As of yesterday, the BBC stopped allowing over-75s to access the BBC for free – meaning millions of pensioners now have to fork out the annual £157.50 fee. Those who receive pension credit are exempt from paying the charge, but it has emerged many over-75s were asked to prove they received the benefit by sending over their bank statements in the post.
The move, which has prompted outrage, was highlighted after callers to a hotline set up to help pensioners with the charge were told to send bank statements to the TV Licensing offices to prove they receive pension credit.
At first advisers on the helpline, which is run by the outsourcing giant Capita, told callers they could send a photocopy or scan of their pension credit documents.
But many pensioners were unable to do this, as they do not have access to a photocopier or printer and were unable to leave their homes during the lockdown period.
Many of the over-75s have been required to shield and so were unable to enlist friends and family to help.
The advisers then suggested pensioners sent a bank statement or the original award letter for pension credit via post, alongside a note requesting its return.
But one employee said a “verbal declaration” over the phone giving pension credit information would be enough.
Those who were deaf or had difficulty speaking could post a bank statement.
That could affect a large proportion of pensioners, as about 70 percent of people over the age of 70 have some hearing loss, according to the Action on Hearing Loss charity.
Labour peer Lord Faulks of Cumnock also hit out at the news, and said: “If the elderly post bank statements, they are at an increased risk of identity theft.”
People also hit out at the move on Twitter, with one person writing: “Asking people for bank statements absolutely guarantees fraud.
“I bet the scammers have already been calling.”
The BBC responded to the report, and said TV Licensing offices were not “actively seeking bank statements”.
The corporation said in a statement: “TV Licensing are not actively seeking bank statements — this is simply an option and we don’t expect to make very much use of it.
“The TV Licensing team take extreme care with personal data and have a wide range of measures in place to protect it.”