THOUSANDS of vulnerable shoppers have reportedly had their supermarket deliveries cancelled after their banks suspected fraud and blocked the payments.
It comes as another blow to elderly and vulnerable Brits who’ve been forced to self-isolate due to the coronavirus.
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As a result, many are having to buy their groceries online, perhaps for the first time.
It means flaws with security checks have led some banks to mistakenly flag the transactions as suspected fraud, reports This is Money.
By blocking a payment, the order is then usually cancelled automatically, leaving customers without their items.
And although this can always be an issue, the problem has increased as more shoppers have no choice but to shop online due to the pandemic.
Have you had a supermarket online delivery cancelled after your bank suspected fraud and blocked the payment? Email us at email@example.com.
Nationwide customer Hazel Smith, 65, had several online transactions blocked by the bank last month, she told This is Money.
This included a payment to John Lewis for a freezer and a £65 online shop at Morrisons that she had ordered for her asthmatic niece, who’s self-isolating as she’s vulnerable.
Hazel, a professor of international security at Cranfield University, got a text message by midnight on the day of the Morrisons delivery, which she replied to within minutes to unblock the payment.
But by then it was already too late, and at that point she couldn’t find another delivery slot.
Nationwide would not say what triggered the fraud alerts but says it is constantly reviewing threats.
Hazel’s experience is similar to retired GP Roger Parkin and his vulnerable wife Penny who had waited a fortnight for a Morrisons delivery when RBS cancelled the payment.
Roger, who lives in Leeds, had booked a £270 delivery with Morrisons two weeks in advance.
But the night before it was due, RBS sent him a text message regarding “fraudulent activity”.
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When he called the bank the payment had already been stopped, and Morrisons said it could not reinstate his order nor give him a replacement slot.
As a result Penny, a former nurse, had to risk infection and go out to shop.
An RBS spokesman told This is Money: “We are doing all we can to keep our customers safe during this difficult and unprecedented time.
“Our fraud prevention strategies are constantly under review.”
While a spokesperson for Morrisons said: “We advise all customers who don’t usually shop online to get in touch with their relevant card provider before making their order to inform them to reduce the chance of cancellations.”
The Sun has also seen some shoppers vent on Twitter about similar issues.
One frustrated Nationwide customer said at the end of March: “Waited two weeks for food collection slot for family, my wife on the serious at risk list.
“Your auto fraud system rejected the transaction even though I had ample funds.
“Supermarket have cancelled order. No food now, unless I put myself at risk.”
Laura Suter, personal finance analyst at investment platform AJ Bell, said transactions could be flagged as unusual and cancelled as it may be the first time many elderly shop online.
She added: “While banks need to be alert, they also need to communicate with customers to ensure they’re not being blocked from their only source of food and essentials.
“Banks should have vulnerable people flagged on their system and ensure they are able to get in contact more rapidly.”
Meanwhile, Martyn James, of complaints tool website Resolver, said: “We know these are unusual times but what is happening is unacceptable.
“If banks need to verify payments they should check with the customer when the transaction is made — not the day of the delivery.”
What are supermarkets doing to help vulnerable people?
If you are a vulnerable person, you can book a priority slot and select an eight hour window for delivery as of April 6.
Customers who do not currently have a Tesco account and have a letter from the NHS can either create an account online or call the supermarket on 0800 917 7359.
Once you are told you qualify for priority delivery, you can call the Sainsbury’s customer care line on 0800 636262, although the supermarket has warned it is very busy and you might need to try a couple of times.
When you get through to a member of staff, they will help you arrange a delivery slot.
Vulnerable Asda customers will receive a link to take them to the Asda site, where they will be able to access a recurring delivery slot.
They will also be able to access slots a week further in advance of everyone else if they don’t want a recurring slot.
These customers will also benefit from free delivery and no minimum spend when they place their order.
Morrisons is working to make more delivery slots available, and is adding a fast track to its queue system so that vulnerable customers can be prioritised.
Customers who are classed vulnerable by the government will already have received communications from the supermarket, it said.
We’ve explained our top supermarket tips, including everything from how to get delivery slots to when it’s the best time to visit.
Tesco has pledged to give 75,000 vulnerable shoppers priority access to online booking slots during the coronavirus crisis.
But a few days ago, vulnerable customers complained they still can’t book supermarket delivery slots.