REPUBLIC Bank Guyana has acknowledged that some customers were affected by “fraudulent activity” via their international Visa-One ATM cards.
The admittance came after hundreds of customers took to social media on Tuesday to speak out against unauthorised deductions from their bank accounts.
Several customers reported that monies mysteriously disappeared from their account and when they reported the matter, bank officials say the deductions were made for online payments to Netflix accounts or online shopping.
“The bank is taking the necessary steps to regularise all affected accounts… the bank regrets the inconvenience to its customers and advises that impacted customers will be asked to confirm and validate their transactions to assist with this process,” the bank said in a statement on Wednesday.
The bank also said it is “committed to debit card security,” and is beefing up security measures to mitigate the effect to other customers.
“Additional security measures have been put in place to reduce further impact, and as a result, some customers may experience interruptions in service levels,” the statement noted.
The statement added: “The bank will continue to ensure that the most up-to-date security is available through all of its channels toward the financial safety of the banking public.”
Bank of Guyana (BoG) Governor, Dr. Gobind Ganga, confirmed that Central Bank was made aware of the issue and reached out to Republic Bank for a report on the situation.
“Republic Bank has noted that some of their international debit cards have been compromised and they informed us about that. They sent something to me that says they’re trying to reduce the impact on other customers so they are putting measures in place and they will be advising customers to check their accounts,” Dr Ganga said.
Affected customers say the main question on their mind is whether or not they would be able to get their money back.
“I read it [the bank’s statement] and I am glad they acknowledged the problem but I hope they do refund persons their money and not just saying so for the sake of looking good in the media,” said one customer who claimed to have been a victim of the scam multiple times.
WHY ONLY NOW
For other customers, they questioned why the issue has been going on for such a long time and why it is being addressed only now.
“I am still mad at them, because why ‘till now? I would say they know what they were doing all the time,” commented one customer, who claimed he lost some $20,000 from his account since December 2018.
Another customer claimed to have lost over $100,000 after fraudsters went on a shopping spree last weekend using his card information.
“Over the weekend I realised a large sum of money was missing from my account. When I went in on Monday I was made aware that my card was used online for some 10 different transactions and also a POS Visa Debit somewhere in Amsterdam. All these transactions amounted to over $140,000. This is very upsetting. I hope that all of my money is refunded to me in a timely matter and then I will close my account,” the customer noted.
The Competition and Consumer Affairs Commission (CCAC) has noted that affected persons can file a report of such incidents with them. The CCAC plans to report every complaint filed. Despite hundreds attesting to being victims of the situation, the CCAC said only one case was report earlier this year and the customer was able to get back the missing money.
The Visa Debit Card is issued by Republic Bank but is owned by Visa Inc, a US company.
In 2009, Republic Bank became the first bank in Guyana to offer the international Visa Debit Card service. The service opened the door for customers to access their account and use their card anywhere in the world where Visa card is accepted, including online.
Once someone has a Visa Debit Card attached to their account, Online payment simply requires the 16 digit debit card number, the card’s expiration date, the name of the account holder and the three digit card verification value (the three-digit number at the back of the card).
Nonetheless, Visa Inc promises security. Visa Inc promotes it’s “Zero Liability Policy” which promises that customers “won’t be held responsible for unauthorised charges made with [their] account or account information” on their website. The company noted that customers are protected if their Visa credit or debit card is “lost, stolen or fraudulently used, online or offline”.
However, there is a disclaimer. The company said “Visa’s Zero Liability Policy does not apply to Visa corporate or Visa purchasing card or account transactions, or any transactions that are not processed by Visa.”
Other specific restrictions and limitations may also be determined by the issuing bank.
On their website, Republic Bank said the card “provides guaranteed security and confidentiality” but warns that “there are also risks associated with the loss of personal banking information” and provided steps for customers to follow to decrease risks.