Friday, 3 July 2009

Watch out those of you with Bank Accounts

Fraudsters are everywhere.
Their method of stealing you hard earned money or hard begged overdraft?
Debit Orders! Dodgy Debit Orders.... that unless you are vigilant and on the ball will cost you without you having any say in the matter.
This morning I got a text message from my bank saying a few hundred bucks had been paid from my checking account. (Gotta Love FNB's inContact free text service) I didn't recall making a purchase of that amount in the last few days so I went online to check what was up with my account.
Lo and Behold a Magtape Debit with a reference number I had no idea about. So I called the call centre - once again, very glad i am an FNB customer, their call centre is fantastic, efficient and available round the clock.
I find out that it is a debit order and they give me the contact number of the institution that took the money, as it happens it is Standard Bank. Now I hate that institution but that is an entirely different story with I won't bore you with now but suffice it to say that i ahve tried using them as my bank not once, not twice but three times and each time ended up closing my account in disgust. At one point I even considered not ever doing business with anyone who banks with them. So with this history I immediately get suspicious as at the moment, coincidentally, I am not doing business with anyone who banks with them so a debit order through them would be very strange.
I call their number and fortunately get through to a helpful person who given me the details of who the money has been sent to. A company called ComIT technologies with a Durban telephone number.
I phone them and hear a message saying they are only open after 8:30 so I leave a message (polite and clear with my phone number asking them to contact me and telling them I fear there has been some mistake). After 8:30 I phone again. Again the message telling me their business hours. By now I had googled them and visited their website and found out they are an internet service provider, since we use WebAfrica (also fantastic, just like FNB by the way, 24 hour call centre help desk and functionality) I knew this must either be a mistake or somehow I was being taken for a ride. I looked carefully at the website.
For an ISP they have the most amateurish website I have seen in a long time, and what's more the only email address to contact is a mweb address. Not alarm bells are really going off, so when I get the silly answering machine again I say "It's after 8:30, what is going on. Please contact me, (give my number again) if I don't hear from you by 10am I will be going to report a fraud."
I try a few more times and each time no answer or the answering machine and then all of a sudden my calls get cut off after one ring, like someone is screening my number and rejecting calls.
Now I am really suspicious. The lady at my branch has cancelled the payment and the money is back in my account but I am told I have to go to a branch to fill in a stop payment form so that future debits don't go off my account. What a pain in the neck, I see my nice organised work day go down the drain.
I go to the bank and they put the stop, extending it for the next six months instead of the usual 3 (once again, thank you FNB) but that is as far as they can go. I have to take the matter further myself.
I ask the lady what recourse I have if it happens again and she says the only recouse i have is what I have done today. So then I ask, how can one prevent things like this from happening and money being siphoned off your accounts? Her answer? The best thing to do is keep a close look-out on activity on your accounts and read your statements thouroughly.
I think this is crazy.
Basically what it boils down to is that anyone can take money out of your bank account if they have your details and there is very little you can do to stop it.
Perhaps it is safer to put your money under your mattress after all.
I have decided to open a case of fraud against the coumany that took my money and then wasn't bothered to talk to me and I have told everyone I know about this... I will be posting more as I find out more.
Watch this space.