Customers of Standard Chartered Bank, Pakistan were recently left stunned after they received transaction alerts via email and SMS. They were informed about withdrawals of Rs.50, 000 ($500) cash from their bank accounts. What was shocking was the fact that no such action had been taken from their side.
Some of the customers didn’t even receive any email or SMS notification and they only found out when their ATMs declined their transactions and their debit cards were blocked.
The actual number of affected customers is not yet confirmed however, traces reveal that a huge amount was siphoned off within just a few seconds from Pakistan to England. Ironically, SCB’s headquarter is located in England.
Initial investigations reveal that hackers attacked ATMs from England.
Desperate customers, especially those who just maintained salary accounts, started phoning SCB Pakistan’s customer care support and some even rushed to their respective branches to receive clarification.
The bank’s initial response was positive to all the customers and they were informed that the bank’s online system was hacked which caused the inconvenience.
Bank assured affected customers that it will reimburse their stolen money as soon as possible, but it will take some time.
This wasn’t the response that everyone received from the bank, though. One of the affected customers told us that when he contacted the branch manager, he was told that “your account got trouble due to criminal activity.”
“I was advised to meet bankers working in the fraud department in order to get my money back,” claims the customer.
Despite the bank’s claims of quick action, many customers still await reimbursement of their lost money, which is nothing else but poor customer service.
Not just the customers’ money was stolen, their debit cards were also blocked by the hackers as they managed to access customers debit cards record data and used it to transfer money from Pakistan to England. The bank has asked its customers to get their debit cards re-issued by SCB.
SCB Pakistan’s spokesperson, Farhan Ahmed, described the incident in the bank’s official statement:
“A recent skimming attempt at SCB ATATM took place. The money in the customers’ bank accounts is insured and given to them in case of any such incident. The money of the customers is being reimbursed and majority of them received their cash in their accounts already,” as reported by Pakistani local news website.
Farhan Ahmed informed that such hack attacks on the bank were happening on a regular basis now. Previously a skimming attempt at SCB ATM occurred. Mr. Ahmed believes that this sort of activities was rather common in Pakistan’s banking industry.
ATM skimming is a kind of scam in which an ATM is compromised through a skimming device. The device mainly is a card reader that can be camouflaged to appear as a part of the machine. It saves the users’ pin code and card number and the hacker then replicates it into a counterfeit copy for performing the theft.
It is ironic that despite its ever-growing profitability with increasing customer base, SCB did not equip its operations with the latest security technology. Had it paid attention beforehand, this attack couldn’t have been successful.
If foreign banks like Standard Chartered Bank that have such strong footage and global repute cannot maintain enough security then how can people now trust their financial institutions and rely upon advanced e-banking or mobile banking services?
This incident has certainly caused a dent in the reputation of SCB not just in Pakistan but also wherever it has branches and conducts operations.