Cashless impersonal banks? They truly defeat the whole purpose

There’s an assumption that everyone is online and can do their business remotely. Not so. I’m proof of that, says Colette Sheridan
Cashless impersonal banks? They truly defeat the whole purpose

LOCKED OUT: Almost half of AIB branches in Cork were set to have cash and cheque services removed, before the bank U-turned

WHEN a friend received a WhatsApp message from her 26-year old-son looking for a loan of money, she went straight into caring mother mode, reasoning that Jack (not his real name) needed funds to pay for his house move and to cover him for the next few days.

His phone had fallen into the toilet and his account was frozen for 48 hours. He’d pay her back the €800 he asked for.

She sent the money to the account number given. Soon after, Jack asked for a further €600. Being a bit of a softie, my friend sent him that amount tooC

But when, a little later, he asked for a third sum of money, she smelled a rat. And when her son asked if she was going to come up with that third sum, she rang him. His phone clearly hadn’t fallen down the loo as he was able to answer it.

Turns out my friend had been scammed. Jack, always slow to ask for money from his mother, hadn’t requested a red cent from her.

Despairing, my friend got onto the fraud department of her bank, which is investigating the scam. Initially, they said they couldn’t identify the account number into which the money was paid. The money hasn’t been returned to my friend. There is no guarantee that she will get it back.

My friend can’t afford to lose that kind of money. Although small beer to a bank, the €1,400 she sent off is almost what she earns in a month.

Such is her newly-heightened sense of paranoia, that my friend called into her bank the morning after the scam to verify that she had actually been speaking to a bank member. (She had been.)

My friend broke down in tears of frustration in front a bank employee, who was very understanding and did her best to console her.

We are all just one click away from being fleeced. When it happens, we berate ourselves for being stupid, naive or just not diligent enough at identifying scams. But really, the scammers these days can be very convincing. (I just got one from someone purporting to be the HSE saying I’d been in contact with someone who has Covid-19 and asking me to open a link to order a test kit. When asked to click on a link, I’m always suspicious. The next step is generally to give away your bank account details.)

Another friend had to have her bank account frozen recently after she was contacted by a scammer on email.

“Just what did you disclose to this person?” asked an employee in her bank.

“Oh, everything bar the most recent result of my smear test,” she said to him.

This friend is known for her sense of humour, even in the most trying of circumstances. But for the rest of us, bank scams are no laughing matter.

Indeed, what should be straight- forward dealings with your bank are now a minefield. That is, if you have a bank branch that you can actually call into, to talk to a human being and maybe lodge a cheque.

This is something we can no longer take for granted as brick and mortar banks are closing down, with everything moving online.

Almost half of Allied Irish Bank branches in Cork were set to have cash and cheque services, and any ATM services outside, removed this year, before they performed a U-turn under pressure from politicians and the public.

This caper whereby banks no longer deal with cash is alarming and further proof that this is no country for old people. Because it is the older folks, who are not digital natives, that really struggle in this digital age.

There’s an assumption that everyone is online and can do their business remotely. Not so. I’m proof of that.

Obviously, I’m online, but I’ve resisted online banking as I don’t altogether trust it. Call me old-fashioned but I like to be able to speak to a banker. Clearly, that ability to deal with a human is on the way out.

Twelve of Cork’s 26 branches of AIB were to be repurposed, it emerged last week. But thanks to people power from rural dwellers, farmers, publicans and business people - as well as the Taoiseach - this plan has been ditched.

God be with the days when you didn’t have to stand up to the banks and fight for your method of doing business. You could turn up at your bank and negotiate a modest overdraft from someone aware of your finances.

With KBC and Ulster bank closing here, people will have to be hyper-vigilant as they open new accounts elsewhere. AIB had some cheek which would have alienated a sizeable part of its customer base.

Considering that the Irish people remain the largest shareholder of AIB following the bank bailout, they should have shown more respect.

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