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Gratitude - it's not in the banking dictionary

Our correspondent writes ...

A few months back, I received a telephone call from the Kent police unit at Bluewater shopping centre asking me to get over to their office as they had my son there. I guess my initial fatherly reaction was panic. Was he OK? Had he done something wrong? No, I was assured, he was giving the police a statement but as he was under 17 years of age at the time my presence was required.

I drove to Bluewater immediately and located the police unit. The whole station was buzzing with excitement and I found my daughter and her fiancée were also giving statements. Every officer in the station was over the moon because my kids had been instrumental in the arrest of a man who was systematically stealing from a cash machine in the shopping centre.

What happened was that my son was queuing at one Barclay's cashpoint and my daughter and her fiancée were at another. My son thought the guy in front of him was taking an extraordinarily long time to get his cash and he eventually moved across to the adjacent machine when it was vacated. He glanced across at the other machine and saw the man remove some sort of device and slip it in his pocket. That was the giveaway clue and the kids sat on a nearby bench and watched for a while.

The man continually drew cash and spoke with another man before rejoining the end of the queue. The two seemed to be working together on a fraud of limitless scale so the children went to the concierge desk.

The police were called and my daughter gave them a detailed description of their appearance and dress. Although the criminals were no longer at the machine when the police arrived, they reappeared minutes later and one was arrested. The other escaped.

By helping the police, my kids put themselves at risk for, as the police told me, this is highly-organised crime carried out by people who are not nice to know. I was concerned because a court appearance could be dangerous and they could not give evidence in secret.

The legal process is such that if the accused admits the crime, witness evidence will not be called. If, on the other hand, he denies the accusation proceedings move to a higher court and witnesses are called.

A few weeks later I received a letter from Gravesham police explaining that the culprit had pleaded "not guilty" at the magistrates' hearing so there was a likelihood the children would have to go to Crown court at a later date. I was by now quite concerned that my children might be traced by the accused man before the next hearing. It was therefore some consolation to learn he would be held in custody as he was an illegal immigrant. The "not guilty" plea was mainly a ploy to extend his stay in the UK.

AT the next hearing, he changed his plea to "guilty", presumably on the realisation that a continued "not guilty" plea would merely lengthen his prison sentence if the court found him guilty. Since he was apprehended with the card-reading device in his possession, there was little chance of him escaping conviction.

In the event, he was sentenced to nine months in prison, and was to be deported to Romania on completion of the sentence. My suspicion is that if it was so easy to get into the UK in the first place, it will be just as easy to get back in after deportation, always assuming, of course, that the authorities are actually waiting for the prison gates to open when he's done his porridge.

Days after the original event, I wrote a personal letter to John Varley, the chief executive officer of Barclay's Bank PLC. I explained the circumstances and suggested the children might appreciate a letter of thanks. To me, a thank you letter would seem to be a natural course of action given the scale of crime associated with credit cards - most of which goes unpunished. My children would not expect a reward because they were not raised that way - a letter would have been fine.

Eight moths have now passed and the children never received any communication from Barclay's Bank. I know my letter reached John Varley because it was acknowledged by Barclay's Customer Relations Manager, Peter Dixon.

The moral of this story? I have advised my children to turn a blind eye in future if they see anybody attempting to steal from Barclay's Bank. I see no point in exposing themselves to possible danger if their actions are not appreciated.

Editorial Comment:

Time and again, our correspondence demonstrates that the people at the top of these corporate trees are often arrogant, ungrateful, ill-mannered bastards (there is no other word for them).
Given the usual standard of business ethics, no-one would expect the chief executive of a major national banking institution to deal directly with people he probably considers as plebs but how long would it actually take to dictate a letter of thanks to a secretary? How much would it benefit public relations to express gratitude for an act of selfless intervention that made even one little dent in the fabric of criminal intent?
It would have taken minutes and the benefits would have been enormous but the truth is that the banks don't give a damn! They constantly reap the benefits of obscene profits and losses can always be offset by levying increased charges on their customers.

Vistors' comments

Wayne Bradley of Skegness writes:

I have been a victim of a on-line scam with an individual using a Barclays account for criminal activity. I have contacted Barclays to inform them that a customer of theirs is using an account for fraud, but they don't seem interested or bothered. I have put the matter in the hands of the police who are now dealing with it.
I contacted the Barclays fraud helpline to report the account in question with full details of sort code and account number and the amount that I had deposited. They confirmed that the sum had been received but would not do anything else to assist me. Their manner was not at all helpful, and after reiterating that a customer of theirs was committing fraud from their account, they simply said, "We cannot do anything further to help you."
My question is this: I have set up bank accounts myself and the checks that were made to open an account were proof of utility, address, etc. So if this account is being used fraudulently are Barclays doing their checks correctly? Obviously not. What would be Barclays opinion be if the account was being used for terrorism or drug related offences? Would it be the same reply of 'we cannot do anything'.
I will be publicising this matter until Barclay's address it properly.

"Many men stumble across the truth ... but most manage to pick themselves up and continue as if nothing had happened."

Winston S Churchill

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