Barclays seized all my savings and left me penniless

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Three weeks ago, my bank, Barclays, seized all of my money from both my current and savings accounts. The latter contained the whole of my life savings of £320,000. I am a 69-year widower from Liverpool who has worked abroad for 40 years. I’m currently a project manager in Bangladesh and have been left penniless without warning or explanation. I have been forced to return to the UK to try to get my money back, and it’s unlikely there will be a job for me to go back to since my sudden departure did not go down well. Barclays has so far refused to tell me why the money was taken. I am now seeking your help, as they are too big to be scared of me.
GC, Bangladesh

It sounds as though you are yet another victim of de-risking. Each year I hear from desperate people left stranded after their funds were confiscated or their accounts closed by banks. Banks are subject to onerous fines if their customers are found to have used their accounts for criminal activity, which is why transactions to or from countries deemed to be especially risky can sometimes result in an account being frozen or closed without warning.

Banks are obliged to report any activity they deem suspicious to the National Crime Agency (NCA) which has up to 31 days to investigate. During that time, the funds have to be frozen and the bank commits a criminal offence if it tells the customer why. The trouble is, many blameless customers are caught out simply because of their connection to a particular country or an unusually large transaction raises unfounded suspicion. One Barclays customer was targeted after receiving a £500,000 compensation payment awarded by a court for clinical negligence.

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The day after I contacted Barclays it returned your money without a word to you. You’re still in the dark about the whys and wherefores. Barclays would only tell me that activity on your account had prompted a “routine review”. It says: “As a regulated firm, we are subject to certain regulatory obligations which can require us to withhold transactions or services, or at times block accounts. We appreciate this has been an extremely difficult time for the customer and we’re sorry for any inconvenience that may have been caused.”

Customers in your predicament can take their case to the Financial Ombudsman Service which can decide whether the bank followed proper protocols.

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