First Bank In Trouble Over Internet Fraud, Dragged To Court By Customer

One of the biggest banks in Nigeria, First Bank, has been taken to court by one of its customers, who is not happy with how his money domiciled with the bank was fraudulently used in London to carry out some transactions he never initiated.

The customer, Abolade Bode, who lives in Nigeria, claimed money in his Frist Bank account was allegedly used fraudulently to purchase air tickets in Budapest, Hungary.

According to The Lagos Times, Abolade, in a bid to seek redress, has renewed his legal battle against the bank with Mastercard West Africa Limited joined as co –defendant.

In an amended statement of claim filed on his behalf by a Lagos lawyer, Barrister Ganiyu Bello, the customer averred that he maintains a current account with First bank of Nigeria and he has been operating the bank account since 2006.

Abolade claimed he runs the account directly by cheques and with the Mastercard procured from the bank after due payment which he uses electronically through Automated Teller Machine ATM.

The claimant said on August 17, 2012, he discovered that his account with First Bank was fraudulently debited with the sum of N750,509.77 arising from unknown and unauthorized transactions.

He promptly complained via voice and then by e-mail and his complaint allegedly acknowledged by the bank. Later, the customer said he thereafter physically visited the head office of the bank at Marina Lagos on several occasions and in response, he was told that the matter was under investigation.

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In its letter dated September 5, 2012, the bank denied any liability and consequently, the Plaintiff wrote a letter dated September 6, 2012, to the Central Bank of Nigeria on the same issue and in its response, in an e-mail dated September 27, 2012, the apex bank directed First bank to review the complaint and respond within 72 hours and its solution on the matter should be made known to the bpex bank.

Whilst awaiting for the response of First Bank, the plaintiff made formal complaint to Mastercard West Africa by e -mail on September 10, 2012 and in response, MasterCard advised the plaintiff to apply for the payment of provisional credit to his account within 60 days and in accordance with the advice, he forwarded to the bank by e -mail dated September 11, 2012, a request for provisional credit to be placed on his account, but the bank did not respond to the request.

Pursuant to the directives of the CBN, First Bank, by e -mail dated September 27, 2012, made available to the apex bank via e -mail a copy of which was sent to him, the details of the unauthorized transactions on his account runs thus, namely: (a) Online transaction receipt for 3 internet purchases of auto parts made by one Mr Manuel Caser of 22 Greengate Street London and third from Digital; (b) Two air tickets purchased on Wizz Air in Budapest showing passengers’ names Gamote Iordam and Alina Claudia Duma respectively.

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The Plaintiff averred that he does not know any of these persons neither did he authorized the transactions, but the bank allegedly neglected to demand from the merchants Turner Shop and Wizz Air or their banks the sum of N750,509.77 arising from the unlawful transactions on his account within 60 days of occurrence as per the charge process and as advised by MasterCard.

The Plaintiff averred that there was never a time the details of his MasterCard which is always in his possession disclosed to anyone, and in the circumstances of this matter First Bank is liable for the online fraud committed on his account because it arose from card skimming and or counterfeiting.

The Plaintiff contended that the online fraud committed on his account was not due to his negligence but has been perpetrated by means of other compromises of the defendants’ security because the information required for online transaction are open and accessible only to the staff of First Bank who handed and passed the MasterCard to him at the inception and the staff of MASTERCARD who had the custody of the card before issuance.

The Plaintiff averred that the loss of his N750,509.77 from his account has put him under serious financial strains and stress much so that he could not carry out important projects already lined up for execution.

Abolade also averred that his account, which has been debit frozen since August, 2012, in order to avoid further complications, has constrained him access to his funds in the account and therefore cannot transact any other businesses in the cashless environment of Lagos state.

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The bank, in spite of several demands, has failed to reimburse him and in consequence of the foregoing, the Plaintiff claims from the defendants jointly and severally for the reimbursement of N750,509.77 and N10 million damages respectively plus interest at the rate of 21% per annum with effect from August 17, 2012 until entire sum is fully paid.

However, in its amended statement of defence filed by Novolex solicitors, First Bank, while describing the Plaintiff’s suit as speculative, vexatious and abuse of judicial process, urged the court to dismiss same with substantial cost, on the ground that the reported transactions in this instance showed that the Plaintiff card was used to order auto parts in United Kingdom and to pay for airline tickets.

The counsel said these transactions could not have been possible without at least the initiator or enabler knowing the number and other details, thus buttressing the fact that the Plaintiff must have compromise his security information.

First Bank also stated that as a precautionary measure to prevent further dissipation of the funds therein and to enable the bank carry out full investigation into the complained withdrawals, another account was opened for the Plaintiff to enable him to continue with his normal banking transactions.

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