Columnists Features

Banking and security of customer accounts

BANKS and other service providers should be commended for continuously initiating and implementing initiatives to make access to services easier.
However, it is important to be mindful that while service providers implement different initiatives, crooks are also busy master-minding initiatives to steal from unsuspecting customers.
I was a victim of an attack last week when an unknown person attempted to withdraw money from one of my bank accounts.
I am registered for telephone and internet banking on this particular account and I therefore get alerts whenever there is a transaction on the account.
When I woke up on the morning of March 2, I found a message on my phone that stated that an attempt to withdraw K100 from my account had been made, but the transaction had been declined due to insufficient funds.
My immediate thought was that someone had stolen one of my Automated Teller Machine (ATM) cards, but I was surprised to find all the ATM cards intact.  I then checked for my identity documents and again found all of them intact.
I wondered whether it was possible or not that a person standing on the queue behind me, at some point, could have seem the sequence in which I punched my Personal Identification Number (PIN) on the ATM.
This was highly unlikely because I am usually very particular about the proximity between myself and the person behind me on an ATM queue.
On two occasions, I have told a security guard and a customer who were standing too close to me as I withdrew money from an ATM to give me some space as I transacted.
Whoever tried to access my account must have had my PIN and I wondered how this could have been possible. I never share my PIN with anyone and I have not written it anywhere, I have it in my head.
I also know that when you are not sure of the PIN and you just try out any combination of numbers, the ATM blocks you after the third attempt.
I reported the matter to the police who were still investigating at the time of writing this article.
My interest is to know which ATM was used and possibly see the CCTV footage and see if the culprit can be identified.
I shared my ordeal with my friends on Facebook and was amazed to notice how many people had experienced similar attacks with some even losing large sums of money.
Some friends suggested that I sue the bank for allowing a third party to access my account but I thought about it and decided that I should let the police first conclude their investigations.
One of my colleagues suggested that it could be an inside job involving a bank employee, but I dismissed that because a bank employee would first have checked the balance and struck only when there was money in the account.
While I was making my statement to the police, the police told me how unscrupulous individuals access customer accounts.
I have heard of hidden cameras being placed at ATMs but I thought that kind of crime only happened in countries like South Africa and Nigeria where criminals are very sophisticated.
The police confirmed that even in Zambia, crooks are using cameras and other reflective devices which they place at ATMs before someone makes a transaction and pick their devices afterwards with the information they need to hack into someone’s account.
The police further confirmed that some crooks even have fake ATM cards which they use to withdraw money from unsuspecting customers’ accounts.
As some of my friends shared their experiences, some expressed concern at how easy it is to open accounts in some banks that do not get enough references.  Some of the account holders may not be genuine customers.
We wondered if the banks should not reverse the facility that allows one to change their PIN at an ATM.  We also discussed the role security guards play at ATMs, which they supposedly guard round the clock.
Where are they when crooks are placing cameras or reflective gadgets at ATMs?  I was not shocked when a colleague told me how he one day found a security guard fast asleep one night at one ATM in Lusaka.
The banks should work closely with the police to sensitise the public on security matters.
May God help us!

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