Court rules against customer seeking compensation from Vietcombank, Techcombank in $1M fraud case

By Thanh Lam   July 4, 2024 | 02:00 am PT
Court rules against customer seeking compensation from Vietcombank, Techcombank in $1M fraud case
A fake website that masquerade as the Viecombank banking app. Photo by VnExpress/Luu Quy
An appeal court in the northern Bac Ninh Province has concluded that Techcombank and Vietcombank have no responsibilities over the loss of VND26.5 billion (US$1.04 million) from a customer's accounts, attributing it as her own fault.

The appellate hearing at the Bac Ninh Provincial People's Court on Tuesday and Wednesday reviewed the appeal of plaintiff Tran Thi Chuc, 50.

The two defendants were Vietnam Technological and Commercial Joint-stock Bank (Techcombank) and Joint Stock Commercial Bank for Foreign Trade of Vietnam (Vietcombank).

The jury rejected the plaintiff's appeal and ruled that Techcombank did not have to compensate any amount of the VND14.6 billion that Chuc claimed was fraudulently withdrawn from her account.

The same decision was made for a sum of VND11.9 billion at Vietcombank.

According to the verdict, on April 22, 2022, Chuc went to a Vietcombank office in Bac Ninh's Tu Son City to open an account.

Between April 22 and 24, she and her family members transferred a total VND12 billion into that account.

On April 23, she visited a Techcombank office to open an account there and transferred a total VND14.6 billion into it.

On the morning of April 25, she came to check both accounts at the two banks and learned that there was nothing left in the Techcombank account while the Vietcombank account balance had only VN100,000.

She immediately reported it to the police.

In her police report, Chuc stated that in April 2022, she received phone calls from two individuals posing as police officers, accusing her of causing a traffic accident and being involved in drug trafficking and money laundering.

They instructed her to open accounts at Techcombank and Vietcombank, transferring a total of over VND26.5 billion.

The so-called police also requested her to install a security software to "prove the money was clean" and to use a different phone to communicate with them via Viber. She did exactly whatever they told her to do.

The software was later identified by investigators as capable of interfering with, handling, and altering various information such as location, history, contacts, and messages of the user.

Chuc then filed a lawsuit against both banks, suing them for failing to provide guidance or advise her on data security information and reporting the issue or promptly requesting the central bank to coordinate with other banks to prevent the fraudulent transfer of money.

She accused both banks of not sending her any notifications of when the money was withdrawn from her accounts.

At the preliminary trial in March, the Tu Son District People's Court ruled that the two banks must compensate Chuc a total VND1.5 trillion in compensation, including VND700 million from Vietcombank.

Both banks and Chuc appealed.

The appellate trial panel concluded that Chuc followed the instructions of two unknown individuals to open accounts, transfer money, and install security software that compromised her bank security information.

This was Chuc's fault, not the banks', it ruled.

"The terms of the registration service for providing authentication methods to individual customers clearly state that Vietcombank "is not responsible for any damage caused by the customer disclosing their username, password, or authentication information for any reason; and is not responsible if the customer uses software, materials, or follows instructions not provided by Vietcombank," the appellate verdict stated.

After the two-day hearing, it was decided that Chuc would not receive any compensation, and will have to bear about VND200 million in court fees.

Chuc's attorney Le Ngoc Ha said if the bank employees had fulfilled their responsibilities correctly and sufficiently when interacting with clients, advising on new account procedures, guiding safe account usage, securing information, and warning about fraudulent tactics, Chuc would not have been exploited by fraudsters.

According to the attorney, this behavior by the bank employees violated at least two regulations of a government decree on administrative penalties in the field of currency and banking: failing to advise users on the principles and scope of using credit information products; and failing to guide customers on measures to ensure safety and information security when using banking services on the Internet.

Ha and Chuc stated they would appeal to Hanoi's Supreme Court.

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