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

Sophia Reis, 46, said she was left “embarrassed” after she failed a security check on August 30 (Sophia Reis/PA)

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

Sophia Reis said 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” saying it left her feeling embarrassed of who she is.

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

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.

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."

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.”