'Last straw' as transgender woman's bank account frozen for 'sounding like man'

A transgender woman has said her bank account was frozen after call-handlers identified her as a man.

Thursday, 6th September 2018, 4:09 pm
Updated Thursday, 6th September 2018, 5:11 pm
Sophia Reis, who has said her bank account was frozen after call-handlers identified her as a man. Photo credit: Sophia Reis/PA Wire

Sophia Reis said she was left "embarrassed" and had a nervous breakdown at work after she failed a security check on August 30.

The 46-year-old customer service adviser described the experience with Santander Bank as "the last straw" after claiming she had been discriminated against on a number of occasions in the past.

She said she had informed the bank in November last year that she would like to change her name from Sergio to Sophia.

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Sophia Reis, who has said her bank account was frozen after call-handlers identified her as a man. Photo credit: Sophia Reis/PA Wire

But the bank froze her account as she failed to pass a security check, which meant she was not allowed to transfer £72 to a friend on her debit card.

Miss Reis told the Press Association this was not the first time she had faced difficulties - with shops banning her from entering at certain times because they did not want people "complaining that you are here".

She claimed she had applied for more than 400 jobs in the space of eight weeks and had attended countless interviews but had no luck until her last interview - which she attended as a man.

Describing what happened when she complained to Santander, Miss Reis, of Carlton, Nottingham, said: "I went into the bank in Clumber Street and said, 'You have got all my documentation and I changed my name on November 11.'

"They said my voice did not match my profile because it sounded like a man on the phone and not a woman.

"I was crying my eyes out and I am not that type of person at all. I am a very courteous person and I am outgoing but to feel that way when all I asked was for my money to be transferred - I feel mistreated."

Miss Reis, originally from Portugal, moved to England in September 1997 as a single parent with her three-year-old son.

She told the Press Association: "I've told people this is the last straw that broke the camel's back.

"In my previous job, my employer had a problem with who I am and then in the eight weeks I was unemployed, I applied for over 400 jobs - something like 50 to 70 a day.

"I had countless interviews and would never get the job - and then my last interview I went as a man and I got the job, and that's where I work now."

Speaking of how she felt when her card was declined in Tesco, Miss Reis said: "You can imagine the embarrassment. I was almost in tears and I was absolutely fuming.

"They eventually managed to unblock my card so I returned to work - I had a nervous breakdown at work and I was shaking like a leaf.

"For the first time in my life I felt embarrassed of who I am."

A spokeswoman for Santander said: "We have apologised to Miss Reis for the experience she had when using our telephone banking service and offered her a gesture of goodwill.

"It was certainly not our intention to cause any offence, and our service was not as good as it should have been.

"When verifying customers are who they say they are we have to balance our duty to protect the security of their accounts."

She added: "If a customer rings up with their banking credentials they should be able to pass security with no problems.

"Santander works closely with LGBT+ colleagues and charities to identify the barriers that are in place to access our services.

"We want all of our customers to be treated equally and fairly."