Banking agents in Gelephu and Sarpang overlooked SOP

Nima | Gelephu

A woman operating a restaurant at the industrial service centre in Trashiling, Gelephu lost close to Nu 600,000 this month after her mobile phone was stolen from the restaurant.

The thief used the OTP sent to the registered mobile number to withdraw the cash from the woman’s account from the BOB connect agents in Sarpang and Gelephu.

Cash transactions were done from five different banking agents; 10 transactions were made from an agent in Zomlingthang, Gelephu. Only nine transactions were completed but the agent had paid for 10 transactions.

The mobile number was connected to the woman’s bank account. An account holder can withdraw Nu 10,000 per transaction from an agent.

The case was reported to Gelephu police station on July 16, almost two week after she lost her phone on July 6. The woman knew about the fraud after the bank agent from Zomlingthang, Gelephu reached the woman about the cash transactions made from her account on July 13.

The man had left the country, following required procedures, with the hard cash from the border gate when the case was reported to police. However, the police recovered Nu 45,000.

Gelephu police officials said that there were lapses from both the account holder and agents that allowed the man to withdraw cash without completing the required protocols.

A Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) was put in place to avoid such fraud. Anyone withdrawing cash from agent banks was mandated to fill a form and produce an identity card to prove that the account belongs to him or her, according to the official.

Account holder, Mamta Darjee, said that she had to produce an identity card and sign it when withdrawing cash from her account. “But, I have no idea how my money was withdrawn. I kept it with the bank. I did not know that I could lose my money with my phone,” she said.

She added that she was confused about how the agents paid the man without having to produce any form of identification. “I was told the money could be recovered but nothing happened so far,” said the Mamta Darjee.

The man got the password for the phone from Mamta Darjee’s son who used the mobile phone to play PUBG game. The family also knows the man.

The bank agent operator from Zomlingthang said that any individual approaching the agent to withdraw cash was allowed after producing a one-time password.

“We have to punch in the account number and the OTP is sent to the registered mobile number. Then, the account gets confirmed and we complete the transactions. It’s similar to the ATM that doesn’t ask for the identity,” he said.

He added that 10 transactions were made but only nine were completed. “I lost Nu 10,000 to the man. His phone was switched off when we followed up. The account holder should have immediately blocked the SIM when she lost the phone,” said the agent.

Officials from the Bank Of Bhutan said that the banking agents were trained with the process. “They have to verify through an identity card or bank account card. This mishap could have been avoided if all processes were followed,” according to the official.

Gelephu police is investigating the case.

Edited by Tshering Palden