Questions of Cash – May 2016

Posted on June 8, 2016 · Posted in The Independent

Q.  I have offshore bank accounts in the Isle of Man with Lloyds Bank International.  It has now frozen my accounts for the last two months and prevented me accessing my life savings of about £62,000. It has failed to give me any explanation for this.  I have complained twice and both times this has led to even worse service from the bank – after my second complaint I was not even able to access my bank details from the internet or over the phone.  My information is no longer accessible and both my online and phone passwords have been deactivated.  The bank says it will no longer post me bank statements and its staff have been instructed to ignore my phone calls.  In my last call the operative said she had been instructed not to talk to me at all and that this instruction had been issued by the bank’s investigations team.  I have been a customer of Lloyds for 25 years and for 12 of those years I have had an offshore account.  I am not a criminal, my account does not have a high turnover and I have never used bitcoins.  So I do not understand why my account has been frozen.  I traded on eBay about eight years ago when I was clearing out my house and sold vinyl records and books.  Am I supposed to be involved in some terrorist plot, a drugs cartel or something?  I don’t have any debts, so it is nothing to do with that.  This is making me depressed: I am 50 years old and in poor mental health after a break down.  I opened my account with Lloyds when I was a student in the UK 25 years ago, but kept an account with the bank offshore when I moved back home.  Is it just because I now live in Serbia that I am regarded as high risk?  Last December I deposited about £600 in cash and the bank asked me four times where the cash had come from.  I had changed some euros into pounds to buy a painting andbecause of that deposit I was placed on high risk and enhanced due diligence.  I am glad Lloyds is taking money laundering seriously, but my account history of 150 low value transactions in 12 years does not fit the profile of a money launderer.  KR, Belgrade.

A.  We can only guess – like you – that the account was investigated because you live in Serbia and because of the cash transaction last December.  The good news is that although you spent two months unsuccessfully seeking the release of your cash, your funds have now been released following our intervention. However, your accounts will be formally closed next month.  A spokesman for Lloyds’ wealth management division says:  “As a responsible bank, we have to comply with our legal and regulatory obligations and in rare circumstances we may have to freeze a customer’s account without disclosing any information. The funds have now been released and [the reader] has been informed.”

Q. I am an international customer of The Co-operative Bank and I have been locked out of access to my online banking for several days.  Whenever I go online I receive a garbled message about the server status.  When I called the bank the call handler said she did not know anything about the problems.  But on Facebook one of her colleagues reported:  “We’re currently aware of issues for overseas customers and investigating.”  I see from Facebook that other overseas are having the same problems as me.  I would really like to know when the internet banking will once again be available to me and to other customers who are having problems. Surely the bank can sort this out!  NL, Philippines.

A.  A spokesman for The Co-operative Bank says: “The issue is the result of a technical update that has impacted a very small number of customers who access our site from abroad – not online banking but our main brochure site, which links through to online banking.  We are aware of the issue and have been providing those customers who contact us with a direct link through to online banking so they can log into their accounts.”  He added that the issue is now fully resolved and that the bank is confident it will not recur.  However, you tell us that the problems led a delay of several days in receiving £3,000 in your local bank account in the Philippines.