Bank cards covered

Banks to return money stolen from accounts

In August, the principle of zero responsibility came into action in Belarus, with each bank obliged to return money stolen from fraudulent card use. Of course, some clauses have also been introduced, with customers obliged to observe safety measures. Candidate of Economic and Legal Sciences Sergey Ovseiko comments on the new regulation.

Clients’ accounts under protection

Money is regularly stolen from cards and, after long debate, the principle of zero responsibility has been introduced. The position of banks is clear: cardholders must try to ensure the safety of their money in the face of card thieves’ ingeniousness. Of course, it can be the case that we have no suspicion of threat so the state has made a compromise regarding responsibility.

From now on, banks will bear responsibility, with certain clauses. For example, if it can be confirmed that a cardholder has acted fraudulently, then money will not be returned. In disputable cases, responsibility may be shared, with the client obliged to cover some of the loss — in line with the Civil Code. The principle does not cover legal entities, as no repayment is possible upon corporate cards. The new provision aims to improve citizens’ trust in banks.

Returning stolen money is now global practice so what can you say of foreign experience in this field?

The principle of zero responsibility, as introduced in Belarus, is unique, since it guarantees repayment of banking deposits. Globally, measures are less comprehensive, although something similar is observed in Russia: the law was adopted there four years ago, with banks bearing full responsibility. In the USA and the EU, banks will return only sums exceeding $150-500. 

If you notice money has been stolen from your account, what measures should you take?

If you receive SMS notification that money has been withdrawn from your account, submit a claim to the bank within 30 calendar days. This period can be prolonged only with very good reason. The financial institution will then investigate and, if convinced that the cardholder isn’t responsible for withdrawing money, funds are returned within 45 days of the claim submission (where the fraudulent withdrawal has taken place in Belarus). This period might be prolonged to 90 days if the operation occurred outside Belarus.

What measures can citizens take to prevent their money being stolen?

Everything depends on how you use your card; online operations are most risky. For these, it’s better to hold a separate card upon which you load only the sum necessary for a transaction. Never make public your pin code and card data. If you need to share this information, do so in person rather than by phone and never give your card to third parties: waiters, for example. Always ask them to conduct the transaction in your presence.

Most famous cases of stealing money from bank cards:

2011. While holidaying in Italy, singer Gerilana received notification that money had been withdrawn from her account, in Chicago. She had never visited the USA so called her bank. It took some time to connect to an operator, during which, criminals withdrew $31,500 from her account.

2013. Foreigners installed special reading devices — called skimmers — on several Minsk cash machines, gaining the bank information of at least 2,500 people. The criminals stole around Br475m.

2014. A Brest casino owner stole over Br1bn from foreign financial institutions with the help of fraudulent cards. He planned four times more and even managed to buy Ba-Bank Casino in Mogilev, but the transaction was cancelled.

 By Valeria Gavrusheva

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