Thousands of households have been told to order their groceries online, after the Government introduced strict lockdown measures, advising the elderly and vulnerable to stay isolated for 12 weeks.
The Prime Minister said people should shop online and avoid mixing with members of the public until further notice.
However a sudden upsurge in sign-ups to supermarket websites has sent many into meltdown – while shoppers now say their payments are being blocked by banks and building societies.
Money Mail reports that dozens of customers have had their payments have been blocked – leaving them without access to essential supplies.
Last month, Nationwide blocked several online card transactions that Hazel Smith, 65, had made – including a payment to John Lewis for a freezer and a £65 online shop at Morrisons she had ordered for her asthmatic niece, a student living in Sheffield, who is self-isolating because she is vulnerable.
Hazel, a professor of international security at Cranfield University, said she could not find another delivery slot for her niece.
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Nationwide alerted Hazel by text message after midnight on the day of the Morrisons delivery, which she replied to within minutes. This unblocked the payment, but by then it was too late.
“My guess is that banking systems can’t cope with everyone changing their shopping habits. Incompetence, in other words, and a ‘couldn’t care less’ attitude,” Hazel said.
“It’s gut-wrenching when you get an email the day of the delivery you have been waiting for and then scary because you have to go out.”
Money Mail also spoke to one retired GP who had booked a £270 delivery with Morrisons two weeks in advance.
But the night before it was due, RBS sent him a text message regarding ‘fraudulent activity’.
Roger Parkin, who lives in Leeds with his wife Penny, 70, called the bank, but the payment had already been stopped.
Morrisons said it could not reinstate his order nor give him a replacement slot, resulting in Penny having to go out to pick up her vital supplies.
Roger, 73, said: “The bank told me the payment had been blocked automatically but did not explain on what grounds.
“What upset me is RBS could have checked with me that I made the payment and then allowed it to go through.”
An RBS spokesman said: “We are doing all we can to keep our customers safe during this difficult and unprecedented time. Our fraud prevention strategies are constantly under review.”
A Morrisons spokesman said: “We advise all customers who don’t usually shop online to get in touch with their relevant card provider before making their order to inform them to reduce the chance of [delivery] cancellations.”
Nationwide would not say what triggered the fraud alerts but says it is constantly reviewing threats.
Martyn James, from complaints website Resolver, said: “We know these are unusual times but what is happening is unacceptable.
“If banks need to verify payments they should check with the customer when the transaction is made — not the day of the delivery.”