Published: 06:00, 16 June 2019
A business owner feared the company he has built up for more than two decades could collapse after both his bank accounts were frozen.
Damon Ralph, who has run Pallet Recovery and Son in Bysing Wood Road, Faversham, for 25 years, has not been able to access his business or personal accounts after they were locked due to suspected fraudulent activity.
But the 49-year-old, who banks with Barclays, believes there is a perfectly innocent explanation for what has prompted this.
He says, however, the banking team will not hear him out and has been told his accounts have been frozen for a 10-day period.
Mr Ralph unknowingly drove a lorry while out on a delivery through a low emission zone on the A206 in Erith and was sent a hefty fine of £500.
Attempting to pay the fine after checking there was money in the account, his business card was declined.
Thinking he may have the numbers wrong, he tried again.
After it was rejected for a second time, Mr Ralph decided to telephone Transport for London, which is responsible for the fines.
The pallet yard boss said: “I told them I was trying to pay the fine and the lady on the other end said what happens sometimes is banks decline the card because they think it’s a fraudulent act.
“So I tried one more time, but used my personal account card instead, and it was paid.”
When Mr Ralph later tried to buy something for one of the lorries on his business cards from eBay, his card was declined.
"I've got to run my business for 10 days with no bank accounts which could have meant going to be out of business" - Damon Ralph
He contacted his bank, who told him both his business and personal accounts had been frozen due to suspected fraud and that it would take 10 days to investigate.
Mr Ralph added: “I said to them 'hang on a minute, I think I might know what this might be' and tried to explain, but it didn't make any difference.
“They have locked me out of online banking, mobile banking, telephone banking - so I can’t access my accounts whatsoever.
“They won’t take any explanation of what I had done.”
The father-of-three worried he would struggle to keep his business on track and put food on the table at home because of it, but a friend has thankfully stepped in and lent him some money until the issue is resolved.
“How does the bank expect me to operate a business with no money?” he said.
“They are treating me as the crook, but I’ve done absolutely nothing wrong.
“I’ve got to run my business for 10 days with no bank accounts which could have meant going to be out of business.
“I’ve got a family to feed as well. I feel like they’re treating me like a villain.”
Barclays was asked to comment but has yet to respond.
Transport for London was also asked to comment but failed to do so.