Home Money Matt is the victim of a £1.5 million fraud. So why does his bank treat him so badly?

Matt is the victim of a £1.5 million fraud. So why does his bank treat him so badly?

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Abandoned: Worker Matthew Tough has fought for years to recover money stolen by scammers

For almost six years, Matthew Tough has been trying to get his bank, Barclays, to take responsibility for allowing a £1.49m fraud to be committed against him.

It has failed, although not for lack of trying. He has racked up a six-figure legal bill in the pursuit of justice, has pursued the bank for documents and call recordings, and recently wrote to Barclays board members urging them to investigate his case. No one had the courtesy to respond.

Barclays is not for spinning. He has washed his hands of it. Unfortunately, my intervention in the case has also done nothing to change the bank’s intransigence. You have not answered any of my questions and have given what can only be described as a glib answer.

Abandoned: Worker Matthew Tough has fought for years to recover money stolen by scammers

So today I tell her story because I think it needs to be heard. In short, Matt has been treated disgracefully by the bench he served on, man and boy. He deserves much better.

For Matt, 56, life goes on: he’s a successful entrepreneur building a food procurement business with the help of a supportive president he’s known for a long time. Hopefully, he will earn enough from the business (Procurement Partners) to get his financial life back on track.

But the last six years have taken their toll.

During this time, he visited horribly dark places, suffered severe mental health issues, received counseling for depression, and battled demonic drink. At one point, his wife Sarah asked him to leave the family home.

At the moment, Matt feels strong. He has been sober for four months and is back with Sarah at her home in Knowle, West Midlands.

However, he remains outraged at having to foot the bill for a fraud which he believes (with great merit) should have been avoided if Barclays had shown him a duty of care. His legal team has amassed extensive files and the advice of King’s lawyer is that the case has great merit if it goes to court.

He is upset that Barclays has played a risky game with him, banking on the fact that he will not take the case to court because he could lose literally everything if the case is dismissed and he would be forced to pay the bank’s costs.

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“I’m not willing to take the risk,” Matt says. ‘Unlike Barclays, I don’t have a bottomless pit of money. I have a wife and daughter that I care about and I can’t jeopardize their future any more than I already have.’

The fraud against Matt and Sarah arose from the purchase of a house they wanted to make in September 2018. This followed the sale of the business he was a director of (another food procurement company called PSL) to catering provider Sodexo.

Matt and Sarah set their hearts on a five-bedroom detached house in Hampton in Arden, just a few miles from where they lived in Knowle.

“It was our forever home,” says Matt. “It was everything I had ever wanted in my wildest dreams when I started my working life.”

In September 2018, they agreed a purchase price of £1.5m, with an initial deposit required of £150,000, followed by the balance payment (including stamp duty) of just over £1.49m. pounds sterling. The deposit was transferred from the Toughs’ account to their solicitors’ account at Lloyds. The payment was made at the attorney’s office via Matt’s laptop in three parts. Everything went well and the money arrived safely.

Then, Matt’s email account was hacked between the deposit payment and the final payment. The fraudsters were able to change the details of Matt’s solicitors’ payment instruction so that the £1.49m would go into an RBS account, rather than the solicitor’s Lloyds account.

As Matt was away on business, Sarah said she would visit her local Barclays branch in Knowle, sit down with a member of staff and make the final payment. But the appointment was canceled and she was told to go to the Barclays branch in nearby Solihull.

Here, a junior employee greeted her and handed her a document to sign, approving the payment. At no time did the clerk perform any checks to ensure that the details of the receiving account were the same as those used for the deposit.

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Later that day, Matt received a call from Barclays saying the money would not be transferred until further security checks were carried out. Suspicious, he contacted Sarah, who called the Solihull branch. She was told that everything was fine and that the payment had been made.

Unfortunately, nothing could have been further from the truth. The day before the house purchase was completed, solicitors called to say they had not received payment of £1.49 million.

Matt immediately contacted Action Fraud to report the crime. He also contacted Barclays’ fraud department, only to be told by the bank that it was not his problem and that he had no case to answer: the loss was the Toughs’ fault.

The Royal Bank of Scotland did not want to speak to Matt because he was not a customer. The police were helpful and claimed the money had gone into the RBS account, only to disappear within four hours in 44 accounts around the world.

Police also traced the Internet Protocol address of the computer used by the scammer to hack into Matt’s email account.

An arrest was made, but no charges were filed.

Matt was left with two options: accept the enormous loss and move on with his life, or fight.

Barclays. He chose the latter, but it has been a battle that has left him battered and bruised, as Barclays has steadfastly refused to accept that it was negligent in allowing £1.49m into a fraudster’s account.

HE ASKED Barclays to explain how it could defend itself against the allegation of negligence in the handling of funds for the purchase of the Tough home. He also wanted to know why he hadn’t recovered the money the Toughs had lost and how he could “live” with the consequences of his actions.

Their response was: ‘We fully share the situation in which our clients find themselves.

‘This scam is an egregious case of criminal theft by a scammer who hacks and modifies a lawyer’s email. This resulted in our client acting on information he believed to be correct and ordering us to issue a CHAPS payment to the fraudster’s bank account instead of the intended recipient, his attorney. As soon as we were alerted, we acted quickly to recover. [the] funds, but there were none left.

“We always encourage clients to call their attorney at a trusted number before making a payment, or to send a smaller sum and obtain confirmation of secure receipt before sending the remaining funds.”

For the record, Matt says Barclays did not advise them to follow the protocol he outlines in his statement. Since Matt was unable to complete the transaction, he also lost the £150,000 deposit.

I have also contacted the Royal Bank of Scotland for comment.

He decided not to do it. Yes, the Toughs were not entirely innocent in allowing this despicable crime to be committed against them, but they were not as negligent as their bank. Justice has not yet been done.

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