s important to keep in mind that information that is found to be missing from your quote, regardless of blame, could affect the validity of your cover. There are certain things that should be disclosed to insurers and no policyholder should keep things from an insurer that could affect their policy. When requesting an insurance quote, an insurer may ask if you’ve had a claim, accident, loss or incident which may be relevant to your quote.”