Bank leaked my loan request to family who tried to rip me off

Q&A: Dominic Coyle answers your personal finance questions

‘Did the bank breach data security by divulging details of the meeting I had with my branch to my brother-in-law, prompting their offer to buy me out?’ Photograph: iStock

‘Did the bank breach data security by divulging details of the meeting I had with my branch to my brother-in-law, prompting their offer to buy me out?’ Photograph: iStock

 

I have very limited income from a part time job plus the widows pension. All our savings were used up when I stopped work to look after my late husband when he was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

My father in law died last year and, through my deceased husband, I stand to inherit a substantial amount.

My solicitor knows my financial situation and suggested that I approach my bank for a term loan pending probate. The solicitor sent a letter outlining the amounts and timeframe etc and guaranteeing repayment of the loan and I had a face-to-face meeting with a bank adviser to sound out the prospect with no official application.

I was assured they would phone me within days.Weeks passed. My brothers-in-law approached with an offer to sell my share in some assets to them at well below market value “as they understood the financial pressure I was under”. My solicitor told me subsequently that one of the brothers-in -law had met him and told him a bank official had told the brother-in-law about my loan approach on the strength of the inheritance.

Did the bank breach data security by divulging details of the meeting I had with my branch to my brother-in-law, prompting their offer to buy me out?

A different bank official left a voicemail a week or so later to let me know they couldn’t help me out at that time but to come back to them when my financial situation improved.

Ms L.H., email

This is an absolute disgrace on so many fronts.

First up, your relationship with your bank is personal and confidential. No bank official has any right to discuss your banking arrangements or communications with anyone – even their own partner, never mind one of your own relations.

This is a flagrant breach of trust. I advise you to complain formally to the bank. I suggest, initially at least, you do this through the bank’s Data Protection Officer. This official is responsible for investigating all breaches of GDPR and data privacy relating to customers. The contact details for this official should be available on the bank’s website along with guidance of how the complaints procedure works and the timelines that should apply.

As it happens, I was able to identify the bank in this case and have sent you the relevant contact details directly.

It is likely that the bank will revert seeking more information. As it is, from the bank’s perspective, it could argue that you are relying on third party hearsay. It is then a question of whether your solicitor will put down formally the content of the conversation that he had with your brother-in-law.

If they do, and given the standing of a solicitor as an officer of the court, you would expect the bank to take the issue very seriously. As I can see no reason for your solicitor, who knows your position and vulnerability, to spin a tall tale, it strikes me that the bank has a very serious case to answer.

While we are on the subject of the bank and its approach to you, just a few words about its much-delayed response to your initial approach.

You are, I understand, a long-standing customer, which means the bank must be very aware of your personal financial circumstances and the reason for them. That does not, of course, mean that they should be extending credit wily nilly. They are obliged to assess risk – much and all as that is a newly rediscovered art for Irish lenders.

However, in this case, they are fully aware that you have a very substantial inheritance coming your way. for this, they have not only your word but that of your solicitor. I am not aware of the wording of any guarantee of repayment the solicitor gave but, regardless, there was absolutely no call for the bank to respond, by voicemail no less, with what I can only call a sneering offer – come bck to us when you no longer need us financially!

Settled

Clearly your current circumstances make moving bank problematic but I would do as a point of principle once this inheritance has been settled. It’s not that I think any other Irish bank is necessarily outstanding but this one clearly has no interest in you, your privacy or your business.

Which bring me to the third issue here – the approach to you from your brother-in-law with an offer to purchase your share of some of the assets under your father-in-law’s will at a knockdown price.

At the most forgiving, you would have to say that the timing of the approach is strange. In the context of the conversation by a brother-in-law with your solicitor, it is deeply suspicious.

I would expect your straitened financial position du to your husband’s final illness would be fairly common knowledge in the family. If there was concern about the financial pressure you were under, as stated, I don’t understand why the approach would not have been made months earlier when your father-in-law died.

And, in any case, given the “understanding” of your financial position, why would the family lowball the offer to you. It is clear from the limited details provided that this is a substantial estate and that all beneficiaries will do very well. There is no financial requirement from anyone here to put a squeeze on one another.

It seems to me that your brothers-in-law are attempting to pull a fast one at a time when they know you are vulnerable but when some relief is in sight by way of this inheritance. That is, in my view, reprehensible. I don’t know what it is about wills and Irish families but, all too often, it really does seem to bring out the worst in them.

Tough as your position is, my advice to you is to stick it out as you and your family have done till now on very limited income, confident in the knowledge that some good fortune is coming your way in time.

Please send your queries to Dominic Coyle, Q&A, The Irish Times, 24-28 Tara Street, Dublin 2, or email dcoyle@irishtimes.com. This column is a reader service and is not intended to replace professional advice. No personal correspondence will be entered into.

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