A Fin24 user nearly spent a weekend in jail after he and his family were held for hours because of a 'simple system error' by Absa. He writes:
I received my new debit card from Absa Group [JSE:ASA] Langebaan on Friday June 7 2013. I used it once on that day with no problem at Spar Langebaan.
On Saturday June 8 2013, my family and I (wife and two boys aged 10 and 7) proceeded to Checkers at Seaside Village Shopping Centre in Big Bay, Cape Town, and made a small purchase at their liquor outlet.
I proceeded to use my new debit card to pay for the transaction. The payment went through, but according to the admin manager that was helping me at Checkers on the day, the card was red flagged.
They then proceeded to call Absa authorisations centre to obtain authorisation.
After an hour of no one telling us what was happening, they came back to us and proceeded to tell us that the card was fraudulent and that the Absa fraud investigator was on his way along with the South African Police Service (Saps).
Please bear in mind this ordeal started at 13:50 that afternoon.
Saps arrived at the store and went behind closed doors with the admin manager. After 10 minutes or so they called me in, and the officer proceeded to tell me that he had taken a statement from Checkers. I asked to give my side of events, but was abruptly told it would make no difference at that point.
I was given two options from the officer. The first was that he was going place me under arrest for fraud and take me to the Table View Police Station.
But because he did not want to see my family go through this, he said that we would have to wait at the staff entrance at the back of the store (which looks similar to a cell) – that was my second option.
Now please bear in mind that this was about two hours into the ordeal, and still no sign at all of the fraud investigator.
My family and I were duly shoved off to the back of the store. Once there, and after my family was subjected to a search, I did say that this had nothing to do with my wife and children – and so they left.
At 16:50 a Checkers security officer came to collect me and took me to the manager's office, where the Absa fraud investigator was. He proceeded to ask me four or five questions to verify that I was the account holder. That was done in under a minute and I was told everything is fine.
I asked what the problem was and why my family and I were subjected to this. He proceeded to tell me that it was simply an Absa system error and also told us that if he had not come through to verify my identity, I would have spent the remainder of the weekend in jail.
I have so many questions regarding this, but the simple ones are:
1. Why could the Absa employee at the authorisations centre not simply ask me to verify information over the phone (which would have been the same information given to the fraud investigator)?
2. The fact that we did not run away and were waiting for 1.5 hours before getting answers, should logically have shown Checkers that they had overreacted.
3. How can a system error cause this type of infringement and embarrassment to a decent family of four?
I have already consulted an attorney and he is in the process of handling this matter from a civil perspective.
It just amazes me that Absa and Checkers could have allowed this to happen.
Absa said it regretted what had happened and apologised for the
inconvenience experienced by the client.
"As a bank we strive to ensure that we make
our customers’ lives easier.
"The error identified was technical and not fraud
related," the bank said in an emailed response.
Absa added that it employs strict governance principles in alignment with the International "MasterCard/ Visa" regulations, and therefore had to
take steps to rule out the possibility of fraud.
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