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One reader’s fight against Revolut’s opaque ‘ransom photo’ demands

Pricewatch: The fintech is accused of using ‘bully boy tactics and threats to avoid answering’ basic questions about its account security demands

Being cut off from your finances until you forward your bank a picture of you holding a scribbled note carrying its name and today’s date does not sound like a great leap forward when it comes to banking but it happened to one of our readers and he is not happy about it.

The reader’s name is Stephen and he begins his mail by saying he has been using Revolut for years and finds it “a fantastic way to bank and manage funds”.

The good news stops there.

“For the past number of months I have been getting messages and emails from Revolut seeking my tax details,” he says. More specifically, he has been repeatedly asked for his PPS number.


“Given the age that we live in [with] constant scammers I was wary, especially as my Irish banks do not seem to need this information, so I asked the question: Why did Revolut want it but my Irish banks don’t?”

The reply from Revolut was, he says, less than satisfactory and amounted to a suggestion that if he did not provide the info as requested then his “account would have ‘incoming fund restrictions’ meaning I would not be able to receive any money or top up my account.”

So he repeated the question and was transferred to another “chat assistant who said Revolut is required by law to collect and report my tax residencies which are regulated by CRS and FATCA and because of these anonymous acronyms they had to make sure my tax details are up to date, so when I questioned him about reading from a script he passed me on to [another Revolut helper].”

Stephen says that when the new helper took over “things escalated very quickly and she advised him that ‘the system is flagging the account is under breach of condition’ and needed to be terminated.

He says he was told they had been “forced to close this account but not to worry I was free ‘to create another one just to avoid potential threats to the integrity and security of my account.’”

So Stephen replied that it was “unacceptable to close my account on foot of some spurious excuses that didn’t seem to effect my account” and he was then told he needed to send her a photograph with a piece of paper with “Revolut and DATE OF TODAY handwritten on it. I was now thinking there was going to be a ransom demand like you’d see in the movies. So I told her that I would not be providing the requested photo and that I was happy with the integrity of my account and to not close my account under any circumstances.”

In his mail to us Stephen makes it clear he did not have a claim or a complaint and just wanted to know why Revolut needed his PPS number and who they were reporting it to

The story does not end there.

Stephen then saw “the caring side of [his Revolut helper] who ‘understood how distressing this was’ for me, but nevertheless she needed my selfie in order to ensure my account’s safety”.

He was still missing any explanation as to why the account that was fine on one day was “now under serious security threat”, he writes. “I advised her that the only person causing me distress was her threatening to close my account. At this stage she had had enough so was passing me over to the onboarding team.”

At about 3am the next day, Stephen “received a very courteous reply from [another Revolut helper] who quoted me the acronyms again and also stated that he could not answer for the Irish banks but said the ‘Law is really requiring us to collect this information to strictly comply in the fight against tax evasion’.

Our reader’s new helper said there was “no problem with my account and that it was fully active and functional.

“He also stated that he was assigned to deal with this matter and that if I wanted to I could escalate my ‘claim’ to the complaints department,” our increasingly frustrated reader says.

In his mail to us he makes it clear he did not have a claim or a complaint and just wanted to know why Revolut needed his PPS number and who they were reporting it to.

Stephen wasn’t finished with Revolut helpers and another came on board.

This new helper, too, “was sorry to hear about my dissatisfaction and [said] I could file a formal complaint ... blah blah and thanked me for my patience but I would still need to provide the aforementioned ransom-type photo and that they were going to “restrict my account temporarily until I provided said photo”.

Our doughty reader was having none of it and asked why he had a new helper when the old one said he was handling it. “I told him not to place any restrictions on my account as there was no risk to it. Then I received an email that “my account had been restricted”. When I asked why, [the new helper] replied [that it was] “because my account could be at risk and I needed to provide the [ransom] photo.

“As he had obviously not bothered reading the thread of the conversation I asked him to unblock my account and refer the case back. Well, then the walls started coming up,” says Stephen.

He was told they “need to follow their security steps as my account was at risk and I needed to provide the photo.

Stephen asked what his account was at risk of and his helper said he could not disclose any information until the security steps were completed, adding that he was “sorry if I faced any incontinence (sic) during our chat but account security was their first priority and he really needed my selfie.

“I assured him that my bladder and bowel were in perfect working order. I also restated that I was not going to provide any information and wondered why my account was suddenly unsecured? Was it because I had the audacity to question the mighty Revolut with a legitimate query? He finished the conversation with the old security fall back and my account is now blocked, meaning I do not have access to my funds.”

As far as I am concerned I am happy with the explanation. But I wonder why they were so averse in providing this explanation from the get-go!

—  Our reader Stephen

Stephen apologises for the long saga but says he “simply wanted to know was who Revolut were giving my personal details to and that obviously begs the question, why? What makes me more suspicious and should concern everyone is why they have avoided replying to a simple question and using bully boy tactics and threats to avoid answering the same.”

A day later Stephen was back in touch with us to say that not only had the fintech blocked access to his account, they had also billed him €7.99 in monthly fees just days after doing so.

Now while Stephen has gone into greater length than most in outlining his difficulties extracting what should be some pretty straightforward information from Revolut, he is by no means alone in wondering and we have heard this question multiple times in recent months.

We were able to answer at least part of his question with the help of Revenue. It says that “financial institutions are obliged to collect and report certain information to their tax authority. This applies where they are based in any jurisdiction signed up to the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) or Common Reporting Standard (CRS). This information can then be exchanged with tax authorities in other jurisdictions.

“Ireland has signed up to both the CRS and FATCA. Irish financial institutions review their accounts to identify and report account holders who are not tax-resident in Ireland or are US citizens. Revenue then exchanges the information with the appropriate jurisdiction if they are signatories to CRS or FATCA.

So if you have a financial account in a financial institution in Ireland, they determine your tax residency or citizenship status and if you are Irish tax resident and not a US citizen, there is no further action taken. No information will be reported to Revenue.

After we contacted Revolut it made contact with Stephen and explained in more detail what was going on. “As far as I am concerned I am happy with the explanation,” he says. “But I wonder why they were so averse in providing this explanation from the get-go!”

In a statement the company said “we apologise to [Stephen] for any inconvenience caused. For the protection of our customers, we sometimes require a customer to provide a selfie when we’ve identified any type of risk associated with who is in control of the account.”