The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation was founded in Hong Kong on March 3, 1865, and in Shanghai one month later. In 1980, HSBC acquired 51 per cent of Marine Midland Bank, buying the rest in 1987. HSBC Holdings was established in Britain in 1991 as the parent of The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation ahead of its purchase of the UK-based Midland Bank and the impending 1997 transfer of sovereignty of Hong Kong from Britain to China.
HSBC stung into action by e-mail swindles
Online transfers to unregistered third parties are blocked
Hong Kong's biggest bank will no longer allow its customers to make online transfers to third-party accounts unless they register the third account with the bank in person.
HSBC introduced the security measure on Friday night, two days after it was revealed that at least a dozen of its customers had lost $660,000 in an e-mail scam. It was the first time Hong Kong residents have fallen victim to crime syndicates using an online sting to empty bank accounts.
HSBC spokeswoman Vinh Tran said the ban on unregistered third-party transfers took effect at 9pm on Friday. Previously, online customers were able to transfer up to $50,000 a day to third parties.
The bank has not changed its policy of allowing online transfers of up to $1 million daily to accounts previously registered with the bank.
Ms Tran said the new measure would prevent someone with a stolen PIN and customer identification number from transferring money out of the account.
One of the bank's 750,000 online customers, Mark Pinkston, said he was puzzled when unable to transfer money to a friend's account yesterday. He said he called a telephone number on the website and waited for 30 minutes before an operator told him such transfers could no longer be made.
'No reason was given. I tried again at 8am but the same thing happened. Why didn't the bank inform us earlier? I guess many people were affected,' he said.
Ms Tran acknowledged the policy would inconvenience many customers, but said the bank was required to quickly improve security and 'protect the interest of our customers'.
According to police, online HSBC customers received e-mails between September 17 and Wednesday asking them to click on a link connecting them to a fake HSBC website. Many were duped into providing user names, passwords and personal details. Police have arrested eight men and three women connected with the syndicate who were recruited to move the stolen money offshore.
On Thursday night, police laid theft charges against five of the men and one woman. The scams are mainly operated by criminal syndicates based in Eastern Europe, police said.
HSBC will consider covering part of the customers' losses. The bank has also promised to review its online system to make it safer.
The Hong Kong Monetary Authority has issued a warning about the growing number of fraudulent bank websites and e-mails. The authority advised online banking customers to access online bank accounts by keying in the website addresses at the address bar of the browser.