Businessman loses nearly HK$2.5 million as bank refuses to stop fraudulent payment

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 October, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 October, 2009, 12:00am

A Hong Kong businessman who lost nearly HK$2.5 million because of a fraudulent transaction in Macau has complained that his bank on the mainland failed to stop the payment.

Marcus Wong Chi-ming yesterday said he received a mobile phone text message from the Bank of Communications' Shenzhen branch about an overseas transaction of more than 2.19 million yuan (HK$2.49 million) made with his China UnionPay debit card at 4.44am on October 14.

The 39-year-old trading company owner - who said he was in Hong Kong when the transaction was made - discovered the message when he woke up around 8am. He had only about HK$14,000 left in his account.

He immediately called and travelled to Shenzhen to request the bank stop the payment, but the bank asked him to contact police instead.

'Although at that time the bank had debited the amount from my debit card, it had not transferred the money to [the bank card network operator] China UnionPay yet,' Wong said. 'It should have frozen the transaction.'

It usually took more than 24 hours for the bank to transfer the money to China UnionPay and then to the retailer for transactions made outside the mainland, he said.

He usually received a mobile phone text message within a minute after purchasing items with his debit card, he said. But after this incident, he questioned the purpose of the service because the bank would not stop a fraudulent transaction anyway.

He reported the case to Shenzhen police, and the bank told him the next day that the money had gone to a jewellery shop in Macau but that China UnionPay would only be able to provide more details, such us the name of the shop, in about 30 days.

It would take another 180 days or more for the card operator to investigate what went wrong.

'I was very shocked because apart from the fact that the purchase was made at 4.44am, it is very strange that the transaction was made in one go. It should be very difficult to transfer more than two million yuan away from the mainland,' Wong said.

Police told him that he was not the only victim and there were other cases in which transactions were made to the US and Russia. Wong said he had a similar experience before, with a card issued by a Hong Kong bank, but the fraudulent transaction was terminated successfully.

Legislator Paul Tse Wai-chun, who is helping Wong get his money back, said he would contact the bank and Shenzhen police. He would also liaise with the mainland and local authorities to see if there was any loophole in the system.

'We want to bring to the public's notice that it seems impossible to stop a fraudulent transaction [when using cards issued by mainland banks],' Tse warned.

China UnionPay and Bank of Communications could not be reached for comment yesterday.