Absa changes mind about fraud case

Absa seems to have had a change of heart by taking a “customer-first approach” when it comes to online fraud.

Previously they have offered clients a portion of the money that was stolen and pressured them into making a decision, otherwise the offer would be withdrawn. Intimating that the client was complicit in the scam. Absa appeared to take the position that you can be a little bit pregnant.

Last year fraudsters hacked into a Milnerton man’s bond account and helped themselves to R500 000.

Absa offered him half that. Rather than fight a protracted court battle, which he had no hope of winning, he accepted the proposal. And he isn’t the only victim who has contacted me over the years.

Joshua van der Rede of Tokai had his Absa money market account cleaned out of a substantial amount, more than enough to pay for a luxury sedan.

“Payments could only be made through my cheque account and all transactions took place without incident and the amount transferable was also strictly limited and the ‘thieves’ adhered to it,” said Mr Van der Rede, who added that there was a limit of three transactions.

“The theft took place between 7pm and 7am on March 17 and 18 2017 and 18 payments were made to, among others, Absa Construction and Absa Cleaning Services. To me it seemed that the companies or businesses were being created as the money was being stolen. In my opinion it was an inside job. I telephoned Absa’s fraud department at 7.10pm on March 17 while these transactions were taking place and they gave me a reference number. When I went to the Tokai branch the next day the transactions were still going through. I opened a case at the Tokai police station and while the detective managed to trace some of the money he couldn’t persuade the bank to give him the details he needed to close the case,” Mr Van der Rede said.

“Absa offered me less than half the amount that was stolen with a condition ‘accept it or leave it’ and it had a very strict time limit. The Banking Ombudsman agreed with Absa’s ruling,” said Mr Van der Rede, when he asked me in July this year, to intervene.

I sent Mr Van der Rede’s letter to Absa, expecting the usual response, that the client had divulged their PIN number and because of client confidentiality they couldn’t say any more.

However, Absa said they decided to offer Mr Van der Rede a full refund and he will suffer no loss.

“Absa contacted me this morning (July 24) and gave me the reasons for the sudden change of heart and this afternoon I received the offer in writing,” Mr Van der Rede confirmed.

Ally Mafunzwaini, head of Fraud Solutions at Absa Retail and Business Banking SA, said: “Our investigations indicate that our internal controls were not compromised and that the fraud did not result from any lapse in our security controls.

“However, given the specific context, the unique circumstances of this case and our customer-first approach, we have decided to offer the client a full refund as final settlement so he will suffer no loss. Our decision has been communicated to the client who was very pleased with the positive outcome.”

In his letter Mr Mafunzwaini told Mr Van der Rede: “We understand that your experience at the hands of criminal elements may have been extremely stressful. We have re-investigated the matter, taking into account our new approach of customer-first which requires us to always seek the best outcome for the customer. The outcome of our investigation indicates that our internal controls, which secure your account, were not compromised. This implies that the fraud did not result from any lapse in our security controls. Instead, it would appear that your internet banking login secure details (PIN and password), which are only known to you, were used during the fraud event.

“However, given the unique circumstances of your case and more particularly our customer-first approach, we have decided to offer you an ex-gratia amount in full and final settlement and there will be no loss to you.”

Mr Mafunzwaini said fraud is a global problem and in the interests of “our customers, we continuously make sub-
stantial investments into our safeguards. However, successful fraud prevention requires all parties, customers and the industry, to play their respective roles in full”.

Absa would never ask clients to share your PIN, password or card CVV numbers for any reason.

“In addition, we will not ask you to read out the OTP secure number that is sent to your phone by an SMS or email to reverse or process a transaction. If you ever receive a phone call requesting your ‘keys to the safe’, terminate the call immediately and report it to Absa.

“Protecting your ‘keys to the safe’ is a crucial customer responsibility. Compromising these details could suggest gross negligence on the customer’s part and would not be in line with Absa’s terms and conditions – a crucial factor in the investigation that will certainly impact our final decision in future. This payment is part of efforts to become customer-first in our approach and is not an admission of liability,” said Mr Mafunzwaini.

Mr Van der Rede said: “Thanks for your interest in my ‘unpleasantness’ with Absa. The amount has been fully replaced and deposited into my account.

“Thank you so much for your preparedness to follow-up on my case. And God bless. I will be closing this chapter in my life.”