My ATM card was Abused
March 8, 2006 5:50 AM   Subscribe

I was robbed. Is my Bank liable? To what extent?

Someone drugged and robbed me in a foreign country. Along with cash and possessions, the robbers 'borrowed' my ATM card and 'coerced' the PIN code out of me.

On Feb 2, shortly before midnight, they made three withdrawls of about US$250 each.

At some point, {midnight?} a bank transfer was made into my account by a client.

Then, one hour later, on Feb 3, NINE {9} withdrawls were made, three per machine at three different ATM's over a 23 minute period, totalling about $2000.

Are banks held to any liabilities similar to credit card companies, and isn't ATM software supposed to prevent this sort of fraud?

This was in a "third world" country. The ATM's were local. A police report was filed, but police were no help. In fact, nobody in the main police station spoke English. I had to reply on a local woman who was also a crime victim, filing her own report to help me file mine~!

The first-world bank is so far no help.

OK, dammit. Bangkok, Thailand and HSBC.
posted by DickStock to Law & Government (16 answers total)
Contact Interpol?
posted by Gator at 5:57 AM on March 8, 2006

Best answer: Doesn't your bank have some kind of daily withdrawal limit from an ATM?

ATM software typically will have protection againt people trying different PIN combinations many times. They may seize your card after X attempts of the wrong PIN. However, these robbers took your correct PIN and used it. There's not much that software can do.

How did they coerce you anyway? (I'm curious why you put the word in quotes.) Did they hold you to gunpoint or knifepoint? Did they take you to the ATM to withdraw the money?

For a bank to be liable, there must be some error on their part. But the robbers had your PIN, so the bank can't really do much.

What they probably can do is supply the police with camera footage from the ATMs where the theft took place. Most ATMs should have a camera which records the people who withdraw money. If you can get the time, date, and location of these withdrawals, you may get a photo of the robbers that the police can use to catch them.
posted by madman at 6:30 AM on March 8, 2006

According to this, you're on the hook for $50 if you reported it within 48 hours, and $500 if you reported it within 60 days.

Best of luck, and I hope the rest of your trip is more pleasant.
posted by I Love Tacos at 6:32 AM on March 8, 2006

(my answer assumes that you and your bank account are native to the United States.)
posted by I Love Tacos at 6:34 AM on March 8, 2006

From your profile I see you're in Hong Kong. The Terms & Conditions applicable to a card issued by a HK branch of HSBC are available on the HSBC Hong Kong website. (.pdf)

According to the T&C, you are liable if your PIN is disclosed "...under any circumstances or by any means whether voluntarily or otherwise ..."

So if your account is held with a Hong Kong branch of HSBC, then you're stuffed, I think.

But if the account is held at a UK branch of HSBC, then the account terms and conditions are different and you will only be liable if you have been 'grossly negligent' in disclosing your PIN. If there is clear evidence that you were under threat of violence, the bank should reimburse you. Otherwise, if it won't you can bring a complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
posted by essexjan at 7:32 AM on March 8, 2006

under any circumstances or by any means whether voluntarily or otherwise

Given that torture or threat of harm might have been the 'circumstance', this contract isn't legally binding.
posted by jon_kill at 7:35 AM on March 8, 2006

You American? Call your bank RIGHT NOW and tell them you want to dispute those transactions. Explain you're in a foreign country and can't come in and physically fill out a dispute form. There should be some other way for them to process the dispute.

As mentioned above, you are only liable for $50 in the US if you file the dispute quickly enough. Getting the money credited back can be a long and arduous process, as they'll have to investigate, but ultimately if they have no proof that you're defrauding them, they owe you.

Bank ought to have its fucking head examined for not having daily ATM withdrawal limits. Those guys shouldn't have gotten more than $500 bucks a day.
posted by middleclasstool at 7:49 AM on March 8, 2006

Yeah, this is all going to be dependent upon where your account is actually based. If your account is based in the US, then I can give you a really long account of what's what. However, to this question:

"Are banks held to any liabilities similar to credit card companies, and isn't ATM software supposed to prevent this sort of fraud?"

Not exactly. If, for example, your ATM card (or Visa Check Card) is a US card, and is stolen in Thailand, then the foreign network in Thailand (or France, or England) isn't really "talking to" the Network in the US. For this reason any transaction limitations that are set for your card are sort of nil in a foreign country. Now, if you are dealing with HSBC, and it was an HSBC ATM, that might change the rules a bit, but I'm not sure.
posted by Medieval Maven at 7:56 AM on March 8, 2006

I was an HSBC account holder in Brazil and the UK at the same time. My interest was in low-cost international wire transfers. HSBC told me that, even though they were technically two separate banks, they waived certain of the fees if they were under the same umbrella. It was more a courtesy, because the banks are indeed very different animals in different countries. Any multinational bank is really just a holding company.

So HSBC might do you some courtesies, but you most likely will be held to the policies of the home issuing bank.

I noticed from the dates that this took place more than a month ago. Is that correct? I think you might have trouble reclaiming at this late stage unless you were unable to do so previously. Or did you mean March?
posted by sagwalla at 9:52 AM on March 8, 2006

I strongly doubt that the bank has any obligation. Why? Because it was an ATM card, not a credit card. Totally different species of animals.
posted by Ervin at 10:14 AM on March 8, 2006

If your account is based in the US, you have certain rights under Regulation E, and you have to dispute the whole thing within 60 days of the statement upon which you detect the error. "Verifed by Visa" or any other Visa guarantee has nothing to do with any basic ATM card (ie, NOT a Visa Check Card).

If your account is based out of Hong Kong, then it seems you are most likely out of luck.
posted by Medieval Maven at 10:56 AM on March 8, 2006

And here I was all pissed that my scuba instructor stole 200baht from me while doubling on my scooter. I hope it works out for you.
posted by furtive at 11:55 AM on March 8, 2006

I strongly doubt that the bank has any obligation. Why? Because it was an ATM card, not a credit card. Totally different species of animals.

Not necessarily. If the account is UK-based, the bank will reimburse in cases of theft or fraud. So it depends where the account is held.
posted by essexjan at 12:06 PM on March 8, 2006

The Royal Bank in Canada had me sign a form for my debit card which was pretty stupid. Apparently if an unauthorized transaction occurs with my debit card I have to prove to them that I did not provide the PIN to anyone. I tried pointing this out to the teller, but she told me to "Just sign it."
posted by ODiV at 12:39 PM on March 8, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for all the input.

I was drugged and escorted back to my room by a criminal team. I have no recollection whatsoever, and how they got my PIN is a complete mystery. I would NEVER willingly give up my PIN.

They might as well have put a knife to my ribs.

Anyway, H2O under the bridge. My withdrawl limit is abut US$2500/day, so I'm pretty sure I'm liable for the Hit.

The Woraburi Inn in Bangkok denied that I had even stayed there, much less that I had guests in my room. They may have been complicit.

HSBC has not even had the courtesy to reply to my many phonecalls, emails, and visits to their main HQ. I would like them to provide times and locations of the ATM withdrawls. So far, nothing. Surprising, really. I would've thought they'd care about bank fraud.
posted by DickStock at 9:16 PM on March 10, 2006

I'd still contact Interpol, just to see what they might say. Thailand is a member country.
posted by Gator at 9:21 PM on March 10, 2006

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