The 5 things that you can do to recover money stolen from your bank account are based on an incident experienced by my mother. An amount of 50,000 was stolen from her bank account. The rest of the post narrates the incident.
My mother (a homemaker) received a call on 14th February 2017 from a person pretending to be a manager of the bank (bank’s name not revealed for privacy reasons) she has her account in. The caller tricked her into revealing her ATM card details such as the card number, expiry date, and CVV number (3 digits printed on the back side of the card). Then the caller asked my mother to reveal a set of OTPs (one time password) sent to her registered mobile phone (clearly, the criminal had initiated online transactions using the card’s details for which he needed the OTP). A few minutes later, an amount of almost Rs. 50,000/- was debited from her account. By the time she informed me about the incident, it was too late.
This particular incident is known as a phishing attack – where the attacker tricks the victim into revealing their confidential information.
What I did immediately
1. Reported the incident to the bank. The account was frozen and the ATM card was blocked.
2. Noted down the details of all the transactions that took place at the time (there were 4). These include the date, time, amount, merchant’s name, and others.
3. Lodged an FIR in the local police station; shared the details of the transactions.
4. Contacted every merchant whose name was included in the transactions. I reached out to them via their Twitter accounts, emails, and customer care number. Informed them that the debit card used in the transaction was used fraudulently, without my mother’s authorization. They asked for certain details to verify my claim. These included the debit card number (first four and last four digits), date and time of the transaction.
5. Reported the case to Cyber Crime Cell Mumbai division (email@example.com). They replied saying that they do not take direct complaints and suggested me to lodge an FIR with my local police (which I already did) who will then forward the case to the Cyber Crime Cell.
What happened soon after
Three merchants were involved in the transactions. By ‘involved’ I mean that the criminal used their services (e-wallet) to steal the money from my mother’s bank account.
One of these merchants turned out to be immensely helpful. After having verified my claim, they were kind enough to revert the transaction that the criminal made using their e-wallet. The amount was about Rs. 20,000. So, what might have happened in this case is, the money did not get transferred elsewhere or used in any way before I reported the case.
I was, however, not so lucky in recovering the rest of the money (Rs. 30,000). Reason – the services were already delivered. Meaning, in one case, the money got transferred to a certain bank account and in another case, the money was used to purchase movie tickets. These two merchants, however, helped me with some in-depth information of the transactions such as the IP address of the computer used during the transactions, the bank account where the money was transferred to, date, time, etc. I shared these details with the police and the Cyber Crime Cell, just in case.
Can the bank help you recover the loss? The bitter truth – No
Banks have always been clear about their warnings to customers about not disclosing any personal or banking information over call, SMS, or email no matter what. Hence, in this particular case, the bank holds my the account holder accountable for whatever happened. In short, it would be unwise to expect that the bank will somehow recover the loss.
How to protect yourself from such scams
Criminals are making money because they are smart. They know how to lure their victims into their trap. So, it is up to us how we prevent ourselves from getting trapped.
- Educate everyone in your family and friend circle about phishing attacks and other such online scams. Most of time, we assume that these incidences cannot happen with us but you never know.
- Never give out any personal information (including financial) to anyone over a call, SMS, or email. The caller may sound genuine, polite, professional or harmless but that is how scammers are trained – to trick their victims. Remember, banks never call or write to their customers asking for their banking details.
- If you receive a call from your bank (or anyone pretending to be from a reputed company) asking for your personal or bank details, disconnect the call. Report the number to your bank. If you are using Truecaller app on your phone, tag the number as ‘Fraud’ so that it gets updated in the app’s database and other Truecaller users know about it.
- If you can identity the number’s operator (Vodafone, Airtel, Idea, etc.), write to them or Tweet them informing about the call. If they are diligent enough, they might blacklist the number from their database.
As of today, I am still following up with those to whom I had written seeking help in bringing the criminal to justice. And I will keep doing so. I’ll update this post if I come across something positive. For now, I hope this post helps our readers educate their family and friends about such threats and how to avoid them. Stay safe!