Mistakes can happen but the damage can often be minimised if you spot them quickly and take steps to get matters put right.

Always check your bank statements. Though there's no legal obligation to do this (as there is in some countries) it may alert you to any error.

If you find a mistake, contact your branch as soon as possible. If you make a personal visit, take with you any relevant papers, such as records of cash withdrawals, copies of direct debit forms, and so on. If the problem is complex, it might be helpful to take along a brief written summary of the facts. If the counter staff can't sort out the problem, insist on seeing the manager. If you can't visit your branch, put your complaint in writing, enclose copies (never originals) of the relevant papers and send it all to the branch manager.

If your branch can't resolve the matter to your satisfaction, write to the head office - if you don't know whom to contact there, address your letter to the Customer Relations Manager or phone the head office first to find out who deals with such problems. Once again, enclose copies of the relevant documents with your letter.

If you have no joy with head office either, then you may be able to take your case to the relevant Ombudsman. The Banking Ombudsman scheme is a voluntary one. Not all banks belong to it, though all the major ones do. If your bank is not a member, the Ombudsman won't be able to look into your case, and your only remaining course of action might be to take the matter to court. The Building Society Ombudsman is a statutory scheme to which all building societies must belong. Details of both these schemes are given in Section 8.

If you're not happy with the Ombudsman's decision, you can go to court - but this could be a very costly and lengthy procedure.

TIP - If you become so fed up with your bank or building society that you decide to move your account, don't act in haste. Open a new account first. Once you've got a cheque book, guarantee card and cash card, and have set up your standing orders and direct debits, you can safely close the old account with the minimum of inconvenience.

Deposit (savings) Accounts

Identity Theft

In some instances, banks are obliged to supply information about their customers' accounts:

- where required to by law - for example, providing the Inland Revenue with a list of customers who receive more than a given amount of interest (this applies also to building societies), or communicating a suspicion that a customer's funds are derived fr>- where it's a public duty. In practice, most instances of this nature are now covered by specific laws

- where it's in the interests of the bank. This is a very vague area. It seems reasonable enough that the bank should use such information... see: Identity Theft

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