Helen Martin: Banking changes may turn UK into fraudsters’ paradise

Theresa May is under pressure to reverse her position on branch closures by banks. Picture: Getty
Theresa May is under pressure to reverse her position on branch closures by banks. Picture: Getty
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Theresa May is a stubborn lady, but certainly not as bad as her loathed, female predecessor Margaret Thatcher, famed for her phrase “this lady’s not for turning”.

Dementia tax, resisting another election and raising the national insurance rates for the self-employed account for only a few of Mrs May’s U-turns, leaving her spinning almost as fast as Superman.

She certainly needs to keep her axis well-oiled because the bulk of the population and a vast number of MPs want to see her do an about turn on her insistence that bank closures are a commercial decision and nothing to do with government.

Even when questioned by MPs, bank bosses such as Les Matheson and Jane Howard of RBS have come up with responses that no-one in the country believes. And who can blame us?

Now we know about internal RBS memos in 2009 ordering staff to “let customers hang themselves” in order to make the most banking profits possible.

In 2010 the RBS customer charter vowed it would “never close the last branch in town”. Aye right!

READ MORE: RBS closure of 62 branches ‘morally bankrupt’, says Unite

Today, according to Matheson and Howard, seven out of ten customers use mobile banking and only one per cent regularly use a bricks-and-mortar branch.

Visiting a branch proves that either they are lying, or their statistics don’t match up to reality. Four branches we used in succession closed one after the other, leaving us with one reachable option.

It’s located in an area where parking is so difficult and expensive that, with queues often trailing out the door, just going there costs at least a couple of quid.

At even the busiest times there are only two tellers. The queues contain customers of all ages, certainly not confined to the “elderly and vulnerable”. Even those who do bank online still regularly need to attend a branch, whether that’s for paying in cash, querying problems, signing documents or anything else.

READ MORE: Fake RBS fraud squad scams pensioners out of £300k

Many of us believe the banks are trying to force as many as possible to go online simply because it cuts overheads.

But while that increases the potential for fraud, things are about to get much worse with the “open banking revolution” affecting those signed up to online banking.

It’s a complex business allegedly aiming to increase competition and get people better deals. But ultimately it means customers having their accounts, data and passwords shared with others such as broadband and utility companies. So much for never giving your passwords away … experts are already condemning it as a fraudsters’ charter.

And those who have gone along with it may find it carries another risk. If they do get hit by scammers and fraudsters and lose thousands as a result, their own bank which currently has the duty of keeping their password and accounts access secure, can no longer be held responsible.

To say banking in the UK is in a mess, is an understatement. The elderly and vulnerable – or rather smart and sensible – who still use branches have to contend with closures and we’re now down to only 89 RBS branches in the whole of Scotland … for the meantime.

This is a bank bailed out and 70 per cent owned by the public at a time when the UK population is getting poorer and poorer and banks are becoming more ruthless than ever and a law unto themselves.

What kind of Prime Minister or government would simply turn the other way and let them get on with it?

Council has no crystal ball on Brexit’s effects

CITY Lib Dem councillor Kevin Lang is challenging the five-year economic strategy put together by the SNP-Labour coalition. He claims there should be a deeper analysis of how Edinburgh’s economy will be affected by Brexit.

Oh, surely he’s having a laugh! We can’t say for sure Holyrood’s doom-laden predictions are bang on – though that seems the most in-depth guesswork so far. Westminster, global economists, psychics and astrologers put together don’t yet have the faintest idea of the effects of Brexit, and don’t even know what deal, if any, the UK will strike.

How can he expect a bunch of local councillors to work out what’s coming and future-proof the city?

Tragedy for those poor private school mums

PRIVATE schools are whingeing that their loss of charitable status will see fees rise by £300 a year. Since most fees range from £11,000 to £14,000, mum might have to forfeit a couple of hairdressing appointments. How tragic!