Tony Hetherington is Financial Mail on Sunday’s ace investigator, fighting readers corners, revealing the truth that lies behind closed doors and winning victories for those who have been left out-of-pocket. Find out how to contact him below.
Ms C.W. writes: Please help – you are my last hope before possibly losing my first property purchase. In 2019, I lost my purse containing bank cards and my driving licence.
Some months later I found that a loan had been taken out in my name with Hillingdon Credit Union, and after much correspondence this was cancelled. Recently, I found my dream home, but when I applied for a mortgage, NatWest said my credit record was unacceptable.
A £750 loan had been taken out in my name, from the Thamesbank Credit Union, which has given me a bad credit rating as the loan was not repaid.
Debt: Graham Tomlin suggested repaying a Thamesbank loan taken out fraudulently
Tony Hetherington replies: Sometimes the readers’ problems and complaints that land on my desk turn out to be not quite as bad as they appear. Yours turned out to be far, far worse, with Thamesbank Credit Union throwing up obstacles at every turn, rather than treating you as a victim of identity theft. Incredibly, when you said to Thamesbank that you were not the real borrower of the missing £750, you were told: ‘One simple solution of course would be to repay the debt.’ This, you were assured, ‘would immediately resolve your credit history’.
Thamesbank is fully authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, yet it is suggesting a victim of ID theft takes responsibility for a fraudulently obtained loan, and Thamesbank will in return clean up their credit agency file. Blackmail? Or bloody-minded stupidity?
The suggestion to pay up came from Graham Tomlin. He is not even a boss of Thamesbank. He runs a company called Credit Union Solutions, which provides administrative back-up to a number of credit unions.
But Thamesbank’s real directors allowed him so much power that he felt he could do as he wished.
In November, he twice told you that Thamesbank was far too busy to deal with your problem, as Thamesbank’s members were his priority. He even told you that removing the adverse credit record would involve applying for a County Court Judgment.
This is garbage, as a CCJ against your name would be even worse than defaulting on a loan repayment. However, a court case would at least have let you file a defence, so you asked whether Thamesbank would go down this road. Tomlin replied: ‘We did not apply for a CCJ as it tended to be too expensive for such a small loan.’ Reading this, I did wonder how expensive it might be for them if you sued Tomlin and Thamesbank for defamation!
One obstacle thrown up by Tomlin, to you and me, was his demand that you must report the loan fraud to the police. You did, only to be told quite correctly by the head of Action Fraud that the report had to come from Thamesbank, which had lost money. You, of course, had only lost your good name, which is not a crime.
So did Tomlin and Thamesbank report the fraud to the police? Did they heck. And yet the evidence is in their files. You were told the loan involved the use of a Virgin Money account, pay evidence from an engineering firm and a National Insurance number. All were clues to the real identity of the borrower, but it was easier to blame you. Thamesbank’s complaints procedure is slipshod. You complained on November 1, but Thamesbank learned of the complaint from me on December 24. Tomlin kept it in the dark.
The man most in the dark was Paul Oppe, the Thamesbank director responsible for looking into complaints. He took just over a fortnight to decide on January 12 to apologise and ask credit agencies to remove the debt warning from your record. By last Wednesday, your credit rating had shot up to ‘Excellent’.
So is this a happy ending? Maybe not. Oppe drew my attention to the ‘coincidence’, that you had ‘on two occasions misplaced ID which resulted in a fraudulent loan application to a credit union’. He also told me his board is ‘confident that Graham Tomlin and CUS (Credit Union Solutions) perform their operation roles.’
But hang on. Why did Oppe think you lost ID twice, each time followed by a fraudulent loan application? He said: ‘CUS found out in investigations, and it does seem unusual.’
The implication is clear, and Tomlin pressed the point, telling me: ‘I have contacted the Association of British Credit Unions, who shared my suspicions. I am on the executive of the London region of the association and will raise this experience with them.’
I think Tomlin has lost the plot. He seems to be treating the original fake loan from the Hillingdon Credit Union as if it resulted from a different loss of ID, not that some crook simply used your ID twice. This means he has reported you as a suspicious character to his national organisation. This could come back to bite you.
Fears over funeral money
Ms T.P. writes: My partner was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer and passed away two months later. He had paid £3,239 to Rest Assured Funeral Plans Limited.
However, the hospice arranged for a local funeral company to collect and store his body. They told me that RAFP said there was not enough money in the plan to pay for the funeral.
RAFP did contribute £1,100, but I cannot see how the balance was spent.
Concern: Ms T.P.’s partner had paid £3,239 to Rest Assured Funeral Plans Limited
Tony Hetherington replies: Funeral plans can be tricky. The Financial Conduct Authority will regulate the industry from July, but funeral plans now are only overseen by an industry body providing voluntary rules. That said, your partner’s own plan with RAFP looks flawless.
Knowing he was dying, he wanted to spare you his funeral expenses, and despite the short time left, RAFP helped, even offering a £360 discount.
The £1,100 was just part of the funeral bill, covering payments to third parties for the service and cremation. The local funeral firm used by the hospice billed RAFP directly for the rest, and in total the plan paid out £2,900.
If you believe you are the victim of financial wrongdoing, write to Tony Hetherington at Financial Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TS or email [email protected] Because of the high volume of enquiries, personal replies cannot be given. Please send only copies of original documents, which we regret cannot be returned.
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