Residents’ bank saga

By: Ruth Sharpe

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RESIDENTS THREATENED with their lives unless they revealed the security codes to their bank accounts to a group of robbers have hit out at the Portuguese banks who have refused to reimburse their loss.

Between May last year and January 2007, 11 separate attacks were made on British and Dutch residents in Faro, Olhão and Loulé (see The Resident editions of December 29, 2006, January 5, 2007 and February 9, 2007 for related articles).

In most cases, the robbers held those in the house captive for several hours and violently beat them until they revealed the PIN numbers to their bank accounts.

As a result, the robbers escaped with large amounts of money from British, Dutch and Portuguese bank accounts.

Now, as the victims struggle to come to terms with their experience, there is still one thing they cannot retrieve: the money from their Multibanco cards.

Out of the 11 incidents, three couples have contacted to The Resident and spoken of their disbelief towards the Portuguese banks.

One couple had 800 euros taken from their account at the Santander Totta bank. They contacted their Moncarapacho branch the day after the robbery tocancel the card and complete a money refund report. They were told that as they had given the robbers the PIN themselves the money could not be refunded.

The couple then wrote a letter to the bank manager in Moncarapacho. Receiving no acknowledgement of the letter, they went into the bank to make an official complaint but the bank would not issue a complaints book and told the couple to write a letter to the head office in Lisbon. Although assured they would get a reply within seven days, they have still received nothing.

This lack of acknowledgement has angered the couple who feel there is a strange veiled silence around the situation.

“We understand that they must follow normal bank procedure in Portugal, however, we are not being treated in a reasonable manner when all we desire is some form of clarification,” they said.

As a last resort, the couple have now requested a meeting with their bank manager and are currently waiting for an appointment. If they hear nothing, they feel they have no choice but to close the account.

No reply

Another couple, who lost 800 euros with a Caixa de Crédito Agrícola account, has experienced similar treatment. Although they are not suggesting these banks have a legal liability to their situation, they feel there has been a lack of courtesy.

“The economy is dependent on expatriates. These banks should be worried because if they continue to treat us in this manner, we will all switch to the English banks coming to the region,” they said.

According to the Sociedade Interbancária de Serviço (SIBS), the operator of the Multibanco network, the maximum withdrawal limit for a Multibanco card is 400 euros per day, however, in one case, the thieves were allowed to withdraw 3,000 euros in a matter of hours.

This particular victim’s account was with Santander Totta and he has also written to the head office twice without reply and, according to a letter printed recently in The Resident (February 23, 2007), “the branch management is unable, or unwilling, to give us any information at all”.

In all three cases, the couples also lost money on English cards, all of which was reimbursed within days of the attacks.

A representative from Santander Totta has confirmed to The Resident that if the PIN number is revealed or made available to someone other than the owners of the card then the banks have no obligation to compensate the customer. A representative from the Caixa de Crédito Agrícola head office said that when situations arise regarding the security of PIN numbers, it is the responsibility of SIBS to deal with customer complaints.

On January 31, police arrested five Romanian men, who are now being held in different prisons throughout Portugal. Several of the men have been identified as those involved in the attacks and all five are now awaiting the trial to come to court.

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