‘I could put my money under the mattress’

Sabrina Barreiro thought her Commonwealth Bank account would keep her money safe, until her debit card was skimmed.

Sabrina Barreiro always thought keeping her money in a bank account was a safer option than under the mattress.

But after her debit card was skimmed and her bank account cleared of all funds, she began having second thoughts.

Sabrina Barreiro card scammed comw bank image

“My expectations were higher:” Sabrina Barreiro struggled to get her money back after her bank card was skimmed and used illegally. Photo: Christopher Pearce

Fresh from a four-day holiday on the Gold Coast, a five-months pregnant Ms Barreiro logged online to her Commonwealth Bank account to find the $1350 she had put aside  for medical bills had been withdrawn.

“First I checked my wallet to see if I had my card with me, and I did. So I panicked and called the bank,” said Ms Barreiro.

“I checked the transactions online and there had been three withdrawals from an ATM in Punchbowl, taken between the fourth and fifth of April, when I was on the Gold Coast.”

Upon calling the bank, Ms Barreiro, from Bondi, found the consumer process of reclaiming her money would not be as simple as she assumed. The experience left her distressed that she would be unable to pay medical expenses in the final months of her pregnancy.

“They told me they would open an investigation, which was going to take 45 days and I would have to wait until they finished the investigation to get any money back.

“I wasn’t asking for the whole [amount of] money, just give me $300 or something to pay my bills. It was everything I had.”

While unable to work due to health reasons, Ms Barreiro relied on her partner’s income for rent and medical payments.

Counterfeit or skimming transactions are those made with an altered or illegally reproduced card, based on details taken from an existing card. This includes when the information is copied directly from a card’s magnetic stripe.

Detective Acting Superintendent Dave Christey, from the NSW Police Force Fraud and Cybercrime Squad, said the frequency of card skimming had dropped since chip technology replaced the magnetic stripe.

“Over the last couple of years there has been a downward trend. You can put that down to better security measures. Where we are seeing it is occasionally on machines around the metro area and in taxis.”

According to the most recent statistics from the Australian Payments Clearing Association, released last year, counterfeit and skimming fraud dropped by 25 per cent in the six years from 2009.

In 2014, more than $650 billion worth of transactions were made on Australian payments cards, of which 0.06 per cent were fraudulent.

Ms Barreiro said that while she was concerned that her security had been compromised she was more upset about the bank’s response.

“I felt the bank was blaming me, because I didn’t look after my PIN,” she said. “They kept asking, who did you give the PIN  to? Of course I didn’t give it to anyone.

“I could put my money under the mattress, but instead I choose to put it in the Commonwealth Bank … my expectations were higher.”

A spokesperson from the Commonwealth Bank said it was concerned when any customer was the victim of fraudulent activity.


Henry Sapiecha

“Our process is to fully reimburse our customers when they have been legitimately defrauded and our aim is to do this as quickly as possible,” she said.

“On this occasion the correct process was not followed at the time the complaint was made, which led to unnecessary delays.”

After Fairfax Media contacted the Commonwealth Bank, it offered its apologies to Ms Barreiro and fully refunded the disputed charges, including any associated fees.

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