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X-Ray production team X-Ray production team | 19:30 UK time, Wednesday, 4 February 2009

What happens when you need to produce identifying documents to claim your winnings?

Internet gambling may not be everyone's cup of tea, but for 82-year-old Betty Raby from Bridgend it's an exciting hobby, and a reminder of happy times with her friends and late husband Doug.

Nowadays it's harder for Betty to get out, so she enjoys a flutter from the comfort of her own home using her laptop.

Betty has a few sites she regularly visited to chance her hand, but one favourite is Crown Bingo. She had a few small wins, and has banked around £175 in prize money. And when she won £300 last year she was delighted.

Betty's happiness turned to frustration and worry, however, when she tried to withdraw £300 of her winnings. She was told by Crown Bingo that she needed to submit additional proof of identity before she would be allowed to receive the money.

Betty was concerned about the sort of information the company was asking for. She was worried that in the wrong hands it could be used to commit identity fraud.

She told X-Ray's Rhodri Owen: "They wanted my passport, front and back, credit card, bank statement or utility bill. I refused to give it.

"I was amazed they had enough information to take money from my account but not enough to put it back in. You hear so much about ID theft, using your details to get into your bank account."

Betty contacted Crown Bingo and told them she was prepared to send a copy of her utility bill as proof of identity, but not the other information they wanted. But they insisted that wasn't good enough.

"I can't believe they're withholding the money," she said. "They deducted money from my bank account but they won't put money in. I am disgusted. I'd rather go without than give the details they want. I'll leave it there forever. I'm not giving that sort of information."

So why does Crown Bingo need all this information before they'll pay out? After all they'd been happy to take her money, and let her gamble, with much less information.

They say that the information they request is part of their fraud prevention policy, and is no different to other gaming operators.

They say that they checked Betty's ID a number of times during the gambling relationship before they requested her full identification documents. And they say this is in line with the regulations they must follow.

Crown Bingo is regulated by the Alderney Gambling Control Commission - over in the Channel Islands.

They say that online gaming companies licensed by them must start to check customers' identities before it allows them to gamble and Alderney requires its licensees to continue verifying their customers' identities right through the gambling relationship in order to prevent crime and money laundering.

But what to the experts think? Tony Neate represents "Get Safe Online", a government backed initiative to protect internet users.

He told Rhodri: "We have to be very careful about the information we pass on to businesses and individuals and Betty did absolutely the right thing to question this company.

"Although in this instance they have done nothing wrong, the advice is to ask up front about what information they want on you before you start dealing with that particular company so you know where you stand if you do win.

"I think companies need to look about what sort of information they are asking for, how they ask for it and how they deliver that information over once they want it."

So where does this leave Betty? Well, once X-Ray intervened and confirmed that she is who she says she is, Crown Bingo agreed to pay her winnings, and sent a bunch of flowers as a gesture of goodwill.

They told us that "like all online companies they are a target for a substantial numbers of fraudsters and that genuine customers do occasionally have to provide extra identification as part of their anti-fraud checks" and they are delighted that Betty is still one of their regular customers.

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