Tony Hetherington is Financial Mail on Sunday’s ace investigator, fighting readers corners, revealing the truth that lies behind closed doors and winning victories for those who have been left out-of-pocket. Find out how to contact him below.
Ms S.C. writes: Microsoft has proved unwilling to close the Skype account of my late mother since it appeared to be hacked last November. I have sent it her death certificate and the Grant of Probate, but I have made no progress. It would appear the only way it would consider closing the Skype account is if I obtain a court subpoena. But I am not asking it for any information, just the closure of the account. It appears uninterested in the fact it has been hacked.
Cannot cancel: Closing accounts after a family member has died is surprisingly difficult
Your mother died in 2012, but suddenly last November her Skype account burst into life again when someone you know received a message from it. The message recommended a dating website, with the claim: ‘It’s better than Tinder!’
You contacted Microsoft, which runs Skype, and you were asked for your mother’s death certificate, which you supplied. Shockingly, Microsoft replied: ‘We are unable to assist with the accounts of people who have passed away.’
You replied that as the executor of your mother’s estate, you wanted a supervisor to reconsider the matter. But the supervisor told you: ‘We cannot delete or make changes to an account without the account owner’s permission, regardless of the situation.’
She added: ‘For Microsoft to make any changes, a subpoena needs to be provided.’ She gave you 24 hours to reply or the company would regard the matter as closed.
I have the strong feeling Microsoft only paid heed to US laws. When you contacted the company’s UK office in Reading, you were told it had never received such a request from an executor.
You kept being told staff could not give you any information about your mother’s Skype account – even when you repeatedly told it you did not want information, just for the account to be closed so the hacker could not use it.
I asked Microsoft exactly what families should do in these circumstances – or was it happy to let the names of deceased Skype users bounce around cyberspace apparently sending inappropriate messages and upsetting their relatives.
Microsoft told me it would immediately suspend the account and that ‘the team are working with the customer’ – overlooking the fact that your mother died six years ago.
Finally, Microsoft admitted it had mishandled your closure request. It said: ‘The account in question has now been blocked and can no longer be used.’
Microsoft said it would review what had gone wrong and implement any necessary improvements to avoid a repetition.
The internet giant then came back and said its review had given it the chance to re-examine and clarify procedures. It concluded: ‘If a family would like to close the account of a deceased relative, they should contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org, where they will need to first validate ownership of the account.’
My confidence was only slightly dented by the fact that a day later Microsoft told you the company is ‘now working to adjust our processes to provide assistance to individuals with needs such as yours’. So has Microsoft really concluded its review and got its act together?
You might think that with all the adverse publicity surrounding the big beasts of the internet jungle and their inability to stop leaks, hacking and other offences, Microsoft would have had in place years ago a simple procedure for closing a deceased customer’s account. But it seems not.
Whether it has one now is anyone’s guess.
Why did PC World cut off my broadband without asking me?
H.J. writes: I work as a photographer. My landline and wi-fi connection have been fraudulently migrated from my service provider, MacAce, to another company without my agreement or authorisation. The person who apparently requested the transfer gave my address and the line is now with TalkTalk.
You have had the same phone number for more than 30 years and it was known to all your customers.
Suddenly you lost that number as well as your broadband connection and were forced to work from an internet cafe. You even started to receive bills from TalkTalk showing your address but someone else’s name.
STEVE WEBB ANSWERS YOUR PENSION QUESTIONS
But TalkTalk is an innocent party in this. I found the migration request came from the Currys PC World store in Enfield, North London. At first, Currys PC World said: ‘A full investigation into the issue was conducted which concluded the issue was due to external factors outside of our control.’
But when I asked it to explain how something that happened in one of its stores was outside its control, it gave a new statement: ‘We are sorry that Mr J’s broadband service was transferred in error. This was due to a mistake in setting up a transfer for a different customer.’
The Enfield branch had your details because you bought a fridge there several months ago. You then had to complain because the bill included an extended warranty you did not want.
Armed with all this detail, you have been in contact with MacAce to restore your service. TalkTalk did nothing wrong but has offered £50 to make up for the inconvenience.
Currys has contacted you with an apology and £100 in compensation, which you have accepted.
Bank lost my package – but is STILL charging me
P.C. writes: Last October, I went to Lloyds Bank at Pride Hill in Shrewsbury and asked to withdraw two packages it held in safe storage for me. I was told they were no longer stored there, but the branch would get them. I returned a week later and one package was ready but not the other. I was told to come back and I have returned almost every week since then, but staff say they cannot find the missing package. To make matters worse, Lloyds is still charging me to store it.
There should have been no reason for the bank to stonewall. I asked officials at the head office of Lloyds to step in and they did just that. Within a few days you were asked to meet the branch manager. She admitted the package – which contained your will – could not be found and apologised.
Lloyds has told me: ‘We take the custody of our customers’ property and personal information seriously and we are sorry for the distress this situation has caused Mr C.
‘The bank manager at our Pride Hill branch has met Mr C and we have reimbursed him for the expenses he has incurred as a result of this error – and have offered compensation as a gesture of goodwill.’
You now have £250 which will more than cover the cost of replacing your will.
If you believe you are the victim of financial wrongdoing, write to Tony Hetherington at Financial Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TS or email email@example.com. Because of the high volume of enquiries, personal replies cannot be given. Please send only copies of original documents, which we regret cannot be returned.
Read Tony Hetherington’s case files at thisismoney.co.uk/hetherington
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