Our local theatre group faces having to close, after our Barclays bank account was emptied by a fraudster.
In January, my father, who is the treasurer of the theatre group, posted a cheque for £336 in a sealed envelope to a publishing company for the performing rights to the play Billy Liar.
Two weeks later, the cheque still hadn’t arrived.
When he called Barclays, he was told that a cheque for £3,036 had been cashed at a Lloyds branch in Halifax, West Yorkshire, leaving the account overdrawn.
Tragedy: A thief emptied a small theatre group’s bank account of £3,036 by cashing a fake check
He was put through to the bank’s fraud department. But, as he couldn’t answer the security questions, he was told to visit his local branch.
There, the bank teller pulled up on the computer a picture of the cheque, which showed that the name of the recipient on the cheque had been changed and the sum of £336 altered to £3,036.
The teller seemed to think the cheque was clearly a fraud and said that the numbers written out in full did not match the digits in the box.
He told us to call the bank’s fraud department again, which we did. However, we still haven’t received the money back — or an explanation.
We’ve also reported it to the police, but they can’t seem to help, either.
We are only a small local group and live hand to mouth. Without this money, we won’t be able to pay our rent, and could have to close.
A. B., Bradford, W. Yorks.
Your story is a timely reminder that while reports of cheque fraud have plummeted in recent years, it can still happen.
And when it does, it is not always easy to prove.
You say that the bank teller who saw the picture of the cheque thought it an obvious case of fraud.
Yet, according to Barclays’ fraud team, the numbers match, the payee name is clearly printed and there are no signs of crossing out that would suggest to someone reviewing the cheque that it was not genuine.
They are not suggesting you are fibbing. They are just trying to explain how the cheque slipped through the net.
Barclays looked into what was said by the member of staff your father spoke to in the branch.
The teller said that they remembered advising it was possible criminals had washed off the ink and re-written the key details.
They also said they thought it was possible that the numbers could have been altered, but they don’t remember saying the numbers didn’t match.
Regardless, Barclays has now agreed to refund the money as a gesture of goodwill.
This, I would suggest, is an excellent result, as banks have become reluctant to cover fraud losses unless they are at fault.
The old tips still apply with cheques: always write in a ballpoint pen and draw a line through any unused space.
Straight To The Point
I have been trying to contact SSE for three weeks, as I think my energy bill is wrong and my meter may be faulty. But I can’t seem to get through on the phone, and I’m fed up with being left on hold. All I want is a call.
L. M., Hants.
SSE says it is sorry you’ve had difficulties getting in touch, and promises to call you.
I bought a Gtech vacuum cleaner, but the battery failed inside the two-year warranty period. I asked for a replacement, but Gtech says this will cost me £69.95.
M. B., East Sussex.
Gtech is adamant that when you first reported the problem with your vacuum cleaner, it was at least three years old — and so no longer covered by the two-year warranty.
Nevertheless, as a goodwill gesture, it has agreed to replace the battery free of charge.
A spokesman says: ‘We are sad to hear of your reader’s experience. Our customers can expect the highest level of service and support from Gtech, and we try to help whenever possible.’
Can I open a cash Isa and a stocks and shares Isa in the same year?
D. L., Bournemouth, Dorset.
you can open one of each in the same tax year. But you can’t put in more than £20,000 across the two in a single year: for example, £5,000 in a cash Isa and £15,000 in a stocks and shares Isa.
Virgin Media offered me a new contract for television, broadband and phone at £30 a month.
An engineer came and set up the TV and broadband, but said that another would have to come out to fix the phone line.
However, when the second engineer arrived a few days later, he said I couldn’t have a Virgin phone line in my area at all.
Two weeks later, I received a bill for £155, and Virgin said that because I didn’t have its phone line, I no longer qualified for the original £30-a-month contract, which was a promotional offer, and therefore had to pay for TV and broadband separately. Hence the large bill.
This doesn’t seem right or fair to me.
G. P., Greenock, Renfrewshire.
The simple facts here are that Virgin sold you a phone, TV and broadband package that it could not provide.
When you were on the phone talking about getting a new plan, you should have been told, in no uncertain terms, whether you could receive Virgin’s phone line before it signed you up.
If you had known this wasn’t possible — and that you therefore didn’t qualify for the discounted £30-a- month price for the bundle — then you would never have agreed to the switch.
Really, this should never have got as far as one engineer visiting you, let alone two.
However, when the second one turned up, Virgin should have responded by cancelling your switchover and waiving any pending payments on your account.
Quite how the situation escalated to the point where you were being billed £155 for services you couldn’t use, only Virgin knows.
To its credit, when I put this to the company, it held up its hands and admitted that it was at fault.
A spokesman says: ‘We are sorry Ms G. P. was misinformed about the Virgin Media services available in her area, and for the incorrect charges incurred on her account as a result.
‘We have refunded the extra charges, and also provided a compensatory sum as a gesture of goodwill.’
You say that you are satisfied with the £50 goodwill gesture and have cancelled your deal.