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Why HSBC can continue to fuck themselves with a massive cactus, but can do so £100 lighter

16 November 2010 by superlative

My three month saga of complaining to HSBC and bad-mouthing them to anyone who will listen would appear to be coming to a close. You can read my previous posts about it, if you’re feeling masochistic, in chronological order here, here and here.

At the weekend I received the bank’s official Final Response from someone who purports to be the/a manager in the customer relations department, i.e. not from some dipshit belonging to the Fraud Detection Team based in India who basically don’t give a fuck.

It has been a long hard slog of refusing to accept their useless, contradictory, misleading replies and persisting in complaining more loudly at each step of the way. But I have finally had a response from them that a) fully addresses the detailed complaint letters I have been sending them without sidestepping the harder-to-explain-because-you’re-basically-liars issues; and b) doesn’t leave me feeling like I want to explode with rage.

I still think it is appalling that I have had to write to them three times before getting a satisfactory response, or even a response that made sense and didn’t make matters worse. Their customer service has been completely reprehensible. They should have nipped this in the bud much earlier on, but they clearly didn’t realise how much energy I was prepared to devote to going on at them.

I am going painstakingly to type out the full text of their reply below, but by all means skip it if you can’t be bothered. I’m only doing it because I vowed to publish all parts of my correspondence with them on here, and because like that old baggage in Nanny McPhee I never, ever break my word (although I actually do, all the time in fact, you should check out my marriage vows, they’re in more tatters than Paris Hilton’s knickers).

The short version of their reply, for your convenience if you don’t want to read it all is:

  • they have accepted that the Fraud Detection Team gave me contradictory, misleading and incorrect information.
  • while they don’t accept that the Fraud Detection Team intentionally lied to me (they so did though), they can see why it may seem that way to me.
  • they have admitted that the Fraud Detection Team do not know exactly how a customer’s card was compromised (i.e. when they say the police have found your number on a list of copied card numbers, they don’t actually know this is true; it is just one of a few different scenarios that are possible reasons for your card being flagged. They pick the scariest one in order to scare you so you’ll let them cancel the card).
  • in the spirit of conciliation, and acknowledging that I have never actually asked for any compensation, they want to give me ONE HUNDRED ENGLISH FUCKING POUNDS to reflect the ‘frustration’ I have been caused.

So yay! The moral of the story is: DON’T BELIEVE what the Fraud Protection Dickwads tell you (as I’ve always maintained), and COMPLAIN COMPLAIN COMPLAIN because eventually they’ll give you money to shut you up. I never expected to get any cash for this, I’ve been inconvenienced and annoyed but never actually lost any money, so it hadn’t even occurred to me. But because they want to resolve the complaint and because they know £100 is a lot of money to most people, they dangle it in front of you on condition that you accept the matter is now closed.

My only alternative if I wanted to pursue the complaint further is to take it to the financial ombudsman, which I think HSBC would rather avoid because it doesn’t make them look very good. The ombudsman has no power to fine or sanction the bank though, or to make them pay me anything beyond money I’ve lost as a result of their actions, so I really don’t see the point in going through that whole process now. My aim throughout this has been to highlight how rubbish their policies are, and how terrible their Fraud Detection Cuntbiscuits are at dealing with customers. It took a LONG time just to get the complaint escalated beyond the Fraud Detection Department, but I feel much more satisfied now that someone in that big HSBC building in Canada Square has read my complaint, spent weeks compiling all the details (he really has, you can tell), and has sent me back a proper, measured response.

So yay me, yay for the cactus, and yay for free money. And I’ve already changed bank now anyway, so they can’t do it to me any more. So fuck you, HSBC.

Herewith, their letter which you don’t have to read. I’m off to do an I’ve-Got-£100 dance.

— Letter follows. Comments in caps are my own —

I write from HSBC Customer Relations Department with regard to your ongoing complaint about the bank’s fraud prevention procedures, as they have applied to your accounts.

At HSBC we like to resolve complaints quickly and efficiently, ideally at the first point of contact. I regret that on this occasion, despite the best efforts of my colleagues based in our Fraud Prevention Team (BEST EFFORTS? HAHAHAHA!), you remain dissatisfied with the bank’s overall response to date.

As such, in accordance with our internal complaint handling procedures, the matter has been passed to this office for review. I write this letter, the bank’s final response in the matter, with the aim of clarifying our position and setting out your entitlements vis-à-vis the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS).

Thank you for your email to HSBC Service Quality, dated 20 September 2010; it is clear that we have not provided a satisfactory response to the points you have raised.

Unfortunately, my colleagues in the Fraud Detection Team have provided you with some incorrect information regarding the compromise of your card and for this I apologise.

To explain, as an organisation, we receive information regarding card compromises from various sources and it is this which has led to the inconsistent information you have been provided (THAT AND THE FACT YOUR STAFF ARE LIARS).

We are not able to circulate widely the specific information regarding the card compromise because, as previously informed, this information is highly restricted so we do not jeopardise any ongoing investigations. (CONVENIENT)

I can confirm that fraudsters do on occasion use ‘random number generation’ to obtain card details, however due to enhancements in the authorisation system and our fraud strategies, fraudsters are now significantly less successful using this technique.

Unfortunately, with the information available to them, operatives based within our Fraud Detection Team are unable to determine exactly how a card could have been compromised. Nonetheless, I can tell you this could have taken place through a variety of channels, for example malware attacks, a data hack into a retailer’s computer or through a collusive member of staff working for a legitimate retailer.

When we receive information regarding compromised cards we prefer not to cancel the cards immediately as we cannot be sure they will be used fraudulently. To provide a better service (HA!) and have less of an impact on our customers (HA!), we find it more effective to ‘mark’ the accounts in order to monitor the spending on these cards and to highlight any suspicious usage on the account. The card details may not be used fraudulently immediately but there is still a risk that the card can be used fraudulently in future.

As such, once an account has been highlighted to our Fraud Detection Department due to suspicious usage, we take the opportunity to cancel and replace the card as a precaution.

We do provide the Fraud Detection Team with regular training in order to help them deal with this type of call but unfortunately, some of the team may have inadvertently (YEAH RIGHT) provided incorrect information to customers whilst attempting to explain what has happened to their card.

I do not think the Fraud Detection Team intentionally lied to you, however, I can understand that it may seem this way when you are given conflicting information from different team members regarding the compromise of your card. I have therefore arranged that appropriate feedback be given to the staff members involved in order to prevent any repeat occurrences in future.

The Fraud Detection calls in question have been reviewed, and I can confirm that when you spoke to my colleague on 2 August she cancelled and replaced your debit card due to the presence of the marker. She also checked to make sure the credit card was available to use but unfortunately there was also a marker on this card which may have prevented you from using the card. (<- THIS DOESN’T ACTUALLY ADDRESS HOW THIS CARD COULD HAVE BEEN COMPROMISED WHEN I NEVER USE IT)

As your debit card had already been cancelled you were offered a marker that would have restricted the use on the card but still allowed you to use the card until the new debit card had been received. I apologise if you feel the operator was being ‘malicious’ in dealing with both cards at the same time but, from the recording of the call, it seemed that it was her intention to appear helpful by doing this. (CANCELLING BOTH CARDS AT THE SAME TIME, ELIMINATING ALL ACCESS TO MY MONEY = VERY HELPFUL THANKS)

Unfortunately, as there are various ways in which card details can be compromised, I cannot provide specific instructions to stop this happening again in future.

Having said that, there are things you can do to minimise the risk of this happening again. Please allow me to set out some proven tips on how cardholders can safeguard themselves from fraudsters.

  • If you are travelling abroad, we would like to know your travel plans so please contact us. This will allow us to update our Fraud Detection Systems, which will significantly reduce the possibility of inconvenience to you when using your card(s) abroad.
  • When using your card be aware of people around you. Always use your hand to shield your PIN to make sure your PIN remains private.
  • Never disclose your PIN when ordering by phone, mail-order or online. The only person that should know your PIN is you.
  • Never divulge your HSBC telephone security number to anyone calling you, even if they claim to be HSBC staff or a Police Officer. HSBC will only use this code to identify you when you call us. (THE FRAUD TEAM HAVE ASKED ME FOR THIS BEFORE WHEN THEY HAVE CALLED ME THOUGH, BECAUSE THEY ARE IDIOTS).
  • Shred all documents that contain sensitive information such as name, address, date of birth, etc. to help prevent identity theft.
  • Avoid spam emails and pop ups. See if you can select a filter option on your PC or if you can upgrade to a newer version which does. (YAWN)
  • Download your free security software to safeguard your PC from the risk of infection from viruses by clicking on the free Rapport security link from our website. (THIS ISN’T WHAT RAPPORT DOES)
  • Only access personal internet banking or shopping sites by typing in a web address. Never use a link from an e-mail.
  • Block unwanted spam as this will also block most phishing emails.
  • Register for Verified by Visa to make your online payments more secure.
  • Is there an “s” after “http” in the address box? If URL begins with https, the chances are it’s a secure site.
  • Look for the padlock symbol in the browser window as you proceed to payment.

For further information on how you can protect yourself from fraud please go to our website and follow the Security links.

I am sorry to hear of your concerns; you have been a valued customer of the bank – our systems indicate that you have held accounts with the organisation since 1993 – and I would like the opportunity to restore your faith in the bank in the future.

As such, although I understand that you have not in fact requested any form of financial compensation in respect of this matter, the bank will offer £100.00 to reflect the frustration caused by the incorrect information you had previously been given. This offer is made, in order to bring matters to a final conclusion, and I do hope that this offer will be viewed in the conciliatory spirit it is intended.

To denote your acceptance of the bank’s offer, please sign and return the attached declaration in the prepaid envelope provided. On receipt of this, I will arrange for your account to be credited.

Alternatively, should you continue to consider that the bank has not responded fairly to your complaint, I am now formally obliged to inform you that, you do now have the right to refer your complaint to the FOS.  Should this course of action indeed prove necessary, I will confirm that the bank will co-operate fully with the investigation and be guided by any ultimate Ombudsman adjudication.

Thank you for taking the time to bring your concerns to the bank’s attention.  I am only sorry that it was necessary for you to do so.

— Letter ends. Insert KA-CHING noise and modest shower of money —


Other posts on this topic:
Why HSBC can go fuck themselves with a massive cactus
Why HSBC can go fuck themselves with a massive cactus – part 2, they may now insert the pot as well
Why HSBC can go fuck themselves with a massive cactus – part 3, the forearm’s going in


  1. Helen says:

    OUTSTANDING! It is absurd that you had to go through any of this but that letter does at least appear to have been wrriten by someone with a grasp of customer service skills. And one hundred free pounds. I think you should blog about everything you spend that on.

  2. superlative says:

    I may have already spent it, even though it hasn’t arrived yet. I’m not one to hang about.

  3. Chung says:

    I read this with great interest as I’ve been having very similar problems without he fraud team – they are unbelievable!

    I’m currently waiting for a response to my email below (not holding out much hope!)

    “Hello.  Me again.

    Unfortunately I have not received a reply from you to my e-mail below,
    other than an acknowledgment received from Andrew Powell to say that my
    message has been sent “immediately to the department concerned”.  I
    assume that the “department concerned” is your Fraud Prevention
    Department which, ironically, fills me with concern.

    As advised in my e-mail below, BE Unlimited did indeed try to take
    payment from my account on Saturday 4 December and, despite my warning
    to you below, the payment failed.  Again.  This has adversely affected
    my credit rating.  Again.  

    I would very much like to hear your excuse as to why this was allowed to
    happen, despite my warning to you.

    Similarly, I would be estatic to hear your reasons for why, despite two
    e-mails and numerous telephone calls, I have not received your fabled
    “account closure pack” – someone more cynical than me could conclude
    that you are being deliberately evasive in order to prevent me from
    closing the account.  I do not believe that however because I know that
    (i) whilst there is what I consider to be a healthy positive balance in
    my accounts, my accounts are probably insignificant to your overall
    business and you therefore could not care less whether I close my
    accounts, or write whiny complainy e-mails, or if I am hit by a bus (my
    life assurance policy is not with HSBC) and (ii) I have seen first hand
    over the past few months just how badly you treat your customers and
    such conduct to certainly not consistent with a bank that actually wants
    to retain customers.

    But I am strangely conflicted and I cannot reconcile the fact that (i)
    you will not send me a mystical “account closure pack” but yet (ii) you
    are doing almost everything in your power to convince me to close my
    accounts (by denying me access to funds that I hold with you).  

    I also have just spent the best part of an hour on the telephone with
    “Paul” at your Fraud Prevention Team and he was quite amazingly
    simultaneously unhelpful and evasive and he could not offer any
    explanation as to why, despite my e-mails and protestations, no one saw
    fit to contact me in the period from beginning of November to date,
    despite your “serious” concerns about the security of my account (and
    instead saw fit to send me a message via your internal Internet Banking
    meesaging system – for which I receive no notification of unless I log
    in and specifically check).  I would very much like a copy of the tape
    recording of that call so that if anyone ever asks me to recall the
    darkest moment of my life, or asks me to name the most unhelpful human
    being I have ever met, I can play them that tape and shed a tear.

    I look forward to hearing from you (I will keep my eyes open for
    messages sent via your internal messaging system, carrier pigeons and
    smoke signals in case you decide to communicate with me that way).

    Kind regards.”

  4. superlative says:

    I love it! That’s one of the funniest comments I’ve had on here. I hope you’ve remembered to leave a window open for carrier pigeons.

    Sorry to hear you’ve also had problems with them; I knew it couldn’t just be me. The customer service skills of their Fraud Prevention team are AWFUL, they must lose them so many customers, it’s absolutely ridiculous.

    The Co-Operative Bank have been pretty good so far (fingers crossed) if you’re still looking for someone to switch to. And if you keep complaining at them for an insanely long time you MAY get £100, you never know!

  5. Henrik says:

    They suck. I have to keep them for international banking purposes, but I think I will wind down my use of them to a minimum.

  6. Denise says:

    Urg!! I hear you, I hear you! I have been banking with them since I was a teenager but was out of the country for a few years. I returned last year and it has been a nightmare since. They kept canceling my debit card without telling me…….and I only found out when I was left standing at the checkout unable to pay for my groceries with a declined card…..not once, not twice, but 3 times!! All to do with sending my card to the wrong branch/address, reissuing it correctly…..then cancelling the wrong one, then doing the whole thing again…….and then cancelling MY debit card when they mis-issued my husbands! To add insult to injury, today I received a call from the fraud department to say my debit card had been compromised and they were cancelling it. Okay. Fine. I still have my credit card. You know what’s coming……4 hours later, my credit card has now also been compromised. At that point I had to ask, how the hell have both of my cards been compromised on the same day if it’s nothing to do with their website? You tell me. I have no clue. I use the cc very sparingly and I don’t make a lot of purchases online with either. Seems dodgy to say the least. So I’m thinking new bank. Any recommendations?

  7. superlative says:

    I’m not remotely surprised; that’s exactly the sort of thing they do. The only other bank I’ve used is the one I moved to after HSBC, which is the Co-operative Bank. They’re not AMAZING or anything, but they definitely are better. I’ve not had my card cancelled in nearly three years with them – I’ve had a couple of automated phone calls where they’ve checked that a transaction was really made by me (it was, each time) but once you confirm that they leave you alone and don’t cancel anything. I know they also generally get quite high ratings on customer service surveys and things. So based on my limited experience of two banks, I’d say the Co-operative is definitely better!

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