Bank does another U-turn on fraud case

Pieter Swart, 90, was defrauded of R49 500, allegedly by a staffer in Absa’s fraud department.

“The matter had been dragging on for almost a year when I tried to get an answer from MaryRose Mafalo, one of the adjudicators in the office of the Ombudsman for Banking Services (OBSSA), only to be told that she no longer worked there but she had given me her decision in April. However, it was not conveyed to me at the time,” Mr Swart said.

“I read about an Absa client who was refunded after they were also conned,” said Mr Swart (“Absa changes mind about fraud case”, Off My Trolley, August 28/ 29, 2019) who wrote to Cylvia Tladi, a team leader at the ombud’s office.

Mr Swart told Ms Tladi that it was with shock he learned that Ms Mafalo is no longer at the ombud and apparently she sent her decision (that there was no point in pursuing the claim so they had closed the file), as long ago as April 5 (2019) that he never received.

“You sent me the documents provided by Absa which don’t answer the questions about how the fraud was perpetrated, except for a printout from Telkom which showed that a fraudster who called himself ‘Trevor Solomons’ called me from outside the fraud department. When I phoned the number a few minutes later to verify it was from the fraud department they said they had never heard of a ‘Solomons’. When he phoned me the first time I asked him to identify himself before I would continue the conversation. He said he was at Absa and read out all the details that were on my credit card and he also had my ID number. Solomons said Absa asked him to phone me because there was some suspicious activity on my account. He didn’t ask for my PIN nor did I disclose it,” Mr Swart wrote to Ms Tladi.

“Only an Absa employee would have these details and for the record I don’t do internet banking therefore I was not given a PIN for this. I sent an email to Ms Mafalo on April 25 and again on July 16 without acknowledgement. Ms Tladi, tell me what steps must be taken to right this wrong as I have done nothing to justify Absa’s attitude and have not been negligent in any way,” Mr Swart wrote.

However, Ms Tladi repeated the ruling the ombud made.

“It seems that there is no prospect of pursuing the matter further and therefore we have closed our file”. Which was when Mr Swart called me.

Not long after I spoke to Absa, Mr Swart said: “ I had a call from Johannesburg that Absa is clearing my credit card and I don’t owe them anything. I was told to go to the bank to get my statement to that effect. Thank you for listening to my story. You seem to have a lot of clout.”

Ally Mafunzwaini, head of Fraud Solutions, at Absa said, “Consistent with our customer-first approach, each case is considered on its own specific merits. Importantly, our investigations indicate that our internal controls to access the customer’s account were not compromised and did not result from any lapse in Absa’s security controls. However, given the specific context and unique circumstances of this case, we have decided to offer Mr Swart a full refund and we have told him so.”

Absa seems to have a stock answer because they never explain how the fraud was perpetrated, and their security systems are never compromised.

So, how then did Solomons acquire Mr Swart’s details which are confidential?

Mr Mafunzwaini said they have introduced a free digital fraud warranty, which covers all customers who adopted the Absa banking app and “who transact responsibly”.