The Debt Panel: 'Fraudsters stole Dh17,150 from my credit card while I was sleeping'

The Abu Dhabi resident has been asked to pay for the suspicious transactions and the bank is refusing to investigate

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On the evening of December 19, I unknowingly became the victim of credit card fraud. I was asleep at the time of the incident and my mobile phone was not connected to the internet.

However, when I woke up the following morning, a one-time password (OTP) had been sent to my phone. I immediately checked my banking app and discovered that a total of five fraudulent transactions had taken place while I was sleeping.

The transactions originated from Ukraine and all five were a similar amount and totalled €3,993.80 (Dh17,150.10 at the time of the transactions).

I informed the bank immediately and my card was blocked to prevent the fraudsters from having any further access.

I explained to the bank that I was currently in the UAE and had never used my credit card in another currency before. I also asked them to explain how the card was used without an official bank text message, OTP or card verification code (CVC).

Despite my complaint, the bank immediately billed the Dh17,150.10 to my account and asked me to clear it or late fees and interest would be charged.

I called the bank several times and they said an investigation had been initiated, which would end by February. They repeated that I had to pay the total outstanding amount.

Now, the bank is refusing to conduct an investigation and has dismissed my fraud complaint – and still wants the Dh17,150.10 payment.

I do not believe this decision is fair without a full investigation into what happened. While I am unable to afford to pay the Dh17,150.10, I also believe I should not have to because it is clearly fraud and I did not use the card, nor share any information with a third party.

What can I do to convince the bank to reverse its decision? VP, Abu Dhabi

Debt panellist 1: Steve Cronin, founder of DeadSimpleSaving.com

I am sorry to hear that you have been put in this frustrating position without doing anything wrong. Card and bank account fraud have increased over the past years, with fraudsters, often posing as parcel deliverers, the police or even the UAE Central Bank messaging or calling people to request their details.

First, make sure you did not accidentally give out your card details and the CVC, which is usually found on the back of the card.

It is strange that the bank is refusing to conduct an investigation; without this, there is no way you will receive the money back. You should insist on an investigation and a temporary credit to your card balance for the disputed amount. This will help you to avoid any fees or interest.

Many banks require you to pay in full while the investigation is continuing. This can take months, as the bank and the card provider decide which of them is at fault and who should reimburse you. You should receive the full amount plus any charges and interest back, but this is not guaranteed.

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Usually, if the transactions are proven to be fraud, there is no charge to you but if the bank finds the transactions to be legitimate, they will charge you a fee for the investigation.
Carol Glynn, founder of Conscious Finance Coaching

Given that you cannot afford the payment, you may be better off refusing to pay it if they do not give you a temporary credit. Meanwhile, keep up the pressure on the bank. Make a note of all relevant calls, emails, statements and documents. You should also be able to demonstrate that you were not in Ukraine at the time.

You can also complain on the bank’s social media channels and ask them to reach out to you. Phone your bank regularly and try to talk to someone more senior at a branch or even the head office.

Thirty days after they have refused to launch an investigation, you should file a complaint to the UAE Central Bank’s Consumer Protection Department through their website or by visiting their branch in Abu Dhabi. Notify your bank in all interactions that you intend to escalate this to the Central Bank.

It is also clear that you should never use this bank again, given how they have treated you. Look into where you can move your salary account and receive a new credit card. Set your new card limit very low, so that fraud cannot create a debt you are unable to afford.

Debt panellist 2: Philip King, head of retail banking at Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank

If your initial attempts to resolve the matter have failed, you should register a formal complaint with your bank. This will provide you with a record of the complaint against the bank and ensure proper procedures are followed until the matter is resolved. Make sure to include the reference number and retain all records of communication.

Right now, it seems as if your bank’s response is unsatisfactory to you, so you should also immediately file a police report. This ensures that your loss has been registered as a crime.

You also have the option of escalating the complaint with the Consumer Protection Department at the Central Bank, which will determine if there has been a breach of the law and deal with any breach that has been identified. The Consumer Protection Department is responsible for resolving customer disputes against financial institutions.

In addition, you may wish to consider a civil case. UAE law allows you, as a victim of crime, to participate directly in criminal proceedings and to seek compensation for the loss or damage you have suffered.

Article 22 of Federal Law No 35 of 1992, under the amended Criminal Procedures Code, states: “Those that have suffered a direct loss as a consequence of the crime are entitled to file a civil claim against the accused, during the evidence gathering, the investigation stages or at any stage before the criminal court before the completion of closing submissions …”

Looking ahead to your future security, it is important to always remember that it is your responsibility to protect your personal information. Never disclose any information – such as your bank details, address, financial information, including pension and insurance schemes, and any investment details – to any unknown party.

Some fraudsters will go through rubbish sacks to pull out personal letters that can include your date of birth, bank account details and your full address – and that can be all they need to steal your identity. Shredding mail that you receive (or going paperless) is a very sensible idea.

I wish you luck in finding a satisfactory resolution to your case.

Debt panellist 3: Carol Glynn, founder of Conscious Finance Coaching

What a frustrating experience for you. It is standard practice for banks to allow the fraudulent charge to remain on the card until the complaint is investigated and resolved. This means you are liable for the amount due but will receive a refund once it is proved to be fraudulent.

You can formally request an investigation. There is no basis for the bank to refuse. Usually, if the transactions are proven to be fraud, there is no charge to you but if the bank finds the transactions to be legitimate, they will charge you a fee for the investigation.

Be firm but not aggressive when pushing to have the transactions investigated. Have you visited your branch and spoken to a manager? It is usually much more effective than phone calls.

If the bank still refuses to work with you to resolve this, you can raise a complaint with the Central Bank. To do this, you need to submit a formal written complaint to your bank and allow 30 days for it to resolve the issue satisfactorily. An email to their official complaints email address is sufficient. If you are not happy after 30 days, you can then raise the issue with the Central Bank.

Once the transactions have been proved to be fraudulent, ask for a refund of any late payment fees or interest.

The Debt Panel is a weekly column to help readers tackle their debts more effectively. If you have a question for the panel, write to pf@thenational.ae

Updated: January 12, 2022, 5:00 AM
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