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Tuesday, December 7, 2021

‘My autistic son was a victim of an ATM scam and then ignored by his bank’

Dear Sally,

My son is autistic and has learning difficulties. In the summer he was on his way to a club he attends for people with disabilities when a woman waylaid him with a hard luck story and persuaded him to donate her some money.

As he is rather innocent and gullible he was easy prey. He said he would give her £10 but needed to get the money out of a nearby cashpoint. After he put in his card and entered his Pin, this woman took control of the keyboard and withdrew £100. He was panicked and asked for his card back but she repeated the transaction twice more, pocketing £300. She then fled, leaving him a shivering wreck.

With the help of one of the attendants at the club, he reported the incident to a branch of his bank Santander. The staff were very sympathetic and stopped his card. The following day, on my request, it moved most of his balance into another account.

We reported the incident to the police, who interviewed my son and said they would inspect the CCTV. Not long afterwards I wrote to Santander asking it to consider reimbursing the money as he was the victim of a scam.

Banks often return money to victims of online frauds who lose thousands of pounds. This was a relatively modest amount but it is a substantial sum to my son. He works part time at a Covid vaccination centre and it would take him about eight shifts to make up this loss. He found the whole incident extremely upsetting.

MJ, Stourbridge

Sally says:

What a horrible thing to have happened to your son. There are some truly nasty people out there who think nothing of taking advantage of the most vulnerable in society.

I realise this incident, known as a “shoulder surfing” scam, was not the fault of Santander. But I nevertheless thought that as your son’s bank it might consider reimbursing his losses because of the exceptional circumstances involved. I also thought the bank could have made more effort to at least acknowledge your plea for assistance, which you had made more than two months before I got involved.

After my intervention, Santander contacted you to say it had unfortunately not seen your letter, which had either not reached the bank or had gone astray. But all’s well that ends well, as Santander did not hesitate in agreeing to reimburse your son’s £300.

A spokesman said: “We are sorry for the time taken to review the customer’s claim. Given the specific circumstances of his case, we can confirm that we have refunded his loss in full, plus £150 in recognition of the delay in processing his claim.”

The bank also agreed with you and your son to restrict cash withdrawal limits on his account to protect him in the future. Of course, you hope that such an incident will never occur again and you said your son would forever be on his guard against such scammers.

You said you were grateful to Santander for its “kindness and generosity”.

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