A local bank has been accused of not doing proper checks before processing a loan application, after one of its customers — a young woman — fell victim to a phone scammer earlier this year.
At a press conference on Sunday, a 22-year-old female said she had received an alert from Bank of East Asia (BEA) in April informing her that a loan application had been approved.
The bank informed her that the loan amount had been transferred into her account and that she will have to make repayments as per an installment schedule.
The message sent her into shock as she, in fact, had not made any application for such a loan, said the woman, who was accompanied at the news conference by Democratic Party lawmaker Andrew Wan Siu-kin.
According to the woman, she may have been taken for a ride by a person who had contacted her on the phone on April 10.
The caller, who claimed that he was working for a Japanese firm, told her that he had transferred HK$82,000 to the woman’s Hang Seng Bank account “by mistake”.
He requested her to kindly return the money to him quickly, pleading that his job was at risk if the money is not returned, according to the woman.
Believing his words, and apparently finding that there was indeed an HK$82,000 credit in her Hang Seng Bank account, the woman withdrew the money and gave it to the caller after arranging a meeting in Tsuen Wan.
Two days later, she received a letter from BEA notifying her that her online loan application was approved and HK$82,000 has been wired to her Hang Seng Bank account.
BEA asked her to repay it through a nearly-HK$3,000 monthly installment for the next four years.
Alarmed, the young woman called BEA and informed the bank that there must be a mistake as she had never applied for the loan in question.
However, BEA claimed that the loan was in order, saying that it had processed the application after confirming the applicant’s identity by phone.
It was then that she realized that the HK$82,000 that came into her account was not due to an erroneous transaction by the telephone caller, but rather the result of a fund transfer from BEA.
Obviously, some fraudster had applied for a loan in her name from BEA and left instructions for the money to be wired to her Hang Seng Bank account.
The person then made a call to the young woman and convinced her to return the money that had been deposited in her account “by mistake”.
Realizing that she was cheated, the woman went to Tsuen Wan police station on April 16 to file a complaint.
She said she contacted BEA through the police, asking the bank to show her the application documents and phone records. But her requests were refused by the bank, she alleged.
Publicizing the case, lawmaker Andrew Wan accused BEA of failing to do a good job in checking the identity of a loan applicant.
Because of the bank’s lapse, an innocent person is having to shoulder a big debt burden, Wan said.
The victim, meanwhile, revealed that she has lost her job and had been scolded by her family because of the scam that caused great trouble to her, Apple Daily reports.
As per the information disclosed at the Sunday presser, the young woman had already been forced into making two monthly payments.
She claimed that BEA sent its staff to her home and workplace for debt collection.
Wan said data from consumer credit reporting agency TransUnion showed someone made nine applications from banks and finance companies in the victim’s name but BEA was the only one that gave approval.
Slamming BEA for alleged loopholes in its loan review program and accusing the bank of trying to pass the buck to the victim, the lawmaker also criticized the police for procrastination in relation to investigation of the case.
Wan said he will follow up on the matter in the Legislative Council and call on authorities to tighten regulations on bank loans and online lending.
BEA, meanwhile, said it has given the police relevant information with regard to the case and that it will keep communicating with the victim.
Authorities have listed case as a “request for police investigation”. No one has been arrested yet.
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