Eric Massey was looking forward to a well earned retirement and putting his feet up, until his pension pot vanished without trace into a banking black hole.
Fareham-based Eric did 22 years service in the Royal Navy, and then took on a steady job of a care home maintenance supervisor as he comfortably cruised towards the end of his working life.
But when a £27,000 pension pot lump sum payment failed to turn up in his Barclays bank savings account, he was devastated.
‘When I left the navy and came out to civvy street I took out a couple of annuities to boost my retirement income,’ he explained.
‘One of them did me proud and was well worth taking as a lifetime pension, but to be honest the other only paid out a few hundred quid a year so I decided to cash the whole lot in.
‘After a lengthy rigmarole with the insurance company, a bank transfer for the entire pension pot finally arrived in my current account.
‘As I’m quite used to online banking I opened a savings account to just safely park the money until I got around to deciding what to do with it.
‘I still don’t quite know what happened but about a month ago, and a couple of days or so after I’d made the transfer, I looked at my banking app and was shocked to find the money hadn’t arrived in the account.
‘Transfers between my online accounts are immediate. It had left my current account and apparently vanished into thin air.
‘All sorts of things were going around in my head. I worried that the account had been hacked and my money stolen by fraudsters, or had been spirited away somewhere due to a technical hitch.’
Eric, 64, who has been with the bank for the best part of 22 years, went straight to his local branch to see what he could find out – but just ended up going around in circles.
He was told someone from the bank would call him the following day, but when the call never came he was understandably more than a little miffed.
He subsequently rang them on another two occasions and was told enquiries were ongoing, and he’d be contacted within 24 hours.
But the scary saga dragged on and the 24 hours turned into eight days, after which no one was able or willing to communicate with him.
He added: ‘Trying to get help to find my money was a nightmare. It appeared there was light at the end of the tunnel when I was told it had almost certainly ended up in another account.
‘The only thing that was painfully obvious was staff really didn’t have a clue about where it had gone.’
Every time he called to find out what was happening he was put through to a customer services team in India.
To his annoyance he had to keep repeating the information about the missing money to an agent who clearly knew nothing about it.
He finally ended up being put through to the bank’s ‘specialist complaints’ section. They did their best to reassure him the money was somewhere within the bank and had been shunted off to another destination within their system due to a technical hitch.
Bizarre as it may appear, Streetwise had experienced similar reader complaints before, usually when opening new accounts or transferring money to another account holder’s bank.
With around 19 million bank transactions a day, it’s not surprising that errors will occur.
We can reveal that in most cases a digit in the account number or sort code has been transposed resulting in the funds ending up in the wrong account.
The process of tracing missing bank deposits is set out in voluntary guidelines by the Payment Systems Regulator.
Banks should act within two working days to claw back missing money once the account holder has raised the alarm.
Where there are difficulties in getting back the funds, the bank should investigate further.
Streetwise indicated to Barclays they were in breach of the code. We asked them to investigate, and provide a full explanation.
As a result the elusive £27,000 retirement nest egg turned up two days later in Eric’s savings account.
A Barclays spokesperson said: ‘It’s extremely unusual for us to take an extended period of time to investigate an operational issue and we apologise for the distress this obviously caused our customer.
‘When new accounts are opened our procedures require customers to input an additional code to verify the account holder’s identity.
‘The customer inputted all the correct account details, but we subsequently established that the unique new account code hadn’t been entered correctly.
‘We can now confirm the funds are available in the customer’s savings account.’
A much relieved Eric got in touch to confirm the money had finally turned up.
He said: ‘I just can’t believe how quickly Streetwise got the matter sorted for me.
‘I’d been out of my mind with worry and uncertainty for weeks, and you fixed it for me within days.
‘I can’t begin to thank you enough for all your help and the outstanding service you provided. I just hope others who may find themselves in a similar situation can learn from it.’