Why we sometimes restrict accounts

 

 

In recent months, there have been some well-publicised complaints about UK banks and account providers freezing customers’ accounts without explanation.

Some of the more high-profile media stories have concerned competitors of Cashplus, but it’s an issue that affects us too. We’ve received questions from customers, commercial partners and journalists and seen a small but vocal minority express some strong opinions on social media.

We know others have offered their own view and explanations, but we thought it might be useful to give our take on some of the questions that come up most often.

Before we do that, we’d just like to make one really important point. Cashplus will only ever restrict an account to protect our customers, or because of a legal obligation.

With that, onto the three questions we’re most often asked:

  • Why do you prevent access to accounts without explanation and why are customers told it’s because of a “restricted account” or “technical difficulties”?

As a regulated financial institution, Cashplus is rightly required to comply with the UK’s money laundering regulations. This is common industry practice for the prevention of crime and protection of our customers.

To make sure we’re complying with these rules and, most importantly, keeping our customers’ money safe, we have automated systems and teams of experts who monitor accounts for suspicious and unusual activities. When these activities are ‘flagged’ a temporary restriction will be placed on the account in question while it is checked.

Often, there is an explanation, so we aim to clear these checks quickly, and the customer will often never notice. Sometimes, we’ll need to carry out further investigation or ask a customer for documents and in a few cases, we will find cause to close the account.

We are also sometimes asked to place restrictions on an account by an outside agency like the National Crime Agency (NCA), which is responsible for investigating fraud and money laundering.

In both scenarios, we are prevented, by law, from telling the customer in question why we have blocked their account. These regulations also prevent us from giving details to any third party that might enquire about account blocking, like a journalist who’s seen people complaining on social media and thinks they could be on to a story.

In the past, we sometimes used the phrase ‘technical difficulties’ as a generic explanation for account restrictions but we no longer use this language.

  • Why are some people on social media saying they’ve been locked out of their account for a long time?

Social media can be a useful tool for keeping in touch with our customers, but it can also be a platform for people to apply pressure to companies, especially banks and financial institutions.

Unfortunately, it’s also popular with financial criminals, who will sometimes try to whip up negative sentiment, or the perception of it, in the hope that the bank in question will, under pressure, release held funds.

This can be frustrating, because the more time we spend dealing with a small minority of detractors, the less useful social media becomes as a way for us to update and interact with genuine customers with legitimate questions.

These fraudsters can be very convincing, often picking up on and exaggerating legitimate customer issues and using highly-emotive stories about urgently needing money for family reasons or to pay employees in order to force rushed decisions.

We, of course, take claims like these very seriously and take care to recognise when genuine customers need our help but, for obvious security reasons, we can’t service accounts through social media and a large majority of our customers use our customer services lines for advice or to tell us about a problem.

  • Why do these issues seem to affect digital banks more than the big high street players?

We can’t speak for others, but in Cashplus’ case, the only answer we can give is that we believe we are better and faster at identifying suspicious account activities than the traditional high street banks.

It’s hard to say whether we take more flak on social media than any other provider, but one thing is clear; Fraudsters don’t like us.

We won’t pretend that Cashplus is perfect, like any challenger, we are trying new things and sometimes we get things wrong. We would love to have no complaints at all, but we believe we are providing a better, more inclusive service than many of the larger players and the feedback we get from customers tells us the same.

Many of the solutions to financial crime and fraud are being driven by digital challengers like us, we punch above our weight in terms of the amount we invest in this and the results we get. We will continue to invest in this area and if we continue to face pressure from those engaged in financial crime, we’ll take is at a sign that we’re doing something right.

 

This content was created on 13th November 2020

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