By Thien Ly
A Vietcombank customer lost VNĐ500 million (US$23,800) after someone hacked into her bank account and withdrew money from an ATM in the course of just one night.
It happened on August 3-4 while Hoàng Thị Na Hương was sleeping. The hacker made five withdrawals of VNĐ100 million each.
After waking up, Hương saw Vietcombank’s SMS messages about the transactions and account balance, but not the OTP codes. She quickly informed the bank, which blocked her ATM account immediately.
A Vietcombank spokesperson said Hương had logged into her account through a fake Vietcombank website on her mobile phone on July 28, which caused her account information to be stolen.
The stolen money was transferred to various Vietnamese banks and VNĐ200 million was withdrawn from an ATM in Malaysia. Luckily VNĐ300 million had remained within Vietcombank’s system, and so was saved.
The lender and the victim fully co-operated with investigating authorities to quickly find the exact cause, trace the person who stole the money and focus on recovering it.
The bank said that if it is determined the fault was not the client’s, it would fully protect her interests.
Some banking experts have already said Vietcombank should not put all the blame on the customer since it too is culpable.
So, even if Hương actually lost the account information on a bogus website, Vietcombank should be held responsible for its Internet banking, whose OTP function has proven to be problematic, and made to compensate the victim.
Vietcombank’s prestige has been seriously affected.
After the news broke on August 11 the bank’s shares plunged 6.7 cent to VNĐ54,500 and market capitalisation fell by VNĐ4 trillion ($177.8 million).
The unfortunate tale of Hương on top of the recent proliferation of internet fraud has seen panic-stricken banks caution customers against revealing their information online or logging in through unknown links.
Experts suggested banks should tighten their OTP security by tracking the devices customers use to do transactions online.
For instance, the system should be able to recognise that a user is carrying out a transaction from a different smart phone or computer rather than the usual one, and ask them to confirm they are actually the customer and not a hacker, they said.
Google and Facebook always notify their user whenever there is a sign-in from an unfamiliar location.
Card holders need to be cautious while using internet banking services, not providing account information through mobile phones, email, social networks or unknown links.
This is because scam artists can elicit account information to steal money from bank accounts. They even impersonate tellers to acquire account information or get money transferred.
In light of the increasing incidence of internet crimes, many banks including Vietcombank regularly issue warnings to customers.
Vietcombank has advised customers to change the accounts and card numbers, not to take photos of cards and store them or share them on email or social media, carefully check online shops before using their cards and not provide their card numbers to dubious websites.
Sacombank has also given similar warnings to its customers, adding that they should inform the bank when in doubt.
VPB and SHB said in online scams users are usually the most vulnerable point in the security system, warning it cannot protect users in all situations if they are careless.
Customers should be cautious about promotions and advertisements coming by email, and never access any online shop or make online payment through a link, they said. Instead, they should directly access a site by typing addresses in the browser, they said.
In order to completely eliminate the possibility of crooks stealing information, passwords, and cash as in the case of Hương, Vietcombank immediately changed its policies, including online transfer limits, activation of a Smart OTP service by registration at the bank, and continuously recommending customers to improve security of personal and banking information.
The question is whether all these measures will affect e-commerce activities.
The Government has just approved an e-commerce development plan for 2016-20 that targets 50 per cent of consumers switching from cash to other forms of payment.
Analysts said it would be very difficult to achieve this target since the more banks become cautious and adopt stringent regulations for internet banking, the more worried customers would feel and reduce online transactions.
People are already apprehensive after what happened to Hương and the way banks have been issuing warnings, they said.
The banking sector needs to improve network security, they said.
Pokemon ‘support’ services mushroom
The daily income of Huỳnh Trung Dũng of HCM City’s Tân Bình District, a part-time xe ôm (motorbike taxi) driver, has improved significantly in the last two weeks thanks to carry passengers trying to catch Pokemons.
In the past he would often work with tourism companies in District 1’s Phạm Ngũ Lão Street to carry tourists somewhere. But now he waits in Tao Đàn Park for people who want to go around areas that are considered to be pokestops to capture this virtual creature.
“I ride to the park early in the morning, and there I easily find five or seven people who want me to take them to explore somewhere to capture Pokemons.
“With this new job I earn VNĐ3-4 million in 10 hours of carrying Pokemon game players.
“The income is several times higher than that in the past.”
In fact, these motorbike taxis are now used by many people for Pokemon because they can really get around in the city’s heavy traffic and also reduce the chances of having their phones robbed.
Pokémon players also use taxis.
Playing the game involves using Poke Balls to catch Pokémons, which can be found at Poke Stops. Players use the captured Pokémons to fight other players at so-called Gyms.
In addition to transport, many other services and products such as food, clothing, chargers, and wifi have also been launched to take advantage of a game that is spreading rapidly around the world.
Thus, many street eateries have mushroomed in Hà Nội and HCM City in places like parks where there are often many Poke Stops and Gyms to sell food to game players.
Fashion shops are selling clothes, hats and bags with the Pokemon image.
Some cake producers have taken advantage of the passion for the game to make moon cakes in the shape of Pokémons that have rapidly become best sellers, especially among young people.
Another business appearing on the market in recent days is the sale of Pokémon Go accounts online.
Experienced players are offering their Pokémon Go accounts for sale on eBay, Facebook and other online forums for players too lazy to put in time practicing their Pokeball throws, hunting down rare Pokémons, or evolving their captured collection.
A level 12 account sells for VNĐ20,000-100,000 and a level 22 or 23 account for VNĐ500,000-10 million.
The game is also raising some concern about whether its location and mapping features are luring players into dangerous situations.
In many instances, smart phones have been snatched from the hands of players, especially at Pokémon Go hotspots.
Some critics also warned about its addictive nature.
A Ministry of Information and Communications spokesperson said the game has been in Việt Nam only for a short time and so the ministry needs more time to assess its impacts on society, particularly young people, and decide if it should be banned.
The ministry has also instructed companies offering this and other games must seriously abide by all Vietnamese laws.
If any violations are found, the game would be banned to protect players and ensure a healthy society, it warned. — VNS