On February 7, I made a withdrawal of £35,000 from my husband’s NS&I Premium Bond account and was expecting it to be credited three days later.
When it didn’t arrive, I contacted NS&I, which concluded that I needed to contact my bank.
This I did, only to be told that it’s the responsibility of NS&I to trace where the money had vanished.
Panic stations: NS&I took nine weeks to trace £35,000 worth of Premium Bonds that went missing when a reader tried to withdraw it from her husband’s account
Back I went, but this time discovered I had previously entered one of the numbers on the destination account incorrectly.
After half an hour of complete stress on the phone, I was told to call back the following Monday — four days later.
All this time I was worried sick about where the funds had gone.
NS&I finally agreed to start the search but told me this could take between 15 days and ten weeks.
More calls and a letter of complaint followed but nothing seemed to happen. It is now seven weeks since the money went missing. Please help.
M. D., Basildon.
Sally Hamilton replies: When I rang you to find out more about this alarming situation, you burst into tears.
And no wonder. Not knowing whether you would see your £35,000 again had been keeping you awake at night with worry.
You were especially upset as the Premium Bonds were purchased with an inheritance from your mother, who sadly died last year.
I contacted NS&I to ask it to investigate and redouble its efforts to find your missing money. A few days later its detective work confirmed the money had gone to Santander, where you are a customer, but unfortunately it ended up in someone else’s account.
It appears that in September last year, when you had updated the details of the account where you wanted any Premium Bond prizes or withdrawals paid, you had accidentally transposed two numbers.
Keep an eye out for fraudsters seeking to cash in on your summer holiday plans.
The number of scams linked to overseas trips and staycations is up by a third compared with last year, according to Lloyds.
Crooks often post adverts online and on social media which include links to fake websites. Any payments made then go straight into their bank accounts.
The number of scams involving caravan stays has soared by 108 pc in 12 months, with an average loss of £374.
Those who bought non-existent flights or package holidays typically lost £2,955 and £2,342, respectively.
As fate would have it, this number matched the account of another customer of the bank, who received an unexpected £35,000 windfall on February 7.
When you alerted NS&I to the situation, NS&I initiated a ‘bank credit recovery’ from Santander. This involves a bank issuing a request to the recipient to return the money and usually takes at least 20 working days.
I asked NS&I what would happen if this customer decided the windfall was a bank error in their favour and refused to return the money.
NS&I said it would write to the recipient, requesting that they return the funds. If the customer still refused to send it back, your next step would likely have to be legal action.
I didn’t find that a reassuring prospect. An agonising few weeks passed. But I’m glad to report that the customer who received your money agreed to return it.
It was transferred to NatWest — NS&I’s clearing bank — on March 29. Frustratingly, neither you nor I were told this had happened for a further two weeks.
However, nine weeks after it went missing, you finally got your funds back and can now sleep more easily. This is not the service anyone would expect when £35,000 is at stake. NS&I agreed it had fallen short and as an apology, it has paid you £315 in compensation, including £115 in interest.
A spokesman says: ‘We would like to apologise for the level of service received from NS&I on this occasion during what was undoubtedly a stressful experience for M. D.’
Santander agreed it had contributed to the problem by incorrectly asking you to provide a ‘faster payment ID’ to help trace your funds. This reference is only required when funds go missing after being transferred to the correct account, whereas yours went to the wrong account. It has paid you £50 as an apology.
The moral of this story is that we all need to take extreme care when changing account details. A slip of the finger can, as in your case, lead to misery dealing with the fallout.
Caribbean cruise is too hot to handle
In July 2021, we paid a £2,000 deposit for a 35-day cruise on the Spirit of Adventure ship with ROL Cruises and Saga.
We have been on two holidays booked through these firms, the most recent being last December, which was 30 days around the Caribbean — like the one I am writing to you about now.
When we got home from that trip, I had to visit a dermatologist with several sun-damaged areas of my face and upper body. Bearing this in mind, I no longer want to expose my skin to excessive sunlight in the Caribbean.
My partner tried to cancel the new booking, but ROL and Saga each said the other was responsible and wouldn’t reimburse our deposit.
He asked if it could be transferred to a less sun-intensive cruise but was told we could only transfer it to a similarly priced holiday — more than £35,000.
But these higher-priced holidays are usually long cruises around the Caribbean and Americas, where the sun is fierce.
I do not want to risk further sun damage and would like our deposit returned in full.
Our earlier cruises were put on hold because of Covid, and ROL/Saga held on to our money on trust through these years.
D. L., Crowborough, East Sussex.
Sally Hamilton replies: You were all at sea with your complaint partly because it was not clear which company you and your partner needed to speak to. You were passed from pillar to post before finally contacting me.
I asked ROL Cruises to investigate, as that was the first name on your booking reference. It appears that ROL acts as the travel agent in the ROL/Saga arrangement and Saga Cruises, as the provider of the holiday, makes decisions about refunds or transfers.
ROL passed on my query to Saga, which a few days later came up with two options. It said you could either transfer the holiday and take shorter (potentially less sun-drenched) voyages, splitting the value across a couple of bookings. Or you could cancel the booking through your Saga travel insurance at a cost of £80 per person.
The intense sun turned out not to be your only worry, as you and your partner have developed other health conditions which have made you rethink the wisdom of travelling at all. You decided to take the cancellation route and were happy to pay the total £160 fee.
ROL liaised with Saga, which has now returned the remaining £1,840 of your deposit.
Straight to the point
Amazon is refusing to refund me for a mobile phone I never received. It delivered a safe, which I returned.
It says it will not reimburse me until I return the phone. I now have a £599 debt to Barclays as part of an instalment plan.
P. B., Brighton.
The retailer claims your order history showed many refunds and replacements where an incorrect item was returned, which you refute.
It refuses to say what went wrong but refunded the £599, plus £50 as a goodwill gesture, and cancelled the Barclays plan.
In 2015, Ultimate Home Solutions installed windows in our home. Earlier this year one slipped down, leaving a draughty gap. Despite the firm’s promises to fix it, no one has done so.
J. M., Fife.
When I contacted the firm, the work had been completed. It said the delay was because of the pandemic and staff shortages.
When my mum died earlier this year, British Gas said she owed almost £893. It said it might write off the debt if I sent a copy of her death certificate and tenancy agreement. But it then sent a threatening letter demanding payment within 28 days.
J. W., via email.
After my involvement, British Gas cleared the balance. You won’t get any more letters.
You are my last hope to get the proceeds from an uncashed Girobank cheque sent to me when my husband died in 1989. I forgot about it amid my grief and lacked confidence in financial matters.
M. S., Hertfordshire.
The cheque for £218.99 was issued 33 years ago by your late husband’s pension provider, SunLife. It offered to pay to help give you closure but denied any responsibility.
- Write to Sally Hamilton at Sally Sorts It, Money Mail, Northcliffe House, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT or email [email protected] — include phone number, address and a note addressed to the offending organisation giving them permission to talk to Sally Hamilton. Please do not send original documents as we cannot take responsibility for them. No legal responsibility can be accepted by the Daily Mail for answers given.
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