Hacking scare at Capitec Bank

Fadia Salie | FIN24

Cape Town – Hundreds of Capitec Bank Holdings clients on Sunday flocked to branches because they thought their accounts were compromised.

It turned out transactions that were done in December last year, most notably between 16 and 19 December, were only effected on Sunday morning.

But the explanation by branch staff members that certain merchants delayed “banking” transactions in December didn’t soothe the shock, panic and confusion among irate clients. In fact it raised more questions.
“Why would all the retailers, including restaurants decide to bank at the same time (and that on a Saturday night)? Capitec must own up,” a client said.

Some clients who thought they were billed twice for the same transaction demanded their money back: “Just over R2 700 was taken off my account. I can’t even recall such a transaction. I demand a refund,” one client told Fin24. Another said it is unfair for transactions to go through weeks after you have done your shopping, this despite having received an SMS confirmation instore of the purchase. “People work according to the balances shown. This has put most of us into the red,” said another called Mike. He saw three transactions from different merchants go through as early as 03:00 on Sunday morning.

People who were queuing outside the Kenilworth branch even before the bank opened at 09:00 on Sunday said in the time they spent on hold on the client contact service number, hackers could’ve done more transactions.

Complaints on customer service site Hellopeter.com confirmed the widespread confusion, with one client, Brian Wiggils posting: “I was billed twice for the same transaction and approximately R1 400 was taken out of my account… how am I supposed to get to work now if the bank has taken my finances allocated for petrol?” Another complained: “Capitec has just debited two transactions I made to two stores back on December 2 and 18 already.”
R2 600 came off another’s account for a transaction made on December 14.

One client said: “What is going on with Capitec, they were one of the best banks but are quickly becoming one of the worst. “A lot of EFT purchases were deducted from my account when it was made and a few days later the money was available again. This happened to over 6 transactions over the December holidays. It is very difficult to keep track of these amounts and then you overspend. “This morning, January 6, I got the shocking surprise that my account is being debited with all these small amounts that added up to over R2 000. The same thing happened to my wife’s account with over R1 000 also in December and it was corrected today as well.

“I feel this is very unfair as this was a mistake on the bank’s side. They should take this amount back in installments. Please Capitec, get your act together or I will have to switch banks.” Capitec client C Pambane was on hold for over an hour until his air time ran out when he wanted to cancel his card for fear of further transactions: “Surely there has to be a better way to provide service than this, especially when one’s money is involved? “I have had to transfer the remaining funds to my other account in case more money is withdrawn,” he said. Charl Nel, head of communication at Capitec Bank told Fin24 that it is “actually not a hacking situation”.

“The information we have at this moment is that some merchants did not ‘bank’ their point of sale machine transactions until last night. Some even date back to December 18. “This means clients that transacted at those merchants only see the money moved out of their account last night. “This obviously is unexpected and creates confusion with clients. Fortunately our branches in malls are open on Sundays and clients can check at those branches or on their Internet Banking pages that this was actually not a fraudulent transaction, rather a late transaction.” Nel said the Capitec call centre has experienced high call volumes on Sunday morning and they are dealing with all enquiries as it come in.

Capitec made a call on merchants to regularly bank their transactions to not create this situation. “We do believe we will not be the only bank being affected by a merchant (who can be a client of any bank and have any bank’s Point of Sale Machine) who banks his/her point of sale transactions late.” Capitec echoed Nel’s explanation on its facebook page: “Note that we are aware that some merchants banked their Point of Sale Machines late. This meant that purchases done earlier only reflected on some clients’ accounts today. There is no way to force merchants to bank their machines daily. Machines can be linked to any bank.”

Capitec clients experienced a similar scare in May 2012.

Fadia Salie | FIN24- SME South Africa