x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Customers fume as bank blocks their ATM cards

Some NBAD customers find they are unable to withdraw cash after the bank blocked their cards to protect against fraud.

ABU DHABI // Some customers of the National Bank of Abu Dhabi were unable to withdraw cash from automated teller machines yesterday after the bank blocked their cards as a precaution against ongoing international fraud. The bank began sending text messages to customers on Oct 10 telling them to change the personal identification numbers (PINs) for their Visa Electron and Cash Plus cards by Monday, or they would no longer work at ATMs from yesterday.

Some customers said they received no warnings. "Some people got text messages about this, but I didn't get anything," said Denis McClan, whose card was blocked yesterday. Mr McClan, who works at an air-cargo company in Abu Dhabi, said he had to interrupt his work to get his card activated at the bank. "I'm really angry right now," said Mr McClan, who learnt that his card had been blocked after his wife was unable to withdraw money from two ATMs yesterday. "I had to leave the office, I have a meeting in half an hour, and my wife needs money for shopping."

"I mean, they could have sent me an e-mail or something. I'm really angry right now and I'm thinking of changing banks." Abu Baker al Sawi, an employee at a consulting company, said he was confused yesterday when was unable to withdraw enough money with his Cash Plus card to pay for airline tickets to Sudan, which he said cost Dh4,000 (US$1,100). "This is an inconvenience because I use this card a lot locally," said Mr Sawi.

After speaking with employees in the bank branch on Muroor Road, he was able to withdraw the money. "The cashier just gave me the cash," said Mr Sawi. "They didn't say whether my card was blocked or any information about that." Banks are fighting a fraud that has been affecting UAE bank accounts for more than six weeks. Unauthorised people obtained PIN codes and other data, to make counterfeit ATM, debit and credit cards that were then used to make illegal transactions worldwide.

The fraud is thought to have affected all banks in the country. The Central Bank is investigating the situation. Some bankers have said that the fraud was probably the result of a security breach in a UAE-based bank. An official at the National Bank of Abu Dhabi, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said customers whose cards had been blocked could change their PINs at ATMs. That would reactivate the cards.

hnaylor@thenational.