Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Beware: ATM scams - it's REAL!

Just last week, I read in a national broadsheet warning the public to be careful and vigilant in using automated teller machines (ATM) after a new scam was discovered. I don't think this is a "new" scam since every other year or so, scammers always seem to make a comeback. They just let the issue dissipate and the moment banks and depositors let their guards down, boom! Anyway, it still involves the same modus of "skimming" or capturing an ATM card's number, personal identification number (PIN) and other important information using a specialized scanner. The captured data is then used to make a duplicate card which the scammers use to make withdrawals, without the knowledge of the depositor of course. This scam also victimizes credit card owners.  The cause for the warning is a recent case of ATM fraud in UAE. 

Image from the web

I was alarmed but not really alarmed until the other day, when my former college classmate Elna who is behind the successful fashion blog The Kaloka wrote a post that one of her close friends was victimized by this scam. Now it hit home. After getting her permission, I'm reposting this on Ina-Tay Writes to warn you my readers not only of the scam but the rather cold and impersonal response of her friend's bank.

Via her friend's FB account , she wrote:
“My personal experience this Jan 2013: Returned from a business trip not knowing that my whole month pay (plus other reimbursements) was being withdrawn via another bank ATM ilegally and without my authorization. My account was not even in the bank’s list of “suspected accounts that was breached”, so this was not blocked (as mentioned in the article the bank blocks automatically these accounts as a pro-active measure). The bank denied my claim for reimbursement and even pointed out that I, as a depositor, should have been responsible for the security of my card and PIN. I did my part since the card was in our possession all the while. It is the bank’s responsibility to safeguard the accounts of its depositors. I am still fighting this one out to get back my hard earned savings from this bank. Take extra care everyone, monitor your accounts on a more regular basis. Please share as this can happen to anyone who makes a decent living and finds out it was taken just like that. But you still get blamed in the end by the bank who is supposed to keep your savings safe.” 
You may ask which bank she was referring to - well, it's BDO, the country's largest bank since 2008. Now I don't have an axe to grind with this bank since I don't have an account with them but what prodded me to react was the response my classmate's friend received from them after filing a formal complaint.

“In view of the above, we regret to advise you that we are unable to reimburse you for the amount you are claiming as we have no basis to justify same given that the transactions were made using a valid/ legitimate NDO ATM Debit Card Number and ATM PIN.
As a Card Holder, you are fully responsible for the security of both your BDO ATM Debit Card and ATM PIN as well as for all transactions made using the same card issued to you as stipulated in the “Terms and Conditions Governing Deposit Accounts” by which you agreed to be bound.”
I was like, WHAT???!!! This is all they could muster to tell their depositor who according to my classmate lost a six-figure amount tot this scam. We can therefore infer that her poor friend lost a minimum of Php 100,000.00. Tsk... tsk... tsk... I totally understand that they could not make immediate promises but BDO could at least have been more sympathetic of her plight and perhaps assured her that an investigation will be underway. If nothing comes out of it, then that's probably the time to say something that begins with "we regret"! It's a no brainer, duh! It's basic customer service and communication for crying out loud! Her hard-earned money was withdrawn by SCAMMERS and not because she was careless and didn't know any better. If it were me, only God knows what I will do losing my money and worst, my bank not even lifting a finger to help me. 

My classmate and I sadly cannot do anything to help her. All we can do is write about her sad experience in our respective blogs to inform our readers and perhaps one of you know someone up there in BDO who can be of more help than a cold response. To know more about ATM scams, read here. Be informed or be sorry.

And for the latest international trends (she writes from abroad), you can visit The Kaloka

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