Mashreq Bank - Dubai / fraud transaction
We have all heard how good a country UAE is with respect to the security, peace and service it provides to its resident, but the last couple of months have made me think on it all over again. Recently, I was a victim of a fraud transaction that occurred in my Mashreq Bank account amounting to over INR 2 million. The amount may not be that big to a few individuals but for a person who has worked day in and day out just to plan out his and his family’s future (the money was in fact kept to finance my son’s education), it is almost the end of dawn.
I came to know all about this in the last week of December, 2009. I was on a company assignment in Ghana when I received a call from Mr.Munjar Khan from the fraud and investigations department of Mashreq Bank. I was asked to check my account balance as I had remitted close to US$32, 000 to that account. Thinking of it as a security measure and at that time feeling good about the service that Mashreq bank provides, I logged in to www.mashreqbank.com to check my balance. To my horror, I was not able to access my account with my Internet browser informing me that my account is blocked.
I immediately called back Mr. Munjar Khan explaining him of the situation. At that instance, he revealed that there has been a fraud transaction from my account with my complete balance being wiped out - equivalent to Dhs 128500 (0ne hundred twenty eight thousand five hundred) plus penalties on my credit card account. The whole amount was used to pay utility bills (Etisalat and Du) in denominations of Dhs 1000 and Dhs 500 to more than 135 numbers over a span of 15 days. To my surprise, this feature comes as “default” to all customers. So even if you haven’t explicitly mentioned for such a service, you are most probably having it.
I was told to lodge a complaint to the bank so that they can lodge an FIR with the police and carry on with their investigation. I did as I was advised and also as a precautionary measure lodged a complaint online both the bank site and the fraud report site.
On repeated calling, I was later informed by Mr. Khan that I should send an email at FraudReort@mashreqbank.com. Mr Khan acknowledged to that mail over the phone and said that appropriate action will be taken and he will do the needful.
The whole incident has been a shocker as I do not have electronic money transfer facility activated in my account, my credit card limit is less than AED 10, 000 and I haven’t operated my bank account for the past two months either online or physically except for the remittance of money from Africa.
Later that morning, I received a call from Mr. Arif who advised me to come down to Dubai and lodge a complaint with the Dubai Police. As I wanted to be doubly sure about my next action, I re-confirmed it with Mr. Khan. He assured me that the case is being taken on priority (as I am also Mashreq Millionaire certificate holder) and I need not fly down to Dubai.
On December 26 2009, when I again called up Mr. Khan I was told to be patient and I will get the money back as soon as the fraud department investigates and scrutinises the account statement. Not sure about the progress of the case, I flew to Dubai for personal satisfaction and to make sure that the case is in right hands and no formality is required from my end.
I reached Dubai on December 29 2009 and lodged a complaint with Mr. Amir Tawfikat – Customer Care counter. I was told that the case will take 30 – 45 days to resolve. Surprisingly I had no update on the case in writing till now. I also lodged a complaint with the Muraqqabat Police Station.
I called up Mr. Gurchand (Fraud & investigation dept.-President, Mashreq Bank) on his mobile for an appointment so that I could explain my case to him. He too refused to meet me stating that since the complaint has already been made, there is nothing he can do. The disappointing factor was not that he refused to help but the fact that he refused to meet and hear my side of the story.
I later flew back to Mumbai as I had no accommodation available in Dubai plus the daily expenses were far too high to meet, especially for a person who has lost over INR 2 million for no fault of his.
From January 1, 2010 to February 16, 2010 I was in constant touch with Mr. Munjar Khan (Fraud and Investigations department), Mr. Ganesh ( Fraud & Investigations dept), Mr. Jangir (Customer Care department), Mrs Bindu Sanjay (Customer Care department) and Mrs Malita (Distribution department). During these 45 odd days I persistently called all of the above people who kept on assuring and re-assuring me that it is indeed a fraud case and therefore I will get my money back. Relieved by the assurances from the top executives and the trust in the banking system and governance of UAE, especially Dubai, I thought I would and I should get my money back. The delay as was told to me was due to some paper based formalities.
Since February 16, 2010 most of the people started neglecting my calls and even if they did answer, all I got were really vague replies. Unsure of the status and the developments I decided to go back to Dubai to find it out myself. Surprisingly, I was denied an appointment to meet Mrs Bindu Sanjay. I was left shocked. Later, they called back and agreed to meet. This was only after her boss, Mr. Jangir approved.
On February 23, 2010 I was told verbally that my case is closed and the management has denied the payment. The denial was said in such a way as if it is no big deal (like I have actually lost my ATM card and not INR 2 million). To top all of it, the transaction was blamed back onto me stating that I had given my internet password to someone else and that’s the reason for the misappropriation of the funds. The argument reached nowhere as they were too adamant to listen to me and as you would expect they refused to give any of this in writing.
I decided to knock all doors and find out the reason of this incident. I had long reasoning’s with Mr. Mahindra Mahante and Mrs Malita of the Distribution department who took responsibilities of denying the case. They again refused to give anything in writing. I also tried to meet the CEO, but the secretary denied the appointment and “assured” me that the CEO will get back to me after checking the status. Reply is still awaited.
Murraqabat police station said the case is still under investigation.
Disappointed, broken, shattered I returned back to India.
I have lost a lot in the past two months. Unable to resume job as I waited for the “efficient” Mashreq bank to refund my money, I lost my job. Not to mention the stress and the trauma we all had to go through. Everything just slipped out in a matter of a month.
In order to avoid any legal issue I went to Mashreq bank & met Mrs. Geeta to find the amount I should pay to avoid any due to non compliance of minimum account balance in my account. The bank has charged me the penalties on my credit card account. I have settled the same account by paying back from my Mashreq Millionaire certificates, because frankly, I now do not have trust in the system of declaring the winner as well. I closed all my credit cards, ATM cards, debit cards & phone banking. Further I changed my account to minimum balance of Dhs 2000. So, in the end instead of getting the money back I ended up paying a penalty for a fraud case in my account. Irony!
On my return journey back to India, I just kept asking the questions to myself to which I have found no answer.
First of all, why did the fraud happen in the first place? We talk about the age of digital electronics and the IT industry booming by leaps and bounds, is it so difficult for them to trace back the IP address from where the transaction actually occurred? We talk about Dubai being one of the safest places to be in, is it really that safe? They have managed to adapt to all new technological advancements, but have they really managed to keep a check on the same? Is it so difficult for them to implement a system to send back an SMS after each and every transaction? And the shocker among all is, the amount from my account was withdrawn over a period of 15 days, were the authorities sleeping till then? Or were they waiting for my account to go bankrupt and then inform me about it? There are so many questions like these which remain to be answered. And I frankly don’t think I will ever get answers to them.
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