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The Spaniard

Experian Blocks Access To Sainsburys Bank Account

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A close friend of mine logged into her Sainsburys online bank account today to find that access was denied.

She immediately telephoned Sainsburys Bank customer services and was asked a few questions that she was told had been provided to Sainsburys by Experian.

She answered them all correctly including the trick question about her 'loan' - to which she truthfully replied that she has never had a loan.

The only question that she answered wrongly was "How long have you been in your current house?".

She answered "since 2006", out by one year since it was in fact 2005, an understandable off the cuff error.

No attempt was made to ask her Sainsburys security questions (e.g. favourite singer, memorable place, etc ...) set up when the account was opened.

Sainsburys continue to block her account pending the receipt from her, via snail mail, of two other recent, original bank statements.

The only reason given was that the Experian questions had been answered incorrectly.

When did Experian gain these powers to block a person's access to the money in their own bank accounts?

I thought they just did credit checks?

Why have Sainsburys delegated their security checking responsibility to a third party?

Note: Fortunately she happens to have two other bank accounts, one with the COOP and one with NatWest.

Incidentally, these two accounts are both formally linked to her (now blocked) Sainsburys account, with several historic transactions between them recorded.

What would happen to some other poor soul who didn't?

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Why have Sainsburys delegated their security checking responsibility to a third party?

Because they are a supermarket. All of their 'bank' is provided by someone else.

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I'd like to widen the topic a little.

Suppose one day you try to access an online deposit account and find that it is blocked and "Awaiting Authorization".

You cannot even check the balance to see if recent deposits have arrived safely.

You have no idea why this has happened. You phone customer services.

Surprisingly, at no time are you asked any of the agreed security questions that you set up with the bank when the account was opened (e.g. place of birth, favourite singer, etc ....)

Instead you are asked questions about a non-existent loan, to which you reply truthfully that you know nothing about it, never took out a loan, and so on.

You are then informed that your account will remain blocked because you gave the 'wrong' answer to 'the questions given to us by Experian'.

Unblocking the account is a process that involves sending, via snail mail, two recent original statements from two other banks.

Luckily you happen to have two other bank accounts. You dare not think what would happen if you didn't have them.

You chase around town to secure the required recent original (photocopies or printouts won't do) hard copy statements.

You post them off pronto, using Royal Mail Special Delivery (cost £6.45) to minimise any delay.

The bank then sends back to you, again via snail mail, a 'telephone reference number'.

You are then required to telephone the bank and repeat back to them this number.

You are informed that even this laborious process might not happen for 'a few working days' while the bank 'processes' your two bank statements.

You could end up having no access to, or information about, your own deposit account, for up to two weeks, for no fault of your own.

All on the say-so of an unaccountable, and likely ill-informed, credit checking set-up.

Experian sucks.

Rant over. :(

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I'd like to widen the topic a little.

Suppose one day you try to access an online deposit account and find that it is blocked and "Awaiting Authorization".

You cannot even check the balance to see if recent deposits have arrived safely.

You have no idea why this has happened. You phone customer services.

Surprisingly, at no time are you asked any of the agreed security questions that you set up with the bank when the account was opened (e.g. place of birth, favourite singer, etc ....)

Instead you are asked questions about a non-existent loan, to which you reply truthfully that you know nothing about it, never took out a loan, and so on.

You are then informed that your account will remain blocked because you gave the 'wrong' answer to 'the questions given to us by Experian'.

Unblocking the account is a process that involves sending, via snail mail, two recent original statements from two other banks.

Luckily you happen to have two other bank accounts. You dare not think what would happen if you didn't have them.

You chase around town to secure the required recent original (photocopies or printouts won't do) hard copy statements.

You post them off pronto, using Royal Mail Special Delivery (cost £6.45) to minimise any delay.

The bank then sends back to you, again via snail mail, a 'telephone reference number'.

You are then required to telephone the bank and repeat back to them this number.

You are informed that even this laborious process might not happen for 'a few working days' while the bank 'processes' your two bank statements.

You could end up having no access to, or information about, your own deposit account, for up to two weeks, for no fault of your own.

All on the say-so of an unaccountable, and likely ill-informed, credit checking set-up.

Experian sucks.

Rant over. :(

everything in writing, go for compensation from Sainsbury's. It's the only way they will learn.

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Document all your costs, add about £50 for inconvenience (you were unable to commit to a purchase because you were unable to access your account to verify funds, etc.), distress and time. In particular, you should make clear that the lack of information was concerning, and the fact that they appear to have incorrect information about you is a breach of the data protection act.

Send a letter of complaint along with your estimation of costs.

My experience is that they usually cough up.

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Thanks, HPC people. Some good advice.

The 'close friend' is in fact my wife and we have sent letters of complaint to Sainsburys Bank along with the requested documents.

We have also sent details to a well known daily broadsheet newspaper.

What I find most worrying is that an unaccountable, seemingly incompetent and shadowy third party can come between a bank and its customer and block an account without involving that customer, and for no communicated specific reason. If they don't like your answers to their arbitrary, and mostly bizarre and irrelevant questions, the account stays blocked.

On reflection, the telephone conversation with Sainsburys Bank was very strange.

My wife's identity was not questioned or formally established, as it usually is when telephoning Sainsburys Bank customer services.

She was not required to answer any of Sainsburys' previously agreed security questions.

So, as far as Sainsburys knew when they conducted the call, and according to their own security protocols, they could have been talking to anyone.

The conversation was all about the Experian questions, involving phantom loans and spurious questions about CCJs and defaults on car loans.

To emphasize the Kafkaesque nature of the incident, the account is a deposit account and nothing to do with anyone's credit history, good, bad or indifferent.

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I would add that if it turns out that Experian have f'd up in some way, write to them for compo too. At the least try to get 5 years free access to their credit checking service - helps you keep an eye on this data to prevent any future such messups...

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The whole "two recent statements" thing is rather worrying in general since I have less and less on paper. When I set up mail redirection the last time I moved the form required two utility bills from the last however many months, which I simply didn't have (atlhough thankfully the person in the post office was reasonable enough about that). Getting stuff on paper just in case and presumably sending a cheque off every time just in case seems like an awful unnecessary faff (there's plenty of modern changes I dislike, this isn't one of them).

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I'll admit I don't know enough about Sainsburys bank, or any of the other similar 'new' banks setup by businesses that hitherto have been in some other line of business, but my understanding is that the main appeal of them is that they supposedly offer small financial advantage over the more familiar 'proper' high street banks (e.g HSBC, Natwest, etc) and that they have introduced some welcome competition to retail banking?

I stand ready to be corrected on the above BUT my further understanding is that the supposed financial gain (e.g better savings rates, etc) is minimal? IF so then this described incident serves to support my lack of general sympathy - for the simple reason that, in general, if you pay peanuts you get monkeys.

My time and calm are far too valuable to be wasted by having to deal with such irritating incidents - and the inevitable extra hassle required to regain access to the account, etc. With a conventional high street bank one at least has the option of walking straight into a branch and sorting the matter out pronto.

So, very simply, whatever little you had gained till now, by virtue of banking with Sainsburys Bank, would have been entirely lost by this incident. That's just my view on it.

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It sounds to me like Sainsbury's Bank have implemented an electronic identity verification system provided by Experian, hence uses information that Experian hold.

The decision to block/restrict access to the account has been taken by Sainsbury's Bank, not by Experian.

Experian would not make the decision to block access, the Sainsbury's Bank system will have a flag indicating that identity verification has not been successful.

When someone applies for a loan or mortgage, Experian/Equifax/Callcredit, etc. do not themselves make the decision on whether or not to lend. They provide the data (and possibly also the decisioning systems) that enable to lenders to arrive at a decision that meets the current policy of the lender.

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I looked at my Experian file recently. There is an active loan showing that was repaid about five years ago and a couple of other minor inaccuracies.

I look at the documentation. It says I'm supposed to contact the lender in question because in essence Experian just disseminate the information and aren't responsible for it.

If someone suffers actual loss because the Press print information about them that is not true, then the newspaper in question cannot simply say "Not our fault. Out source was wrong. Take it up with them." It is potentially libellous and the newspaper is culpable and indeed liable.

So what's the difference here? Were I to be disadvantaged in any way by Experian releasing incorrect data about me, how do they somehow escape liability for that?

Isn't it up to the individual to sue Experian if necessary, and for Experian to sue the creditor in turn?

If not, it seems to set a very worrying precedent.

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I'll admit I don't know enough about Sainsburys bank, or any of the other similar 'new' banks setup by businesses that hitherto have been in some other line of business, but my understanding is that the main appeal of them is that they supposedly offer small financial advantage over the more familiar 'proper' high street banks (e.g HSBC, Natwest, etc) and that they have introduced some welcome competition to retail banking?

I stand ready to be corrected on the above BUT my further understanding is that the supposed financial gain (e.g better savings rates, etc) is minimal? IF so then this described incident serves to support my lack of general sympathy - for the simple reason that, in general, if you pay peanuts you get monkeys.

My time and calm are far too valuable to be wasted by having to deal with such irritating incidents - and the inevitable extra hassle required to regain access to the account, etc. With a conventional high street bank one at least has the option of walking straight into a branch and sorting the matter out pronto.

So, very simply, whatever little you had gained till now, by virtue of banking with Sainsburys Bank, would have been entirely lost by this incident. That's just my view on it.

Exactly my view on the subject, especially in this low interest rate environment where the difference in savings rate is minimal.

These banks are built specially to pray on loyalties to a brand name, nothing else, they are pretty much nothing to do with the brand in question and as they have no actual branches in a vast majority of cases all you ever get is monkey reading a script at the end of a phone.

How many people build a career as a telephone bank person, not many I'd say, but go in to a branch and you will find a number of motivated career bank employees. You make a call to a call centre and it's pot luck getting somebody in the same country, let alone the same office and even more unlikely the same person. Go in to a branch and you will more than likely see the same person, or can at least ask for them by name. They are motivated to give you the service you need and sort out the problem at hand. With a phone call the priority is call volume, they are not in the slightest bit interested or motivated in sorting out the issue IMO, they have a supervisor on their back wanting 20 calls answered in a day.

There are the odd exceptions, First Direct being one, but they have built their business on Telephone and Internet banking.

No business is a charity, it's all about profit, banking is no different and so if you are getting a great savings rate of 0.3% more than the high street it's coming with the knowledge that extra interest has to be scrapped off the over heads somewhere (granted there is a saving on the branches). You are basically already going through a third party when opening the account, not much of a surprise when further elements then get outsourced.

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You've probably already done this but did you ensure that this whole thing isn't some virus/malware and you've provided a load of detail to some scammers?

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"The only question that she answered wrongly was "How long have you been in your current house?".

She answered "since 2006", out by one year since it was in fact 2005, an understandable off the cuff error."


No it's not an off the cuff error.

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"The only question that she answered wrongly was "How long have you been in your current house?".

She answered "since 2006", out by one year since it was in fact 2005, an understandable off the cuff error."

No it's not an off the cuff error.

Yes, it is.

First, it is an error.

Second, it was given 'off the cuff' in the sense that my wife was surprised by it and gave a spontaneous guess.

Third, to me at least this is understandable in the circumstances, though with hindsight she should have asked for time to check before replying.

However, by this time she had been asked several spurious, and to her bizarre, questions about phantom loans, CCJs, etc. and was rather perplexed.

SB have changed to a new security system based on questions supplied by Experian.

We were not informed about this important change so my wife was expecting the old security protocol and questions.

She was ill prepared to answer the new, and actually rather weird, questions.

What we want to know is what event triggered the status of 'Awaiting Authorisation' which my wife found on the account when she logged in on 12 June.

Her last successful login was only a few days previously with no problems.

What had changed in the meantime?

On whose authority?

Why was she not contacted at the time of this change in status?

Had Experian and SB data mined all SB customer accounts and selected some for this change of status?

If so, on what criteria?

Bear in mind that the change in status had happened before the phone call - indeed it was the reason for the phone call.

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Some information here on the Experian website about the Identity Questioning process.

It might be that some banking regulations on identity/money laundering checks have been tightened up across the board.

One of my credit card companies wrote to me recently, advising me they do not hold sufficient proof of my identity, and that I need to prove who I am. Despite them credit searching me when the account was opened over five years ago.

It would be ideal if I could prove my identity electronically, but I have the choice/hassle of obtaining two certified copy documents and posting them, or visiting a store with the original documents, or visiting a bank branch by prior arrangement.

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I've recently been going through the remortgaging process and failed the identity check.

I've worked at the same place for 8 years, banked with the same bank for 10, held a mortgage for 3 and I'm on the electoral roll.

Utterly bizarre IMO, I had to send originals of passport, driving licence, council tax bill and another utility.

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I've recently been going through the remortgaging process and failed the identity check.

I've worked at the same place for 8 years, banked with the same bank for 10, held a mortgage for 3 and I'm on the electoral roll.

Utterly bizarre IMO, I had to send originals of passport, driving licence, council tax bill and another utility.

You should have refused. Told them that they had reasonably identified you under the UK regulations and if they wasted any more of your time you would be i) reporting them to the banking ombudsman and ii) billing them at 25 quid an hour.

Nine time out of ten it's some powder monkey with no links to the right department in the bank making it up as they go along.

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