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International Banking with Citibank-BEWARE
INTERNATIONAL DEPOSITORS BEWARE OF CITIBANK
Identity theft has become one of the number one crimes in the world. Bank accounts are being illegally accessed by debit and credit card fraud. In America most banks will refund any missing funds as long as their investigation proves the depositor is not the one committing the fraud and if they report it to the bank timely. But if you bank overseas and especially with Citibank, be warned that if someone steals your ATM card and discovers your pin number, Citibank's policy is to blame the account holder for negligence instead of the thief. They use this tactic to keep their costs down and to relieve them of the responsibility of going after the thief themselves.
I am now going to relate our story, as an example:
My husband and I moved to Egypt about a year ago. We had a joint Citibank account in America for many years and thought it would be a good idea to go with the same bank in Egypt. Citibank was thought to be the most secure and safe bank in the world. We each opened our own account. We had bought an apartment in a suburb of Cairo and were in the process of renovating it. Our next door neighbor had become friendly with us and even went so far is to bring tea to the workers and food to us and even ran errands for us while we were in the process. We were impressed with his concern and and care for us. We became friendly with his wife and children to the point that he told them to rely on us if he was out and they needed help. They had lived in the apartment for 20 years. This kind of relationship is not something you find in America very often and only after you know someone for a long period of time or they are family. We even entered into a contract to buy his apartment in February 2008 with the thought of breaking through and enlarging ours. Knowing we were friends with him, the workers left our apartment key with him at the end of the workday if we were >not there. As it turned out this was the worst thing we could have done.
We started noticing things missing from our apartment almost as soon as we moved in. We thought our driver had taken things while he was helping move our belongings from our temporary apartment to the new one. We let him go even though he flatly denied any wrongdoing. But without proof we had nothing to go on. We terminated his employment at that point. During the summer we had visited family in the United States and then spent time at the beach during the hot months of July and August. When we got back we had our maid come in regularly and clean. We started noticing things missing again. Our neighbor's wife, who was also using this maid, told us she was missing some jewelry as well. When she questioned the maid >about the missing items the maid told her her husband had taken it and she should as him about it. We thought this was a bit presumptuous and we thought she was acting strange with this kind of comment. Because we thought she was the culprit we had the maid questioned by the police but they let her go and we did not have her come back.
I got a call from Citibank in October 2007 asking us if I had made any ATM withdrawals from my account. This was a saving account and I had not used it for ATM withdrawals. I told them I had not used it and when they told me to give them my ATM card number I realized it was not in my wallet. We made an official report to the bank and I was sent a new ATM card by personal delivery. Our neighbor told us that Citibank probably had a glitch in their system and they were notorious for these kinds of mistakes. After a week Citibank called me to come down and view the video tapes of the suspicious transactions. Of course I was shocked to discover my neighbor had my card and pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket with my pin number. It was then we figured out that he had made a copy of our key and was coming into our apartment without our knowledge and taking whatever suited him. We reported all this to the police. The police turned it over to the District Attorney. We changed the lock on our door and nothing else went missing after that.
Our mistake was that we had used the same pin number for all our Citibank ATM cards. This would prove to be a very unwise practice. We figured out that on one occasion the neighbor had gone with my husband to the bank and might have seen him enter the pin number or he got it another way. The security team told us we were unwise to let this guy into our apartment and said they thought we had written our pin number down somewhere where this guy could get it. We said no and they told us we should go to the guy and ask him to give us back our money!!! I told them we would bring the guy to the bank and they could show him the video tapes and maybe then he would pay us back. They of course vetoed that idea. The head of security at Citibank told us it was all our fault that the money had been taken and told us the bank wasn't insured to refund our missing funds. But being as this is Citibank we are sure they have insurance to protect them and us.
When I tried to get into my American Citibank account on-line it said it was blocked. I feared the worst when I called Citibank and they would not talk to me at all, even after I gave them my SSA number and "secret word". Because I had opted out of mailed bank statements I had not received any and the customer service would not mail me any. When we came back to Los Angeles for the Holidays we went to Citibank and they printed out statements showing that our card was being used at banks and ATM's near our apartment in Cairo and that the card being used was an old ATM card number. We both had our ATM cards in our hands. At that point we started the investigation process and notified the American Citibank investigator of what had happened in Egypt with my account and gave her the head of security's number.
The question I had was why didn't they freeze the account after they started seeing ATM withdrawals in a foreign country. I had not given Citibank USA my Egyptian address. They didn't try and call me to check.
I then went on line and discovered that my husband's account had been emptied out, as well. When we called the head of security in Egypt to tell him what had happened, he told us that a card was used that we had never received. Our attorney told us that after the Citibank head of security viewed all the tapes and realized it was the same person, he took all the video tape results and photos to the District Attorney and we are expecting an arrest very soon.
Citibank Egypt never called my husband questioning any of the transactions even when, in one day $7600 was extracted via an in bank Citibank ATM. All the transactions on both my account and my husbands Citibank Egypt accounts were made through in bank Citibank ATM's! There are at least 2-4 police at the entrance to the banks where the ATM's are located. Why aren't they checking the cards against the users to make sure that the card belongs to the person using it?? Why provide security cameras, etc. to catch a person making unauthorized withdrawals if you are going to blame the depositor after all?? Why are we forced to speak to security people rather than customer relations people? We have been blocked from speaking to anyone in authority other than these security employees that are nothing more than gatekeepers. They have no authority to do anything but look at tapes and deliver evidence to the police. We did thank them, however, for allowing us to view the tapes and thereby determine who the thief was and we have taken measures to protect ourselves in the future. We had told the security people that the bank should reimburse us and go after our neighbor themselves but, of course, they flatly refused to accept that idea.
The Citibank investigator and bank personnel here in America have assured me I would get my money back from them. I can only hope that when Citibank Egypt sees that the American Citibank has refunded the money that they will take a positive view and refund the monies that were taken there as well. Maybe the Citibank investigative forces in Egypt and America can work together on this to go after this person before he does it to anyone else and create a combined task force to go after others like him. I would suggest that any person wanting to open an account in a foreign country like Egypt should review the bank's policy on service, fraudulent practices against depositors and unauthorized use of ATM cards to see what protection they will be afforded in a case like ours. As one could expect we are in the process of changing banks. We are fearful for our safety and have installed a metal core door with a quad lock and enclosed our balcony with security windows as our balcony is next to his.
As an aside, our neighbor once told my husband that American money for Muslims is "halal" (kosher) and that any American money they take is ok as it is infidel money. He also told my husband that anyone can buy off the authorities very easily. We have since learned from the District Attorney that he had an outstanding warrant and we have also learned he has a past history of check fraud.
Mohamed & Carole Talaway
36 Ali Ibrahim Ramiz, #8
Heliopolis, Egypt 11351