"I fell for diet scam but HSBC failed to stop my payments"

13 March 2020

Moneywise columnist Hannah Nemeth helps a reader get a refund from HSBC after it failed to stop payments

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Diet scams have been around for years and, unfortunately, it is often the most vulnerable consumers who get taken in by promises of fast and easy weight loss. But, more often than not, the only pounds people lose are from their wallets.

Pensioner DB sent off for a free sample of slimming pills and paid £3.25 postage, using her HSBC credit card. The payment was taken in early September but – surprise, surprise – no free sample arrived.

Offering a free gift or trial while asking for postage costs is an easy way for fraudsters to get hold of victims’ card details – before targeting them for larger payments. 

On 25 September 2019, DB found that £89 had been taken from her account, so she immediately phoned HSBC. However, call-centre staff said the bank could not help as the sum taken was less than £100. Under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974, consumers are only protected for purchases over £100.

And when DB went online to the bookmarked page to contact the diet company, it said ‘access denied’.

Another payment was taken in October, despite the fact that HSBC’s dispute team said it would block further payments. HSBC also cancelled DB’s credit card and issued her with a new one.

However, despite this seemingly belt-and-braces approach, another payment of £89 was taken in November 2019. DB says she then made nine phone calls to HSBC to stop the payment, but it still went through. She also did not receive the forms HSBC had promised her, which would enable her to raise a dispute over these transactions.

When she was eventually emailed the dispute forms, and she sent them back, she was told it was the wrong HSBC department and that she should try an online chat to discuss it.

DB says: “Each time I called, HSBC staff said they had no knowledge I had called about this issue before. I even sent a letter by special delivery to the only address given on the back of my bank statement, but it was returned unopened.

“I then sent a letter by recorded delivery to my local branch, but received no reply. When I went in in person, HSBC staff were very helpful but were unable to stop the payment – though they did try for two hours.”

By early December, DB had lost three payments of £89 each – a total of £267 – along with £3.25 postage, additional postage costs, and seven hours of holding on

to speak to HSBC over nine telephone calls.

DB eventually went into her local HSBC and cancelled her credit card. She also switched her current account from HSBC because she was “so disgusted with its attitude”.

When Moneywise contacted HSBC, it was quick to resolve the problem, offering to refund the three payments of £89 and to pay a goodwill gesture of £83 – coming to £350 in total.

A spokesperson for HSBC says: “We are sorry your reader had difficulty with a recent repeat payment. Due to an administrative error, the request to block those future payments was not actioned correctly. We have resolved the matter and have been in touch to apologise for this error.”

To add insult to injury, more than three weeks after she had received the £350, DB was bemused to get a letter from HSBC saying “it was looking into the payments taken from her account”.

DB told Moneywise: “Resolving the issue was down to you, and I want to thank you for your help. I was diagnosed with a blood clot in my leg and an irregular heart beat in November, so it’s been a distressing time.”

OUTCOME:

£267 refund plus £83

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