My bank account has been frozen and the bank won’t tell me anything; what does this mean?

If your bank account has been frozen or you have been locked out of your account, and on contacting your bank they are refusing to give you any information about why this has happened or when the issue will be resolved, it is likely that there is a suspicion of either fraudulent activity or money-laundering on the account and a Suspicious Activity Report (SAR) has been made.

SAR refers to the system in place whereby a financial institution reports unusual or suspicious activity related to money laundering or terrorist financing to the UK Financial Intelligence Unit (UKFIU), which is part of the National Crime Agency (NCA).

All such reports are logged on a SAR database and this information can then be made available to law enforcement agencies, HMRC, or government departments for further investigation if necessary. SARs provide vital intelligence information to law enforcement, which is used predominantly in relation to financial crime and money laundering, or sometimes other criminal activity.

There are many reasons why a bank or financial institution may make a SAR. Sometimes it is because there has been an exceptionally large cash payment to the account, or because the customer has been acting unusually or that the transaction does not make commercial sense. An institution has an obligation to make a SAR if they have concerns about suspicious activity on an account.

If a financial institution makes a SAR on your account, they are prohibited from informing you, to prevent any “tipping off”. They will often advise that the account has been suspended but they cannot give further information.

Once a SAR has been reported on an account, the NCA has 7 days within which to respond to the financial institution indicating whether the suspension can be lifted, or whether they need more time to investigate the unusual activity. If no response is received from the NCA by the bank within 7 days, then the bank can assume that the inhibition can be lifted. If the NCA respond requiring that the suspension remains and they need more time, they will have a further 31 days to investigate. During this period, the bank cannot provide any information to the customer to avoid tipping off.

If your account has been frozen and you have concerns about whether or not a SAR has been made, our team at Meaby & Co can assist. Contact Caoimhe Boyce on cboyce@meaby.co.uk to discuss further.

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