Tesco Bank freezes online transactions after hacking attack

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Tesco Bank will freeze customers online transactions after falling victim to a hacking attack, its chief executive has said.

Benny Higgins said the bank would halt online transactions for current account customers on Monday, in an emergency security measure.

Some current accounts were subjected to "online criminal activity" over the weekend, with "some cases" resulting in money being withdrawn fraudulently, he said.

The bank was earlier forced to block some customers' cards after "suspicious activity" was detected in its fraud prevention system.

Higgins said: "Tesco Bank can confirm that, over the weekend, some of its customer current accounts have been subject to online criminal activity, in some cases resulting in money being withdrawn fraudulently.

"We apologise for the worry and inconvenience that this has caused for customers, and can only stress that we are taking every step to protect our customers' accounts.

"That is why, as a precautionary measure, we have taken the decision today to temporarily stop online transactions from current accounts."

(Andrew Milligan/PA)
Tesco Bank chief executive Benny Higgins sought to reassure customers (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Higgins said customers affected by the block will still be able to withdraw cash and use other services.

He also sought to reassure customers that Tesco Bank will "ensure they do not lose out financially" and accounts will be refunded "as soon as possible".

The bank is working with authorities and regulators to address the circumstances surrounding the security breach.

Thousands of accounts were reportedly affected after apparent fraudsters targeted the bank's clients, with customers taking to social media to alert the bank.

One man tweeted his available balance had dropped by £700 without him making a transaction while another said the disruption had left her "unable to feed my kids in school tomorrow".

Others complained about a lack of communication from the bank and hours spent on hold.

"We have been hacked, all money gone, no email or text! Appalling response from Tesco so far #nobodyanswering," one tweeted.

Tesco Bank, which opened in 1997 and has been wholly owned by Tesco PLC since 2008, has 7.8 million customer accounts.