A transgender woman’s debit card was canceled and her assets were frozen because her bank claimed she “sounded like a man” on the phone.
Sophia Reis, 47, told Santander Bank she had transitioned last November and says the bank dutifully changed her name and identity in its records, But when she called on August 30 to transfer £72 (about $93) to a friend, she was told she didn’t pass a security check.
The following day, she discovered Santander had put a block on her account.
Reis went into a branch to discuss the situation and remind them they had her current information on file, but, she told Metro UK, “They said ‘my voice did not match my profile because it sounded like a man on the phone and not a woman.'”
She even told the agent on the phone she was a trans woman but, she claims, they didn’t seem to care.
“I was crying my eyes out and I am not that type of person at all. I am a very courteous person and I am outgoing but to feel that way when all I asked was for my money to be transferred… I feel mistreated.”
Now Reis, a customer service adviser in Carlton, Nottinghamshire, wants to make sure other people, trans or otherwise, don’t go through the same ordeal she did.
“Santander is a multi-million pound company that should have a flag on their system for people who are a minority like myself. It could have been someone with throat cancer calling and you can’t see the person on the other end of the phone… All my information was at the click of a button.”
A spokeswoman for Santander told Metro the bank apologized to Reis, but still maintained that, “When verifying customers are who they say they are we have to balance our duty to protect the security of their accounts. If a customer rings up with their banking credentials they should be able to pass security with no problems.”
They added that Santander “works closely with LGBT+ colleagues and charities to identify the barriers that are in place to access our services. We want all of our customers to be treated equally and fairly.”
But the incident comes almost exactly a year after another trans woman in the UK was blocked from using her Santander account because the bank misgendered her. London-based makeup artist Drew Dalziel had even provided the correct security information, but was told she couldn’t access her funds because she “sounded like a man.”
Dalziel was forced to borrow money from relatives for a week until her account was unlocked. The bank made a similar apology—and promise to do better.
“Last year, we worked with our contact centers to develop a process to support customers who are transitioning,” a spokesperson said a Santander spokesperson at the time. “Unfortunately, the process was not followed and we caused distress and inconvenience. We have offered Miss Dalziel a gesture of goodwill and since being able to verify her identity correctly we have unblocked her account with immediate effect.”