Borrowers told not to disclose personal info over phone

The Central Bank has advised borrowers not to disclose personal or financial details over the phone to unverified callers amid concerns that banks are using blocked numbers to ring customers who are in arrears.

“No consumer should disclose their personal or financial details over the phone or in response to correspondence unless they are satisfied as to the legitimacy of the call,” said a spokeswoman.

“The Central Bank’s Consumer Protection Code requires representatives of regulated entities, when making telephone contact, to immediately identify their name, the name of the regulated entity, and the purpose of the contact.”

The warning comes after an Ulster Bank customer complained that she received calls from blocked numbers advising her a mortgage payment had been missed.

“I got the call out of the blue from a blocked number,” said Bridget, who lives in Cork but did not wish to disclose her full name. “The caller said he was from Ulster Bank but I couldn’t be sure. I thought it was from a call centre because I had no way of being sure who was on the other end of the line.”

Bridget received another call, again purporting to come from Ulster Bank, but refused to give out personal details. The next day, her husband took a similar call so Bridget contacted her own bank over the matter.

“It was my own bank’s mistake and the manager there contacted Ulster Bank on my behalf to assure them that there was enough in my account to cover the mortgage,” Bridget said.

The bank manager was told there was nothing that could be done and that Bridget would have to make the payment over the phone by debit or credit card.

“I have the mortgage for 20 years, with five years to go, and I never missed a payment before.

“A third caller — again from a blocked number — insisted that I had to pay over the phone or I would be in arrears and my credit rating could be affected.

“I rang Ulster Bank to make sure I was, at least, dealing with them and I made the payment by phone, under protest. It was a very stressful situation for me, very intimidating.”

While a spokeswoman for Ulster Bank said it was policy not to discuss individual cases, she confirmed its customer support services do ring customers from a blocked number if problems arise.

“The main reason is to check that everything is OK. We call the customer from a blocked number to protect them. They may be with someone who could see the number. We look for verification from the person, but it is only one question, for example, their date of birth, but we do not ask for anything to do with bank details. We do not ask for specific details of anyone’s personal financial affairs.”

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