Man told to repay £17,000 to bank despite never having an account with them


A man has been left with £17,000 worth of debt and a crippled credit score after fraudsters, who he believes broke into his letterbox, managed to steal his identity and open bank accounts in his name before going on a spending spree.

Jamie Cavanagh, 37, a civil engineer from East Grinstead, West Sussex, received a letter in January 2024 from HSBC showing he spent more than £12,000 on a credit card despite having never banked or dealt with them in his life.

He then discovered an HSBC current account with an overdraft of £5,000 had been opened in his name and “maxed out” – and that his credit rating had plummeted by more than 300 points over the past few months.

Jamie immediately flagged the payments to HSBC as fraud and believes that someone managed to steal his identity by “busting” into his letterbox and using his personal information to open the accounts.

The majority of funds were withdrawn in £350 chunks from bank accounts dotted across south London, while card payments were also made to retailers, such as Tesco, Sports Direct and several chicken shops.

Jamie, who lives alone in a large block of flats, has been working with HSBC to try and close the accounts and restore his “nigh on perfect” credit rating.

He waited 14 weeks but after being told HSBC’s investigation was still ongoing and that the credit card account had not been closed, he decided to post about his ordeal on X, formerly known as Twitter, which received more than 40,000 views.

The majority of funds were withdrawn in around £350 chunks from bank accounts dotted across South London (PA)

“At first I thought somebody had sent the wrong post, until I saw my name and address at the top of it,” Jamie said.

“In January my credit score was 930 out of 1,000, so nigh on perfect.

“Come February, March, it had nosedived to 620 out of 1,000.

“When I look at my outstanding finances, it shows that I’m in arrears for £12,820 on a credit card account with HSBC and £5,130 for an overdraft on a current account with HSBC.

“I’ve never banked with HSBC in my life.”

Jamie was surprised to find a letter from HSBC in his letterbox on January 21 2024 given he banks with NatWest and Santander.

To his horror, the envelope contained a credit card statement which showed he had been on a spending spree and now owned more than £10,000.

“I saw there were reams and reams of cash withdrawals on this credit card, so I was trying to figure out what had gone on,” he said.

“I discovered that somebody had taken out the card in my name, managed to get themselves a credit of £13,000.

“It showed that they had managed to take out £10,000 in cash at various cashpoints across south London, in Catford, Croydon, Bromley, Orpington, Lewisham…”

The fraudulent purchases range from spending a few quid in shops, including Tesco, Joe and The Juice and Lazy Chef, to withdrawing hundreds of pounds.

Jamie believes the fraudsters broke into his letter box to steal his identity (PA)

Jamie suspects the thieves broke into his post box to obtain the information they needed to open the account.

“It dawned on me that my post box had been stiff to open for a few months, which I just assumed was to do with rust or the weather,” he said.

“They would have had to take receivership of the credit card and the PIN code, which gets sent separately.

“So I figure, that’s what they were doing, busting into my post box.”

Jamie immediately tried contacting HSBC to warn them that somebody had stolen his identity and taken out a credit card in his name.

“I needed to speak to someone human because every time I phoned their telephone number it was asking for a bank account number which I didn’t have,” he said.

“So I messaged them on Twitter and they said just type any number in and it will put you through to someone.”

Jamie was hoping to resolve the issue quickly, but was told that he would have to visit his nearest branch with three forms of identification.

“At the time I was pretty distressed,” he said.

“I was like, you must be having a laugh? How can someone get all of that and you’re telling me that I need to attend the bank in person.”

That same day, Jamie called Sussex Police who advised he file a report with Action Fraud, the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime.

He also registered with the Credit Industry Fraud Avoidance System, a fraud prevention service, which placed a marker against his credit report, to flag the fraud.

But when Jamie decided to check his credit score for himself on checkmyfile.com, he learned there was more too it.

“Not only had they taken out the credit card, but they had also managed to set up a current account with a £5,000 overdraft, again with HSBC, which they had also maxed out,” he said.

He would later learn that the fraudsters had also checked his credit rating by creating an account on ClearScore with a different email address.

In total, they have spent £12,820 on the credit card and £5,130 on the debit card, money which on paper, Jamie now owns the bank.

The bank informed Jamie that it would take around two weeks for it to carry out an investigation.

“Two weeks go by and I’m thinking what the hell is going on here,” he said.

“I eventually get through and they inform me that the investigation is still ongoing and that it can actually take up to seven weeks.”

During this time, Jamie repeatedly received letters demanding he start paying back the money.

He was sent a final warning at the end of March saying he needed to start paying back the debt or face a final demand for the full amount and default notice.

“Obviously, I knew it wasn’t my debt, it had nothing to do with me,” he said.

“So I asked them at the very least, can you get this to stop?”

But it never did.

“I’m going to end up with bailiffs at my door – it just baffles me,” he added.

Last Saturday, April 6 2024, 14 weeks after Jamie first reported the fraud to HSBC, he still had not received any news.

“I rang them myself in the morning,” he said.

“This is what beggars belief in my opinion.

“If you are doing a fraud investigation, would I not be top priority to contact?

“Even if they suspect that it might be me who is doing this, would it not make sense to call me and question me?

“Other than sending letters demanding payment for the outstanding debt, they never contacted me.

“I was quite upset as you can imagine.”

Again, Jamie was told the investigation was still ongoing.

In total, they have spent £12,820 on the credit card and £5,130 on the debit card (PA)

In the space of two and a half months, Jamie’s credit score has plummeted from 930 to 620 out of 1,000.

“All that’s happening is that my financial situation is seemingly getting worse,” he said.

“Not only that, but they hadn’t closed the credit account.”

After “politely ranting down the phone”, Jamie was able to raise an official complaint with the bank, which he was told could take up to five days to process.

The next day, he visited his nearest branch in Crawley with three forms of identification, his passport, driving licence and council tax bill.

He said after checking the system, he was told there was nothing they could do.

“I was at a complete loss with my treatment,” he said.

Out of options, Jamie decided to post about what had happened on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Over the next 24 hours, his post received 43,000 views and on Monday April 8 2024 he received a message from HSBC saying, “Good morning Jamie, thank you for reaching out to us, we would really like to get this matter sorted as quickly as possible. If you could join me in a private chat by clicking the link below, I can investigate this further…”

He has since been sent another link and asked to upload his identification, but at the time of writing, the credit card has still not been blocked and Jamie’s credit score remains 300 points down.

“It took me blasting it all over Twitter for them to actually contact me directly, because before then I had not received any correspondence in 14 weeks,” he said.

“Whoever has done this, I assume does not know me.

“I believe they’ve probably just pot-lucked as many people as they can.”

An HSBC UK spokesperson said: “Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention.

“We take all allegations of fraud extremely seriously and this case is being looked into.”



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