A Melbourne man who had almost $20,000 drained from his account has described the experience as “traumatising” and claimed his bank has offered little help or sympathy.
On the night of December 6, Sze Chan got a message saying that a new device had been added to his Ubank account – something he hadn’t done.
Just three minutes later a whopping $19,900 was transferred out of his savings account.
“For me, it was really astounding how much could be taken out. When I tried to take out $500 or $1000 there would be a stop limit so it wouldn’t be taken out immediately and it would take one to two days to clear,” he said.
“It was a huge amount of money that could be transferred within a matter of minutes.”
The finance analyst said he “panicked” and called every number on Ubank’s website but was shocked to receive an autoplay message informing him that the customer service line was only operational between 8am and 8pm. The hack had happened after 9pm.
“I tried to contact Ubank on Facebook and Twitter and email them and there was no response,” he said.
“It was surprising that if a crime could happen outside the working hours there was nothing you could do as I had to wait to the next morning and by then it was too late.”
Feeling helpless, he raced to the police station to report the crime.
The 39-year-old then faced a sleepless night waiting to get in contact with Ubank as he had no idea how his account had been hacked.
Even in the morning when he called Ubank, he said he was on hold for three hours waiting to talk to someone about the “stressful” situation before his account was suspended.
Desperate to save the small amount of money left in his account he also transferred $1900 out to another bank that morning.
“It’s quite traumatising actually, I was saving up for a car so a lot of that has gone. I’m hoping to recover the money back but it was very stressful trying to get in touch with someone and I couldn’t sleep,” he said.
“I was pretty anxious … and sad.”
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Mr Chen added the Ubank account contained most of his savings and the loss of the money left him with little funds to his name.
“My salary is paid into a Commbank account and from there I transfer my savings to Ubank so I just have two weeks of money left as all the additional money was the savings in Ubank, so I’m waiting on the next fortnight’s pay,” he said.
The Melbourne man said he was told the incident would be classified as a disputed transaction and it had been sent to the fraud team, but wasn’t happy with Ubank’s customer service treatment over the phone.
“It was quite curt and brief so I was kinda surprised about their response. I was hoping for some sort of sympathy and hoping they could explain how this could happen,” he said.
“I think it was routed to one of those general query lines so there wasn’t much the person could do but raise a case, so it was quite disappointing.
“I was stressed out and it was disappointing how they could simply treat me like another number and just send an email without explaining much.”
Mr Chen added the loss of a year’s hard work of saving was particularly “distressing” and he was concerned Ubank offered no 24/7 service for customers to report fraud.
He said he wouldn’t remain a customer of Ubank once the matter was resolved.
A Ubank spokesperson said Mr Chen had been contacted by the team and is being supported.
They added there is currently a Ubank branded phishing scam in circulation.
“We have alerted customers impacted by this scam via text, in-app messaging, social media channels and on our website,” the spokesperson said.
“The SMS claims to be Ubank. Anyone who receives this SMS should not click on any links, send the SMS to +61 476 220 003 and delete it immediately.
“Ubank will never SMS you asking for banking details. Our security team is working hard to prevent this scam from impacting our customers. We encourage customers to remain vigilant.”
Phishing scams are attempts by scammers to trick you into giving out personal information such as your bank account numbers, passwords and credit card numbers, according to Scamwatch.
However, Mr Chen does not believe his experience was related to a phishing scam.
Another Ubank customer, Emelie*, had $13,000 emptied from her account in an experience she describes as “horrendous” – and it had nothing to do with a phishing scam.
The 25-year-old had been struck down by Covid at the end of last month and woke from an afternoon nap to discover she had lost thousands from her Ubank account, which held the bulk of her savings.
She said there were 20 PayPal transactions debited from her account with amounts ranging from $200 to $3600, adding up to a total of $13,000.
“I was gobsmacked, I was like, ‘What the hell?” she told news.com.au.
The 25-year-old said she spent an hour-and-a-half on hold waiting to talk to someone from Ubank.
The Sydney woman was desperate to get her money back as she was saving to fund a move to London, but said she had received “mixed messages from customer services agents” about the situation the three times she had called.
“They don’t really seem to care about resolving the issue.
“Ubank hasn’t given me any insights into what happened,” she said.
“I am very confused as to how this could happen as Ubank is my savings account and my transaction account is with another bank called Up. I have never disclosed details of this savings account, so I have no clue what’s happened.”
Most disturbing for Emelie was being told the situation could take up to three months to resolve.
“It’s way too long. I’m shocked as Ubank are owned and backed by NAB and I’m sure they make billions and so $13,000 is not even a drop in the ocean for them,” she said.
“This is a significant amount of money for me as I was unemployed for several months during Covid-19 and have only been working full-time recently.”
A Ubank spokesperson said they were investigating and supporting her with her inquiry and confirmed the situation is unrelated to the phishing scam.
“Whenever third-party transactions are queried, we are reliant on the relevant third parties, PayPal in this instance, to perform an investigation, to provide information and that can unfortunately take time and is not within our control,” they said.
“Our customer support team is currently managing a higher-than-usual volume of traffic at this time. As a result, we have bolstered our customer service team and will continue to add additional resources to assist with resolving any outstanding issues.
“We aim to provide excellent customer service and apologise if in this instance we haven’t met expectations.”
But Emelie was happy to report that three weeks after her experience her money was returned.
Ubank has been hit by a spate of complaints from customers in recent times, who were “disgusted” and “frustrated” over upgrades, which have made it difficult to access their money.
In January last year, NAB inked a $220 million deal to acquire another digital bank called 86 400, which has resulted in changes to all Ubank accounts, but the transition has not been smooth.
One customer had gone through the arduous process of having her BSB, account number and new debit card changed as part of the merger – only to have her entire account closed and her access to $40,000 cut off for days.
*Name changed for privacy