Questions Of Cash: 'Your bank card may have been cloned'

Q. I attempted to use my Halifax cash card at Tooting rail station on 25 July and my card was swallowed. My bank told me there had been a £300 transaction, of which I had been unaware. I had my card cancelled immediately. The following week I found there had also been transactions of £306.57 and £55 from Argos in Richmond after my card had been swallowed. I gave a statement to the bank.

Halifax insists that it was my actual card that was used on each of the transactions, it will not reimburse my money, or investigate further. The police refuses to investigate as it says it needs my bank to make the complaint. I am wondering whether to launch a legal case against Halifax. WB, Mitcham.

A. The initial £300 withdrawal was taken from a cash machine near a bar where you had been that night, but some time after you say you left and while you insist you were asleep. At the bar you had problems using your card and the barman removed it from your sight, which made us wonder whether it had been cloned.

One person involved in the industry assured us that with chip-and-PIN technology this is not possible. But when we spoke to the UK Payments Administration it said this is sadly not true and that there are still significant problems with cloned cards. Normally, however, these are taken abroad for use in cash machines where chip-and-PIN technology has not been introduced. But, it said, in some instances it is possible to circumvent chip-and-PIN controls even on cash machines in the UK. The UK Payments Administration says it is possible for a bank to tell from its records whether the original card or a cloned card has been used. In this instance, Halifax says it was your original card that was used.

We have several concerns about your case – as does the fact that we get an increasing number of complaints about fraudulent use of cards and the hard line taken by banks against meeting the costs of those frauds. Rather than take Halifax to court, we suggest you refer your case to the Financial Ombudsman Service. It has upheld about half of all cases of cardholder fraud referred to it and should be able to independently assess the quality of Halifax's evidence about the use of the card.

Q. We've had a self-certified Personal Choice tracker mortgage with the Bank of Scotland since 2000, which is priced at 1 per cent above base. We transferred this to our current home when we moved in 2003. We are now planning to move again. But the Bank of Scotland says our current mortgage is no longer portable: we'd lose our 1 per cent tracker and have to re-apply for a loan, reverting to the bank's current variable rate.

We are surprised that our mortgage product could be changed without notification from our lender. Our current house is up for sale at £250,000: it has an outstanding mortgage of £90,000. We want a self-build house, costing about £250,000 including plot, with high energy efficiency, with a value of £320,000 to £350,000 on completion. We still need to self-certify our earnings. SZ, by email.

A. Ray Boulger, of mortgage brokers John Charcol, says: "One of the inadequately-recognised issues on portability has always been that the borrower has to satisfy their lender's criteria at the time they want to move. Even if someone doesn't want to borrow any more – and even if they want to borrow less – the lender will often refuse the mortgage to be ported if current criteria can't be satisfied.

In some cases this forces the borrower to pay an early repayment charge, although at least that won't apply in this case. Even before Bank of Scotland stopped offering new mortgages it pulled out of the self-cert market. In the current market the reader is going to struggle to find a lender to meet his requirements. He needs a mortgage based on two niche areas, both of which have been largely deserted by lenders in recent months.

I would recommend he speaks to Buildstore, which specialises in the self-build market." New self-certified mortgages are expected to disappear under proposals published this week by the Financial Services Authority.

Q. Is there a British tax ombudsman I can contact over questions of income tax? I am 66 and recently began to get my state pension after delaying it for over a year. I believe I have been charged too much tax on a lump sum payment at retirement. MA, by email.

A.There is a right of appeal against decisions made by HM Revenue & Customs. First you should explain your case to an internal complaints officer. Where you are unhappy with the review undertaken by the officer, you should complain to director level, where the decision will be reviewed again. If you remain dissatisfied, you can then lodge an appeal with an adjudicator. The adjudicator is independent of HMRC and can be contacted at the Adjudicator's Office, 286 Euston Road, London, NW1 3US. If at this point you still believe that your case has not been handled properly you can refer the matter once more, to the Parliamentary Ombudsman, with a reference via your MP.

Questions of Cash cannot give individual advice. But if you have a financial dilemma, we'll do our best to help. Please email us at:

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