Absa freezes EasyPay credit card transactions

2011-09-12 00:00

ABSA has put a temporary hold on all credit card transactions on the transaction website EasyPay in response to widespread credit card fraud committed on the site.

The bank also confirmed that it has laid a fraud charge, with EasyPay’s knowledge.

Paul Mathias, head of Absa’s risk management unit, said the ban has been in place since 8 pm on Wednesday. He said it will remain until “the matter has been resolved”.

Serge Belamant, CEO of EasyPay’s holding company, only learnt of the measure when The Witness told him on Friday night.

“We will be investigating all our avenues as [Absa’s] lack of transparency is costing us in business and credibility,” he said.

Several Absa and FNB clients have lost tens of thousands of rands in the past weeks in fraudulent EasyPay transactions performed with stolen credit card details.

A Stellenbosch pensioner was defrauded of almost R30 000 and a doctor in Durbanville of almost R57 000, even though her credit card limit is R40 000.

Mathias said EasyPay users are still welcome to do transactions through EasyPay at EasyPay kiosks and outlets such as at Checkers and Pick ‘n Pay.

He declined to say what the total losses were due to the scam.

He said FNB, which is responsible for EasyPay’s transactions, was notified of the measure. A spokesperson for FNB said it will not stop credit card transactions through EasyPay, although the bank is aware of the problem and was monitoring it.

Belamant, however, said the blame for the fraud lay with the banks’ lack of adequate safety measures.

“We at EasyPay would never know if a fraud had been committed with a specific card; EasyPay is as much a victim as the cardholders,” he said.

One of the fraud victims who banks with Absa told The Witness the bank had admitted to him “they have a problem with EasyPay transactions”. .

In a statement on the complaints website, hellopeter.com, the company said that “after a concise review, it is clear that the EasyPay’s website is 100% compliant with all banking and processing credit card rules and regulations and as such is not in any way responsible or involved in any of the fraud or alleged fraud that is currently being perpetrated”.

“The actual problem lies in that some criminals have gained access to certain credit card numbers illegally and are using these to make purchases on our website,” it added.

Police spokesperson André Traut confirmed the Cape Town branch of the commercial crime investigation unit is investigating the fraud.

Belamant said the company’s policy is to always assist in criminal investigations.

At this stage it’s not clear whether the credit card details were stolen through skimming at shops, “phishing” (where e-mails are sent out that look exactly like the original service provider and fool consumers to give away their details) or theft from an existing database of card details.

Belamant said he is aware that a phishing e-mail purporting to be from EasyPay has been in circulation for the past month, and added that “too many organisations such as car rental companies, airlines, banks, transaction switches and telecommunications companies have access to critical information such as card numbers and CVVs [card verification value]”.

“This is all that is needed to defraud any cardholder,” he said.

Belamant added that the company will soon implement new “virtual credit card technology”. This will enable consumers to generate a one-time credit card number that is valid for only one transaction.

Standard Bank and Nedbank could not be reached for comment at the weekend.

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