A mother says she has been left on the breadline after fraudsters allegedly hacked her bank account and stole hundreds of pounds to buy PlayStation games while she slept.
Ashleigh Dolman, 31, believes fraudsters used her bank details to steal hundreds from her overnight on Thursday 20 October. She says she only realized what had happened when her husband heard the alerts pinging through to her phone about the purchases. all of which were to ‘PlayStation Network London’.
But when the couple checked, they say they saw a series of payments to PlayStation Network London had been taken from Ashleigh’s bank account overnight, totaling just over £241. However, her bank, Engage, the community banking arm of Contis Financial Services Ltd, has told her that a fraud claim will not be upheld.
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The mum believes the fraudsters may have cloned her card and says she used a Note Machine cashpoint on St James Street outside M&S in Burnley just after 11am on October 18. This was one of four transactions she made that day, which appeared on her bank statement the following day (October 19).
Ashleigh, from Burnley, believed money had been stolen from her bank account after she used the cash machine and told Lancs Live: “I’ve used the cash card the day before for four things – transfer money to my landlord, buy something. Amazon, use the ATM and the local store which I have used many times before.
“Then I went to sleep and in the early hours of October 20 it logged the payments to Playstation Network London and they’ve been going £17.99, £18.99 and so on and it just kept going until my bank was empty , taking over £241 from my bank.
“My phone just kept pinging, like a message, and my husband checked my phone and thought it was something to do with the kids. It pinged constantly and he realized that someone was actually taking money out of my bank account.
“My bank card was in front of me when I spoke to the bank about it afterwards because the bank tried to tell me that two of the payments were made with my actual card and I said that’s not possible because I got my card here.”
Ashleigh notified the bank and PlayStation, as well as reporting the matter to the police and Action Fraud. However, she claims her bank, which is the community banking arm of Contis, told her her fraud claim for hundreds taken overnight on October 20 was not going to be upheld.
An initial email from Engage’s customer service department, seen by LancsLive, says: “Having completed our investigation, we have unfortunately taken the decision not to uphold your fraud claim and we will not be refunding the costs. This decision is based on findings during our investigation and is made in line with our terms and conditions: section 16.”
The email went on to add that the allegations can be disputed if she contacts the company directly to discuss the matter further, and suggests emailing the company so that all communications can be provided to the bank if necessary in the future. However, the nightmare didn’t end there, as Ashleigh says she was then contacted a few days later on October 26 by another scammer posing as a bank employee saying they wanted to help.
Fooled by the random caller who out of the blue claimed to be a bank employee trying to help her, Ashleigh became so stressed that she ended up divulging some of her details over the phone to the caller. She says she only realized they weren’t real until it was too late. And then she was suddenly locked out of her own online bank account.
In a panic, she says she called Engage, which says it’s specifically designed to work with credit unions. She says Engage’s customer service representative, while sympathetic and able to help her access her account and get a replacement bank card, told her her fraud claim for hundreds taken overnight on October 20 was not going to be acted upon.
Ashleigh said: “The bank said that because the PlayStation account contained some personal information about me, I couldn’t get the money back. But I have no subscriptions with PlayStation and no payment methods configured. And PlayStation told me they knew it wasn’t me and gave me a reference to send back to the bank so the bank has to reopen the fraud investigation and find out who did this to my bank.
Now Ashleigh says the whole experience has left her out of pocket, struggling to buy food and suffering from mental health issues. She said: “I haven’t been able to buy food or anything for the last two weeks. I have literally borrowed money from my brother and my mom just to feed the kids and stuff.
“I ended up with the summary this week that I ended up in the hospital and I couldn’t breathe, and I ended up with the flu, because I haven’t eaten. I have quite a struggle with my mental health to be honest; I suffer from social anxiety and I don’t like going into places where there are crowds of people, so this whole thing has really affected.”
Engage describes itself as “the ethical account from your local community bank,” and says on its website that “the Engage digital account is available exclusively through the UK’s largest network of credit unions and Community Banking partners.” On his website, Engage states: “Engage Visa Debit Card and Account are issued by Contis Financial Services Ltd which is authorized by the Financial Conduct Authority to issue e-money (Firm Reference Number 900025) and is a member of Visa. Please note that Engage is an electronic money product and although it is a product regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, it is not covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.”
Lancs Live contacted Contis for comment on Engage, its community banking arm. An Engage spokesperson said: “Following an extensive investigation into the transactions in this case by our fraud detection team when it was first notified by the customer, supported by our best-in-class fraud detection technology, this allegation of fraud has been dismissed. With over a quarter of a million Engage accounts issued since 2014 and due to the sensitive nature of such cases, Engage cannot provide further comment on individual cases.
“Engage welcomes any customer who disagrees with the decision made by our fraud detection team to follow our complaints process, by emailing or contacting our call center of excellence, which will be responded to within 48 hours. This can then initiate a further independent investigation, where a final answer can be shared with the financial ombudsman service if necessary. Customers who believe they have been the victim of fraud can also report this to the national fraud and cybercrime reporting center Action Fraud.
“There are several ways customers can ensure they keep card and account information as safe as possible to minimize the risk of fraud or unexpected payments from accounts. Card and security credentials should never be given to anyone other than the cardholder with the PIN code always secret. We recommends that customers be especially vigilant when entering card and account information on websites or accounts where card details may be stored, often allowing for quick purchases.We also recommend that customers regularly check account transactions and balances via the mobile app, web portal or by contacting our customer team.”
PlayStation UK, Action Fraud, M&S and Note Machine were also contacted for responses.