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Restricted accounts: Why does it happen?



Person using a mobile phone

Laurie Hood, a Starling Financial Crime Specialist, explains when and why Starling might restrict an account.

“My bank has frozen my account, for no reason.”

“My card has been blocked by my bank and I am not sure why.”

If you’ve spent any amount of time browsing the internet, particularly social media or well-known financial forums, there’s a chance you’ve seen comments similar to the above; you might have also read reviews or general posts about banks freezing customer accounts.

The more curious among you might have even wondered why a bank would take such action. Others may already know that it’s often a legal requirement for a bank to take such an action and in doing so they must have good reason.

Here at Starling, we use some seriously clever tech, designed and built by some very smart people - which assists us on keeping an eye on all of our customers’ accounts (obviously we don’t want to give too much away!).

Now, let’s tackle some of the common questions and myths associated with the mysterious world of account restrictions.

Why does Starling do it?

Starling Bank will only restrict or close an account as a last resort.

We want everyone to be able to manage their finances 24/7 and we understand that a restricted account can be distressing - especially if you need access to your money quickly. However, it’s incredibly important that we protect our customers and the integrity of the UK’s financial services.

As you may know, it’s also our responsibility to review and monitor accounts and transactions for unusual activity, and take appropriate action.

Regulations that keep us all safe

Starling wants to change banking for the better. As a regulated financial institution, it’s our duty to follow the applicable laws and regulations, to prevent the misuse of our accounts and protect our customers.

Can the Starling Bank customer service team unrestrict my account?

Our customer service team do everything they can to help. But they can’t unrestrict accounts. After an account is restricted, we will be in touch to advise further. Our main aim is to keep everyone safe and we are working hard to ensure this.

Please don’t provide your personal details to any third parties on social media who may offer ‘account unrestriction’ or ‘recovery’ services; only certain Starling employees can lift account restrictions.

Why would you restrict or close an account?

There are several reasons a Starling account may be restricted; we can’t elaborate on every possible scenario, but we’ll run through some possibilities below.

Don’t worry, where we are able to, we’ll be in touch to let you know and outline anything we require to speed up the process.

We have reason to believe your account isn’t safe

Keeping our customers safe is a priority.

If we have any reason to believe your account, or money, isn’t safe - for example, if you’ve granted a third party access to your account, or they’ve gained it without your knowledge, our teams will take the appropriate action.

This could mean your account is restricted, while we review the account or speak to you, to resolve the issue.

Our tech has spotted something unusual

Our tech is designed to spot activity that can be indicative of financial crime, or otherwise appears to differ from the normal behaviour of your account.

We are continuously developing our tech and reviewing our accounts - if we suspect an account is being misused, we will investigate and take the most appropriate action.

Something isn’t right

Quite simply - something isn’t quite right.

It may be that we need some additional information from you, if so - we’ll be in touch, it could be that another financial institution has contacted us regarding an account, prompting a review, resulting in the account being temporarily restricted.

Rest assured, our team is on it, we aim to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.

You’re in breach of our terms and conditions

If we suspect an account is in breach of our terms and conditions, we’ll be in touch to inform you and resolve the issue, where possible.

If the activity continues, or we’re unable to satisfy ourselves that the account is operating within our T&Cs, it’s possible the account will be restricted or notice of closure will be issued.

You can find the most recent version of our terms and conditions on our website.

As I mentioned earlier, the above list isn’t meant to be exhaustive, but I hope it provides some additional insight into why we may restrict an account. There are many more scenarios where our team would be required to take action.

Doesn’t restricting an account cause complaints / negative reviews?

Not always. Our teams work fast - many accounts which have been restricted are quickly back to being a fully functioning account after the initial review.

Of course, there are rare occasions when we’re unable to lift the restriction. So, understandably, we sometimes receive negative communications and complaints.

We’ll address all complaints raised about actions taken against accounts. Our Complaints team aims to resolve all complaints with the best possible experience, but we also understand that outcomes can be disappointing, so we provide escalation options, such as referral to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

From a communications perspective, we’ll never discuss an account publicly, so you shouldn’t expect to see a detailed response from us to comments on social media platforms.

It’s also worth noting that repeat complaints, vocal individuals across social media channels and negative reviews are often used as a tactic to apply pressure. If a situation has reached such a stage, we’ll be confident in our decision, as I have referenced previously, such decisions are not made lightly.

It’s very important to us that we get this right - to protect our customers. It’s also our legal responsibility. In all cases we are acting as quickly as we can, with the minimal possible impact.