Cameras to be tested in bank cash dispensers: Customers will be photographed in effort to tackle fraud

BARCLAYS BANK is planning to install cameras in cash-dispensing machines in a trial aimed at combating fraud.

The cameras will be installed at six hole-in-the-wall machines to test the photographic quality and reliability of cameras. The locations will not be revealed.

A Barclays spokesman said: 'Improvements in camera technology means that we can now get high-quality images. We will have to see if they can perform in different weather conditions and find the best camera angles. It's an extra fraud device. If we have an image of every person making a transaction that will obviously act as a deterrent.'

Barclays has 2,700 automated teller machines, and if the trial over the next few months is a success, cameras could be installed in all of them.

In 1992, Barclays processed 187 million cash machine withdrawals - of which 7,200 were referred for investigation. Most of these involved lost or stolen cards, but some involved mystery transactions.

'Phantom withdrawals' were the subject of a complex case at the High Court yesterday in which Judge John Hicks gave nine customers leave to pursue a single case that their accounts had been debited unfairly.

The four banks and one building society - Barclays, Midland, Lloyds, TSB and the Nationwide Building Society - wanted to have the cases split up. But the judge said it should remain as a single case 'at present'. It is likely that once general issues affecting all the cases have been decided, the courts will then consider each case individually.

The case for the customers is being led by the Merseyside solicitors J Keith Park, which was keen to keep the action as a single case to help spread the costs. The nine defendants, who have legal aid, are claiming between pounds 15,000 and pounds 20,000 which has been taken from their accounts because of unexplained withdrawals from machines. More than 1,000 other people have been in contact with the solicitors about disputed cash machine withdrawals.

The lead case involves an elderly couple, James and Jean McConville, from St Helens, Merseyside, who say they lost pounds 400 from their current account after their cash card was stolen in 1991. The couple say they reported the theft within an hour but discovered that pounds 400 had been debited from their account.

A Nationwide spokeswoman said: 'We are confident that our ATM (automated teller machine) operation will be shown to be efficient and secure.'

The 40,000-strong Barclays Group Staff Union has protested to management that staff employed as 'personal bankers' to offer financial advice at high street branches are being urged to sell inappropriate and superfluous services. The union is seeking the removal of sales targets and the abolition of rewards for star performers.