TONY HETHERINGTON: I lost my purse, now I could lose my dream house

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Tony Hetherington is the Financial Mail on Sunday’s investigator, battling readers’ corners, exposing the truth behind closed doors and winning victories for those who have been left behind. Find out how to contact him below.

Mrs. CW writes: Please help me – you are my last hope before I possibly lose my first real estate purchase. In 2019, I lost my wallet containing bank cards and my driver’s license.

A few months later I found out that a loan had been taken out in my name with Hillingdon Credit Union, and after much correspondence it was cancelled. Recently I found my dream home, but when I applied for a mortgage, NatWest told me that my credit report was unacceptable.

A loan of £750 was taken out in my name with Thamesbank Credit Union which gave me a bad credit rating as the loan was not repaid.

Debt: Graham Tomlin suggested repaying fraudulent Thamesbank loan

Tony Hetherington replies: Sometimes the issues and complaints from readers that land on my desk aren’t as bad as they seem. Yours turned out to be much worse, with the Thamesbank Credit Union throwing up obstacles at every turn, rather than treating you like a victim of identity theft.

Incredibly, when you told Thamesbank you weren’t the real borrower of the missing £750, you were told: ‘A simple solution would of course be to pay off the debt’. This, you were assured, would “immediately fix your credit history.”

Thamesbank is fully authorized and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, but they suggest that a victim of identity theft takes responsibility for a fraudulently obtained loan, and Thamesbank will clean up their credit agency file in return. Blackmail? Or bloody stupidity?

The suggestion to pay came from Graham Tomlin. He’s not even a Thamesbank boss. He runs a company called Credit Union Solutions, which provides administrative support to a number of credit unions.

But the real directors of Thamesbank gave him so much power that he felt he could do whatever he wanted.

In November, he told you twice that Thamesbank was far too busy to deal with your problem, because Thamesbank members were his priority. He even told you that deleting the bad credit report would involve seeking a county court judgment.

This is rubbish, because a CCJ against your name would be even worse than not repaying a loan. However, a court case would have at least allowed you to file a defence, so you asked if Thamesbank would go that route. Tomlin replied, “We didn’t ask for CCJ as it tended to be too expensive for such a small loan.” Reading this I wondered how much it would cost them if you sued Tomlin and Thamesbank for libel!

One hurdle that Tomlin put up for you and me was his demand that you report the loan fraud to the police. You did, but the head of Action Fraud told you very correctly that the report had to come from Thamesbank, which had lost money. Of course, you had only lost your good name, which is not a crime.

Did Tomlin and Thamesbank report the fraud to the police? Do they the heck. And yet, the proof is in their files. You were told the loan involved the use of a Virgin Money account, proof of payment from an engineering company and a national insurance number.

All were clues to the true identity of the borrower, but it was easier to blame yourself. Thamesbank’s complaints procedure is sloppy. You complained on November 1, but Thamesbank learned of my complaint on December 24. Tomlin kept her in the dark.

The man most in the dark was Paul Oppe, the director of the Thamesbank responsible for investigating complaints. He took just over a fortnight to decide on January 12 to apologize and ask the credit agencies to remove the debt warning from your file. Last Wednesday, your credit rating was upgraded to “Excellent”.

So is it a happy ending? Maybe not. Oppe brought to my attention the “coincidence” that you had “misplaced ID twice resulting in a fraudulent loan application from a credit union.” He also told me that his board is “confident that Graham Tomlin and CUS (Credit Union Solutions) are fulfilling their operational roles.”

But wait. Why did Oppe think you lost your ID twice, each time followed by a fraudulent loan application? He said: ‘CUS discovered it during investigations, and it seems unusual.’

The implication is clear and Tomlin insisted on this point, telling me: “I contacted the Association of British Credit Unions, who shared my suspicions. I am on the executive of the London region of the association and I will share this experience with them.

I think Tomlin lost the plot. It seems to treat the original Hillingdon Credit Union fake loan as if it resulted from another loss of ID, not that a scammer simply used your ID twice. This means that he has reported you as a suspect to his national organization. It could come back to bite you.

Fears over funeral money

Ms TP writes: My partner was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer and died two months later. He had paid £3,239 to Rest Assured Funeral Plans Limited.

However, the hospice arranged for a local funeral home to collect and store her body. They told me that the RAFP had said there was not enough money in the plan to pay for the funeral.

RAFP contributed £1100 but I cannot see how the balance was spent.

Concern: Ms TP's partner had paid £3,239 to Rest Assured Funeral Plans Limited

Concern: Ms TP’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 are now only overseen by an industry body providing voluntary rules. That said, your partner’s plan with the RAFP seems flawless.

Knowing he was dying, he wanted to spare you his funeral expenses, and despite the short time he had left, the RAFP helped him, even offering a £360 discount.

The £1,100 was just part of the funeral bill, covering third-party payments for the service and cremation. The local funeral company used by the hospice billed RAFP directly for the remainder, and in total the plan paid out £2,900.

If you believe you have been the victim of financial wrongdoing, write to Tony Hetherington at the Financial Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TS or email [email protected] Due to the high volume of inquiries, no personal response can be given. Please only send copies of original documents, which we regret cannot return.

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