When cards are a losing hand

Newsroom 28/06/2010 | 12:05

With online payments becoming more popular, card owners have to take precautions to stop the unauthorized use of their plastic. Business Review has identified some situations in which giving out the card number alone can leave an unlucky card holder out of pocket.

Dana Ciuraru


“Keep the PIN safe. Don’t share it with anybody.” – This is what banks tell their customers over and over again when they sign up for their first flexible friend. The most common ways you can be relieved of your money – not just if the thief discovers your PIN, but with the card number alone – and how you can defend yourself in these situations.


How to block someone’s money for 45 days

One way in which a card user can expose him or herself is using the card for online payments. A Business Review reader was thus affected after using his card to pay online for some clothes. For online payments, merchants require the card number and expiry date. After the reader paid for the goods, his order never arrived, and so the reader emailed the vendor to ask for his money back. About a month later, the company sent a check for the total value of the ordered products.

Going to the bank to cash the sum the reader found that banks demand some guarantees and that bank commission to cash such a check in Romania is high, so the reader could not get his money back from the merchant. The individual went afterwards to the bank in order to try and recover the sum lost. To handle the issue the bank asked for an invoice from the merchant – an invoice that did not exist as after the order was placed and the payment finalized the website displayed only an order number. So the individual found himself with no money and no products.

This person gave his data voluntarily in order to buy a product but it is also possible simply to find less money in one’s account. With just the card number, someone can buy products in other’s person’s name. In such a case, the victim can see his or her money used for payment blocked for 45 days, during which time the bank can ask for supporting evidence from the merchant and the vendor to contest the case.

Card holders are advised to be attentive to how they store their personal data. Online transactions through bank cards reached in the first three months of this year some EUR 31.8 million, a 70 percent increase compared with the same period of 2009. According to RomCard information, 603,437 transactions were processed.


A card misuse hotspot on holiday

Most online products sold during this period were from the telecommunications, tourism, services, utilities payment, retail and entertainment categories. However, the most dynamic increase in transactions was recorded in tourism – at 270 percent more than last year.

“Tourism is one of the industries on whose growth I am betting this year and I am glad that so far the results confirm our estimations. This demonstrates that both buyers and tour operators have realized the benefits offered by e-commerce activity,” said Carmen Serban, Gecad ePayment GM, in a media report.

The benefits and risks must be weighed up by the user when he or she gives out a card number. An ING bank official told Business Review that there have been recent situations in which bank customers have been deceived by rental companies. According to the representative, one customer went on vacation in Italy. There he rented a car from a local company, for which he gave his card number and authorized the firm to withdraw from the card the car hire fee. After the rental period was over the customer had to park the car in a named place and put the key in a safe box. Back in Romania, he saw that the Italian company had withdrawn more money that the supposed cost. The individual queried the payment, but the Italian company said the additional money represented the cost of repairing the car. The customer contested this, saying that he returned the car in perfect condition, but he had no proof that he had complied with the rental company’s procedures.

A user should be very sure when providing their card number for online payments. Why? According to bank officials, once you have given this information, even if you change your mind and send an email to the merchant to tell them, the sum can be withdrawn by the merchant. After the transaction is approved, the money enters offset automatically and the bank cannot do anything to change it.



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