Friday, May 16, 2008

Life is About Compromises

My bank called me today.

"A branch where you used the ATM was compromised. You'll have to change your ATM card and PIN."

"Again??"

No, not again. This was a routine phone call, but actually, I'd already reported the breach last Thursday.

Last week, I went to the ATM near my office to take out cash for the weekend. Something caught my eye. Something strange.

Seems I'd withdrawn a hundred euros that morning in Madrid. At 6:21 a.m. I was not awake at 6:21, and I certainly hadn't been in Madrid. I've never been to Madrid, not even when I lived in Barcelona!

I changed my PIN, filed a report, and ordered a new card. But I actually thought the withdrawal was a banking mistake, that this error would be investigated and rectified. While I seem cynical, I actually have faith in the innate goodness of most people, a byproduct of being helped along the way as I've traveled the world.

Instead, it turned out that this ATM withdrawal was real, that someone else had mined my details and created a card, which was then used to withdraw a hundred euros at 6:21 a.m. in Madrid last Thursday. My bank had taken more than a week to work this out, so I'm glad I found the compromise on my own.

I'm a little annoyed that it took them so long and that the scam originated at one of their own branches. But they credited my account bank with the hundred euros.

They even gave me back the "foreign fee."

5 comments:

Marie said...

I've never had a problem out in the big world. Funny, isn't it, how this happened at home.

Peter Moore said...

I had the same thing happen to me here in the UK. The same time I was buying groceries in Sainsburys someone in Turin was standing at an ATM pulling out 50 euros.

The annoying thing? I wasn't allowed to use my card to buy my groceries. The guy in Turin was able to use the card five more times in quick succession to make off with 300 euros all up!

The bank paid up but not until they taken 3 weeks to investigate the matter!

Marie said...

What I don't understand is the amounts. Why would he pull out 50 euros instead of 500? Why did my guy take out 100 euros on one day when there is a thousand dollar limit per day on US accounts?

Is it that small amounts don't set off flags? That they can get away with more long-term if we don't notice the small amounts? Is there some kind of lesser charge in court for smaller amounts?

What these thieves didn't know is that neither Peter nor my banks would have blinked twice at large amounts of cash being withdrawn in foreign countries.

Peter Moore said...

According to my bank foreign ATMs don't 'check' with the issuing bank for account balance, extra security checks etc etc.

The guy withdrawing the money obviously knew that and kept on withdrawing small amounts until he reached the card's daily limit.

Nothing much you can do about it. Again, according to the bank, my card was probably cloned in my home town and the details sent to Italy where the banks are more lax.

Apparently petrol (gas) stations are the worst for doing it.

Marie said...

Ah, so Spain must be another one of those countries, like Italy.

Interesting. What's to stop these guys from doing it all the time? Nothing, I guess.