Security

UK bank freezes online transactions after theft

Tesco Bank says money was stolen from about 20,000 accounts, and thousands more were compromised.

Jonathan Nicholson, NurPhoto via Getty Images

Tesco Bank has frozen online transactions for all of its 136,000 current account holders following "online criminal activity," resulting in the theft of funds from at least 20,000 customers.

Some customers reported that money had gone missing from their accounts over the weekend, resulting in the banking arm of the British retailer opting to prevent online transfers as a "precautionary" measure.

"Tesco Bank can confirm that, over the weekend, some of its customers' current accounts have been subject to online criminal activity, in some cases resulting in money being withdrawn fraudulently," said Benny Higgins, chief executive of Tesco Bank, in a statement.

Apologizing for the "worry and inconvenience" the thefts have caused, Higgins said Tesco Bank is "taking every step" to protect customer accounts, which is why the bank opted to temporarily suspend all online activity.

"We are working hard to resume normal service on current accounts as soon as possible," he said. "We can reassure customers that any financial loss as a result of this activity will be resolved fully by Tesco Bank, and we are working to refund accounts that have been subject to fraud as soon as possible."

A Tesco Bank spokesperson confirmed to CNET sister site ZDNet that around 40,000 accounts in total have been involved in suspicious transactions, with half of those involving theft of money.

Customers were informed of the fraudulent activity via text message on Saturday night and have been told they can still use their accounts for cash withdrawals and chip-and-pin payments, while all existing bill payments and direct debits will continue as normal.

The bank says it's working with the authorities and regulators to address the fraudulent activity, although it has yet to offer any indication of how the accounts were compromised.

Tesco Bank told customers it will keep them informed about the situation through its website, Twitter accounts and direct communications, although some customers reported having trouble getting through to the bank via phone.

In total, Tesco Bank has 7 million customers who use it for services including mortgages, ISAs and insurance. The bank launched its current account banking service in 2014.

This story originally posted as "Tesco Bank freezes all online transactions after money stolen from 20,000 accounts" on ZDNet.