Credit card fraud: The story of a victim

Chong (centre) holding a press conference in front of HSBC Kuching. On his right is his special assistant Michael Kong and on his left is the victim of the alleged credit card fraud.

By Lian Cheng

KUCHING, Sept 30: This is the story of a scam victim who lost RM18,000 in two allegedly unauthorised credit card transactions.

On June 13, 2022, at about 8.10 pm, Mary (not her real name) received SMS notifications that two transactions of RM9,000 each were charged to her HSBC credit card. The two notifications showed OTPs (one-time passwords) for transactions that she did not perform or authorise.

Panicking, she called a friend to seek advice. The call lasted for 19 seconds.

Her friend, being wise, told her to instantly call HSBC Call Centre to block the transactions, which Mary did. She called 03-8321-5200 to cancel both transactions, and the call lasted for 13 minutes and 19 seconds.

Despite her effort, she discovered that the transactions went through, and the two unauthorised transactions were charged to Mary’s credit card.

Mary had no choice but to make a formal police report before starting her lone journey of dealing with the bank, hoping that she would not be charged for the two transactions as an innocent victim.

Following her complaint, the Ombudsman for Financial Services (OFS) presumably carried out an investigation.

On Aug 9, 2022, OFS came to the finding that Mary admitted that someone had called her, pretending to be her friend, leading her to reveal the OTP to that third party.

As she allegedly gave up the OTPs to a third party, she is held responsible for the two transactions.

At this stage, Mary had exhausted all her avenues. A disappointed and frustrated Mary sought the assistance of the Democratic Action Party (DAP) Sarawak.

On Wednesday (Sept 28, 2022), DAP Sarawak chief Chong Chieng Jen who is also Stampin MP and Padungan assemblyman, went with Mary to the HSBC branch at Jalan Padungan, Kuching, demanding to listen to the call which allegedly showed that Mary gave away her OTPs on her own accord.

The call recording of the conversation between Mary and the HSBC Call Centre officer is the most crucial evidence as it was based on the recording that Mary was disqualified for her refund, and it is also the evidence that showed that Mary gave up her OTPs willingly.

After hearing the recording, Chong concluded that it was most illogical for OFS to come to the finding that Mary admitted that someone had called her, pretending to be her friend, resulting in her revealing the OTPs to a third party.

“There was nothing in the recording to that effect. All she did mention to the bank officer in the call was that she called a friend to enquire about what to do on receiving OTPs for transactions charged to her credit card, which was not carried out or authorised by her.

“In the recording, the cardholder (Mary) also did not reveal the OTP numbers to her friend,” said Chong at a press conference in front of the HSBC office this morning.

Quoting the third paragraph of Part C Adjudication of the OFS’ finding, which states — “The complainant had admitted to the bank that she had revealed the OTPs received to a third-party after receiving a call/message from someone who pretended to be her friend”, Chong held that given the illogical and wrong finding of facts, the basis and integrity of the OFS’ finding is called to question.

He said there was no such admission in the recorded conversation. Based on the above facts, Chong raised two observations.

Firstly, to him, Mary’s reaction in the face of two unauthorised transactions by calling the Call Centre was “almost as immediate a response as one can make”.

“Yet HSBC allowed the transactions to go through and charged the cardholder (Mary) for the two unauthorised transactions to her credit card.

“If even such a prompt respond (within five minutes) could not stop an unauthorised transaction charged to one’s credit card, what is the use of SMS notification on charges to credit cards?” Chong questioned.

Secondly, Chong was perplexed by the second unauthorised charge of RM9,000, which is beyond the limit of Mary’s credit card account.

“It is the norm in financial practice that once the amount exceeded the limit, the whole transaction would not go through. So why did the system in HSBC allow the amount to be charged to the card?” Chong asked.

To get to the bottom of the incident, Chong has written on behalf of Mary to the HSBC Customer Relations Manager, Deputy Governor of Consumer and Market Conduct Department of the Bank Negara, and an officer of the Ombudsman for Financial Service, arguing that the content of the call recording between Mary and the HSBC officer contradicts with the finding of the OFS.

He requested HSBC to cancel the unauthorised charges to Mary’s credit card and provide a logical and reasonable explanation of the illogical finding of facts by the OFS.

“After all, OFS is entrusted with a statutory duty to adjudicate matters between financial institutions and their customers judiciously and with care, not in such an erroneous and irresponsible manner,” said Chong. — DayakDaily