This morning I was walking the dog. The dog is happy walking around on her own, so I decide to do a little life admin. It’s a busy day ahead, not sure I’ll get the chance to do it all, I’ll steal a march now.

I’ve got my phone in my hand. I decide to do a bank transfer, to someone I haven’t transferred to before.

I log into my bank’s website through the web browser on my phone (Chrome Beta), which is painless enough, done it before quite a bit, and go to the Payment section from my current account page. I go to the option to send a payment to someone I haven’t sent a payment to before (which is more succinctly presented than that, because that’s the value of good content design).

I enter the sort code of the account I am sending money to. The screen responds to say which bank that sort code is with. I enter the account number of the account I am sending money to. I click the continue button.

The screen refreshes and I am presented with the following:

Screen grab

On the screen I go to tap the Mobile option and see it is already selected – and then looking down at the next option notice that the Home number isn’t ours. We haven’t got a landline at home any more. But that phone number isn’t our old number. Or any of our numbers in the past.

My default form of telephone contact is through my mobile telephone. My wife is the same. We don’t even have a landline anymore.

I quickly switch tabs in my browser and search for the area code 01744. It’s St Helens. We’ve never leaved in St Helens. I am worried.

At this point I actually want to stop what I am doing and sort this out. I look on screen. Nothing asks me “Is one of these numbers not yours?”

I decide to press on, making absolutely sure I have selected the Mobile option before continuing. I complete the transaction, but I am not happy. Something is amiss.

I am sure that nothing has gone from my accounts without me knowing. But I go to the screen of payment recipients my account can send money to. Everything on there is as I expect it. No unknown recipients.

Screen grab

I look at how I can change my Home number through the website. It seems easy enough. But I still have this niggling feeling. How did this happen? Where did this number come from? I hold back from changing the number and get in touch with my bank, through Twitter. They respond with two numbers I could ring, and I choose one and call.

The call starts by asking me for my card number, my date of birth and the three digit code off the back of my card. I am promptly put through to someone.

I briefly explain the situation, much like I’ve tapped out above (and eerily like I am taking someone through some designs at work). I also say how I am actually feeling a little unsure about this. I reiterate I didn’t enter this number.

I am asked if I have made any payments recently. I say yes, I did one about an hour ago, which is when I realised this. I set up a new recipient and made a transfer.

“And before that?” I make transfers regularly, but this is the first time I have set up a new recipient for some time, I think. It is definitely the first time I have noticed the number is wrong – but then I am a mobile telephone first kinda person.

The person on the other end of the line asks if the Home number has ever been a number I have held. I say reiterate no, and that we have never lived in St Helens.

I ask if I can find out when and maybe how this number was entered into the system.

The chap on the other end of the line says he can look, and after a brief pause he tells me the number has been on my account for over a year “because I can only search back up to a year”.

I am curious. Maybe the bank tried to call out landline and couldn’t get through, so maybe this is one of the bank’s numbers? Or some sort of number that is a short code for the operators to show the landline isn’t in use?

“No, it isn’t a thing the bank uses. It could be a glitch in the system. We moved some data around and another number got put against your account. Or it was blank and we filled with another random number.”


“Maybe it was blank and we [the bank] put another random number in there.”

Whose number? I ask.

“Another home’s number.”

I ask how can I find out when this number was added, as I am a little concerned. This phone number could have access to my account, somehow.

I am told he cannot, but another department cannot. I ask how I can get in touch with them. He offers up a phone number for me to write down (rather than transferring me). I take down the number. I say thanks. I hang up.

On the short train journey into Leeds I think this through. I have this department who can help, I do not want to change the number because I am worried inserting no number might destroy any chance of finding out more. I feel foolish for not noticing sooner. And how could I have not known this number had been changed? The answers I got about how this could have happened?

In the space of an hour the trust I hold in my bank has gone, not just because of the How Did That Number Get There? and the reasons offered, but because I am the one who has to dial through to this other department to allay my fears. It’s making me think I really need to switch banks.

Anyway, all the above, the value of good service design through bad service design.

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