Even when you’re on a pilgrimage, you’re vulnerable to cyber-phishers, as Claudia Buisson found out. After hours of frustrating telephone calls and the subsequent intervention of Personal Finance, Absa paid her the full R18188 that had been stolen from her bank account.
“Last year, at the end of May, I left for a three-month trip to France, where I walked a pilgrimage of 500km and then stayed in a small village in south-east France. During this time I used a French SIM card and number and rarely looked at my Absa account. The village was in the mountains and internet was rarely available.
“My account was hacked on July20 last year. Two names, ‘Dohol Moloi’ and ‘Kates Neiopo’, were added to my list of beneficiaries, and without me knowing they were able to remove R5213, R4000, R4100, and R4875 (R18188 in all). First they moved R12000 and R5100 from my money market account into my current account and then withdrew the smaller amounts.
“When I noticed these unfamiliar deductions, on July 25, I asked my daughter, who lives in Wellington and has signature on my account, to ask Absa. Which is what she did. (I didn’t give my PIN or any other number to anybody, as I had no need to; I was away in the mountains with little or no internet,” Buisson told Personal Finance.
Buisson’s daughter drove to the Gardens, Cape Town branch, and laid a complaint on August 1, 2018, and provided an affidavit from the Wellington police station.
“Tasniem at the Gardens branch notified Absa’s fraud department on August 2, 2018, but there was no response. I went back on September26 to find out what was happening. Zanele told Tasniem to ‘resend the documents’, as they were nowhere to be found. They were then sent to Portia, who subsequently sent a message to Thembi, a team leader at the fraud department, saying that she had had no feedback since she reported the fraudulent transactions.
“I can’t tell you how often I called the fraud department and wasted hours and hours on the phone with no answer. I called over and over again on consequent days and spoke to 10 different people, and it was impossible to get hold of Thembi. I’d wait and then get cut off. I can’t tell you how often this happened.
“I went back to Tasniem at Gardens to ask for help, where I was advised to contact the banking ombudsman. Many people told me it would take a long time, so I didn’t bother, as I was frustrated enough.
“On December 19, 2018, I received a letter from Absa’s fraud defence execution offering me R9094, which they paid out in January 2019. I accepted the offer, as I felt under pressure, and as a ‘single woman’, I gave in,” Buisson said.
After reading a report in the Atlantic Sun (August 29, 2019), Buisson wrote to Personal Finance, which asked Absa for an explanation.
On September 6, after receiving a call from Absa and a letter, Buisson checked her bank account to find an ex-gratia deposit of a further R9094.
Ally Mafunzwaini, head of fraud solutions, Everyday Banking, at Absa Retail and Business Bank, told Personal Finance: “Fraud is a major concern for the entire industry, and it impacts the much-needed relationship of trust between banks and their customers. Consistent with our customer-first approach, each case is considered on its specific merits.
“Our investigations indicate that our normal internal controls, which safeguard the customer’s account, were not compromised. This means that the fraud did not result from any lapse in our access security controls.
“However, given the specific context and unique circumstances of this case, we decided to offer the customer a full refund. We’ve already spoken to her, and she’s satisfied with the outcome.
“We have embarked on ongoing awareness to protect our customers against all forms of fraud and we implore them to remain vigilant against any attempt to dupe them into handing over the ‘keys to the safe’ - PIN, CVV, one-time PIN (OTP), online banking PIN, online banking password - to third parties.
“In a first for South Africa, we introduced a free digital fraud warranty, which is added protection for customers who’ve been defrauded. The warranty covers all customers who’ve adopted the Absa app and who transact responsibly.”
Cowyk Fox, managing executive, Everyday Banking, told Personal Finance that improving overall customer experience was central to Absa Retail and Business Bank’s ethos and was imperative in an ever-evolving marketplace.
“Social engineering, cybercrime and digital fraud pose a significant risk to the broader banking industry, here and globally. In line with our customer-first approach, we’ve adopted enhancements to how we manage and deal with digital fraud.
“These developments are meant to change the entire culture of how we prevent, detect and deal with customers who have been defrauded.
“Since we issued the digital fraud warranty, we’ve seen a significant reduction in customer complaints, including those to the banking ombudsman,” Fox said.