But for the vigilance of a Ghanaian couple traveling from Ghana to the United States of America earlier this year, they would have lost US$600 overcharged on their debit cards by staff of United Airlines using a POS device belonging to a local bank.
The couple, Fiifi and Gifty Bonzi only discovered what they called an “attempted fraud” after they got advice from their banks in the US indicating their two cards had been over drawn.
The statements from the card service providers showed that whereas the genuine withdrawals indicate payments were made in Ghana on July 10, 2021, the day they traveled, the suspicious ones showed the withdrawals were made in United Airline Office in Texas, USA, while the couple were in Ghana.
It was also discovered that whereas the genuine withdrawals were done by inserting their debit cards into the POS device, the suspicious ones were done by manually entering their card details into the POS device or whichever channel the “fraudsters” chose to use.
How the people sitting in Texas got their card details and entered them manually, still remains a mystery till date.
Mr. and Mrs. Bondzi reached out to TechGH24 to investigate the matter, and after a long process over a number of days, the moneys were intercepted and refunded to them.
When TechGH24 reached out to United Airline, their Head of Press for Africa, Kevin Johnston sent a one liner reply and said “The customer concerned has been fully refunded. We apologize for this billing error.”
The full facts of the case is that on July 10, 2021, while Mr. and Mrs. Bondzi were traveling back to the US, where they live, they had five bags of extra luggage and United Airline informed them each bag was going to cost US$200, so the total cost was US$1,000 for the five.
Mrs. Bonzi gave out two cards, VISA Card and PayPal Card for the teller to withdraw $400 from each of them and she offered to give them $200 in cash to make up the $1,000.
When the Teller swiped the Visa Card for the first $400, she informed Mrs. Bonzi that the transaction failed because the amount was too high, so she did it in two installments of $200 each and both went through.
Then from the PayPal Card, the Teller did the first $200 and said that one also failed so she did it the second time and said that one went through.
Mrs. Bonzi then decided to pay the another $200 in cash, so she made a second cash payment of $200.
So from what the Teller said, the first $400 on the Visa Card failed and the first $200 on the PayPal Card also failed. But when the Teller issued the receipts from the POS device, one was for $400 in full, and not two $200s. It means the $400 she claimed had failed actually went through.
Mrs. Bonzi said she however did not realize the anomaly until when she got to the US and received separate reports from both Visa and PayPal indicating the following:
- The $400 was withdrawn in one chunk from her Visa Card and paid to a Merchant ID number 2233GHA00001183, which she was told, belongs to a retailer in Accra. But TechGH24 later found out from the bank that, that merchant ID actually belongs to United Airlines.
- She also found that $200 was withdrawn from the PayPal card and paid to the same Merchant ID, 2233GHA00001183.
- So those two withdrawals, which made up US$600, plus the US$400 cash Mrs. Bonzi paid, should have sufficed.
- But she realized two other chunks of $200 each were withdrawn from the Visa Card and paid to UNITED AIRLINES, TEXAS and another $200 was withdrawn from the PayPal Card and also paid to UNITED AIRLINE, TEXAS.
In effect, US$600 extra had been withdrawn and paid to United Airlines, Texas.
Mrs. Bonzi was told by the card operators in the US that the anomaly could only be corrected by the Airline and the bank that owned the POS device in Ghana.
TechGH24 therefore reached out to the bank (name withheld) and through their swift intervention, they got Mrs. Bonzi to make a request for a refund, which was going to take more than a month, but the bank facilitated a quick refund within days.
The Airline however refused to provide details on how withdrawals were made in both Ghana and Texas on Mrs. Bonzi’s card. But TechGH24 gathered from the bank that the United Airline staff involved in the transaction had been sanctioned for it.
At least two POS experts in Ghana contacted during the investigations into this matter indicated that the suspicious withdrawals reading “United Airline Texas”, could not have been done on the same POS device belonging to the local bank.
According to them, whoever did those withdrawals, used another payment channel and not the bank’s POS, and it is possible they even entered the card details manually.
TechGH24 also gathered from the local bank, that their POS device does not even allow manual entry of card details. So, that confirms the experts’ opinion that the people involved used another payment channel.
Threat to Digital Ghana Agenda
Ghana is on a digital transformation journey, and the success of digital payments is key to the success of that journey. Such risks therefore pose a threat to that laudable national agenda.
Fraudsters would, however, stop at nothing to ensure they cash in on digital transactions. It is therefore important for all travelers from Ghana to be vigilant to avoid being defrauded while making digital payments at the airport.