Fraud fear prompts Bank of Ire­land to re­strict many debit cards

The Irish Times - - Front Page - CONOR POPE Con­sumer Af­fairs Cor­re­spon­dent

Bank of Ire­land has been forced to im­pose se­vere re­stric­tions on many cus­tomers’ debit cards this week over fears they have been com­pro­mised by fraud­sters.

The bank de­clined to say how many cus­tomers have had re­stric­tions im­posed on their cards al­though the num­ber does ap­pear to be sig­nif­i­cant.

“For se­cu­rity rea­sons we don’t dis­close the vol­ume of new cards is­su­ing to cus­tomers’ homes,” a spokesman said adding that there was “height­ened pre­cau­tion­ary ac­tiv­ity un­der way at the mo­ment”.

Im­pacted cus­tomers have been told they can no longer use their ex­ist­ing cards for con­tact­less trans­ac­tions and they have been blocked from us­ing them on­line while re­stric­tions on us­ing cards abroad have also been put in place. The bank said it would take at least a week for the is­sues to be re­solved and for cus­tomers to be is­sued with new cards.

In a text mes­sage sent to some cus­tomers on Thurs­day the bank said it was “let­ting you know that your debit card may have been at risk of fraud. As a pre­cau­tion we are send­ing you a new one. You can still use your ex­ist­ing card for chip and pin trans­ac­tions us­ing an ATM or ter­mi­nal and your four-digit pin to pay”.

The text mes­sage failed to make it clear the pre­cise na­ture of the re­stric­tions and that they meant af­fected Bank of Ire­land cus­tomers would be un­able to use their cards for con­tact­less trans­ac­tions or make any on­line pur­chase.

Card skim­ming

A let­ter which is now be­ing sent to cus­tomers con­tains slightly more de­tail. It says cus­tomers’ “Visa debit card may be at risk of be­ing used fraud­u­lently as your de­tails may have been com­pro­mised, pos­si­bly as a re­sult of card skim­ming. This hap­pens when fraud­sters use a small de­vice to steal your card de­tails.”

The let­ter says there is “no need for you to take any im­me­di­ate ac­tion. We’ve al­ready taken steps to pro­tect your ac­count”.

The ex­tra se­cu­rity mea­sures are de­scribed as a “short-term step and it may limit cer­tain types of spend­ing, like pay­ing for goods and ser­vices on­line and abroad”. The bank has also urged cus­tomers to check re­cent pay­ments.

When con­tacted by The Ir­ish Times a bank spokesman said that when the bank sus­pects that a debit or credit card has been put at risk of fraud it takes pre­cau­tion­ary mea­sures.

“A risk of fraud can arise, for ex­am­ple, if an ATM is tam­pered with or through a third party data breach. Re­ceiv­ing one of these pre­cau­tion­ary mes­sages does not mean that your card has been used fraud­u­lently.”

He said that in some in­stances the bank is­sues new cards as a fraud pre­cau­tion mea­sure.

Bank of Ire­land will ac­tu­ally profit from the de­ci­sion to re­strict cards. While it costs cus­tomers 1 cent if they make a pur­chase us­ing the con­tact­less facility, they pay 10 cent if they use chip and pin in store and 25 cent each time they take money out at an ATM.

When asked about the ex­tra charges cus­tomers are likely to face ahead of get­ting new cards the spokesman sug­gested cus­tomers could re­quest cash­back with re­tail­ers.

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