Woman finds P12.4B in BPI check account
Jocelyn Reyes was shocked and surprised early on Wednesday when her Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) checking account in Makati City showed she had become a multibillionaire.
Her money ballooned to over P12.4 billion overnight. Reyes (not her real name) said she and her husband, despite losing P20,000 from his personal account, just laughed at their instant “fortune.”
But as a bank employee herself, she and her husband won’t touch the money, she said.
Many others were not so “fortunate,” like 49-year-old chef Vic Sanchez, who lost P17,000.
Sanchez had planned to withdraw money for his mother’s hospitalization, when one of his BPI accounts—a payroll account—showed two unauthorized withdrawals.
By the time Sanchez checked another BPI account, the online banking service had been suspended.
Reyes and Sanchez were among a “small portion” of BPI’s more than 8 million clients whose account balances showed sudden increases or reductions due to unauthorized transactions, said BPI senior vice president Cathy Santamaria.
Santamaria blamed a “technical glitch,” or “internal data processing error.”
“For those who have received extra money, please don’t touch the account. It will be removed,” Santamaria said. “It’s not bonus money.”
Santamaria rebutted speculations that the 166-year-old bank was a victim of “hacking” or a “scam.”
“Let me emphasize that it has nothing to do with that. We at BPI have the highest security standards and we make sure that all our processes are of the highest level,” she said.
The Ayala-led bank apologized for the inconvenience caused by the error, vowed full resolution within the day and assured that no client would lose money as a result of the glitch.
All of BPI’s electronic banking channels—including automated teller machines, mobile and web-based platforms—were taken offline while the bank tried to fix the problem.
Santamaria said most of those affected were clients who had peso or foreign currency deposit unit (FCDU) account transactions between April 27 to May 2 this year. There were cases of transactions being double-posted as of June 6, resulting in erroneous balances.
“What happened is there are clients—so it’s not true to all BPI clients as it affected only some—there are clients with accounts which had been debited, which means it looked like they got withdrawn or the balances declined or turned negative, and we have clients which had double crediting, and that means that these clients will see in their account more money than what they have,” Santamaria said.
Santamaria hinted that human error might have been a factor. “Someone must have touched something,” she said.
She said a hacking would have involved an external party, which would be traceable, but there was none.
The bank’s security firewalls were not breached, she added.
“I can smile … look straight into your eyes and say honestly, there’s none,” she said.
For writer and business owner Regina Layug Rosero, the glitch wasn’t something to smile about after she lost P7,000 from her savings account.
“I was very upset,” Rosero told the Inquirer. “That money was supposed to go to my son’s healthcare, and now it’s gone!”
Dacery Santos, a 24-year-old financial assistant at an insurance company in Bonifacio Global City in Taguig, was worried that she could not check her account balance online.
“I hope they immediately resolve the issue because I only have P100 cash left in my wallet,” she added.
Other customers vented their frustrations through social media.
“I had 3 unauthorize atm withdrawals! What the heck! I don’t have any money left on my Personal acct!!” tweeted a customer named Belle.
“They didn’t only take my savings, I am now in debt,” a post in Filipino by iamEm-em read on a BPI Twitter page.
The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) will investigate the reported glitch “as soon as the dust settles and the customers are made whole,” incoming BSP Gov. Nestor A. Espenilla Jr. said in a text message.
Calls for investigation
Senators Grace Poe and Francis Escudero also called for an investigation of the unauthorized transactions.
Pia Bernadette Roman-Tayag, head of the BSP’s financial consumer protection department, told reporters it was still premature to talk about the possible sanctions against BPI before an investigation was completed.
The BSP monitored no heavy cash withdrawals from BPI customers, Tayag said.
Despite the glitch and numerous customer complaints, BPI shares were up by 1.23 percent on Wednesday against the backdrop of an overall upbeat stock market.
BPI, one of the country’s biggest banks, posted a P22.1-billion income in 2016, up 20.9 percent from a year ago. It reported a 12.2-percent increase in deposits to P1.43 trillion and assets of P1.73 trillion, up 13.8 percent from 2015 levels. —WITH REPORTS FROM JHESSET O. ENANO, BEN O. DE VERA, DEXTER CABALZA, CHRISTINE O. AVENDAÑO AND AFP
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