AN OPEN LETTER TO BANK PERMATA
Rp.70 million stolen from my account.
re a/c. 261xxxxxxxxxxxx
I opened my account 28 years ago with the predecessor to Bank Universal, now Bank Permata, at the Melawai branch which was adjacent to the English Executive Programs in Jl. Wijaya VIII who had recruited me in the UK.
On December 22nd last year I reported to Bank Permata’s Customer Service at WTC, Jl. Sudirman, Jakarta, that Rp.70 million was missing from my account. The money had been removed in seven tranches of Rp.10 million at Rp.1 million x 10. In fact, they had been removed over a period of months, but I was not aware of this because of the late or non-delivery of the statements. A courier service is used, but I had never signed for any; I return to this below.
That the money had been withdrawn at 21 second intervals suggests that it cannot have been withdrawn from a Bank Permata ATM because each transaction requires the re-entry of the card and then the PIN. However, it is possible that it has been siphoned off from within the Bank Permata system. Moreover, I have never been in the habit of withdrawing large sum of cash in the evening.
While there have been fluctuations in my income/expenditure over the years, including transfer of all my assets in the UK, the set of withdrawals is without precedent as is presumably proven by Permata’s own computer records.
On the morning of 14 January 2016, the day of the terrorist attack, I returned to Permata Bank in WTC, Jl. Sudirman for an update on the investigation I was informed by Customer Service that they had no record of my previous visit, and so my bank statements were photocopied once again.
On February 4th I sent an email to my branch manager suggesting that I was prepared to go public if I wasn’t given any updates.
On February 10th, having had no updates, I sent a blunt email to my branch manager and his two immediate superiors whose email addresses he had SMS’d me. I pointed out my ‘public profile’ as a writer about Indonesian affairs, not only as a blogger, but with articles in all the major English language news publications (plus the book). I stated that I was quite prepared to go public with my mistrust of ‘their’ bank. After all, my wait of eight weeks – so far – with no updates was a very bad reflection on the bank’s overall performance.
The result was ‘Read receipts’, but no other response, no proof in fact that my emails, in Indonesian as well as English, had even been opened. I’ve never received a reply from this email or subsequent ones, and the “undeliverable ones” were because the inbox of one of the expected recipients was full!
On February 13th, my birthday, I went to my local BNI ATM to withdraw some cash to pay for a restaurant meal to which I’d invited a few friends. My new card, issued on January 14th, was blocked.
Why that card should have been blocked seemed nonsensical, but, I thought, maybe something was happening at long last. I rang Pak Sahmil, my branch manager, on the Monday (15th) to ask if that was the reason, expecting a “Yes“, a “No“, or “I’m not sure, but I’ll find out.”
His answer? “Go to Customer Service.”
I exploded: he is surely responsible for that department in his/my branch.
The next day I went to my closest branch, an angkot and trudge away, and while asking for a new card, asked why the one issued as recently as January 14th should have been stopped. No reason was given to me, but the computer records showed that the investigation was “pending“.
Eh? After two months it was still pending? Not started? Look at the initial letters of my title!
I decided to share my recurring nightmare with my Facebook friends after receiving this:
(‘SBM’ stands for Senior Branch Manager.)
One friend sent me the email address of Katherine Grace, the Corporate Secretary, because “part of her duties includes protecting the good name of the bank.” Naturally I included her in my next email demanding feedback. I wrote that not only did I require the return of my money, but also the interest it would have accrued. Compensation for my time and the stress this is causing to my family as near bankruptcy looms would be the subject for later discussion.
Three more read receipts eventually arrived, but to my surprise within five minutes of clicking ‘Send’ my phone rang. It was a Pak Satria asking if I could go to his office (In Bintaro). Wow, I thought, the head office must be getting worried. On the other hand there was no effing way that I intended to struggle for hours through the discomfort of Jakarta’s traffic when HQ would have drivers and comfortable cars at the ready, part paid for by my funds and those of other customers.
He agreed to visit me … “next week”, which was Monday of this (14th).
He arrived with his sidekick Andi and did give some feedback. However, there are holes in his account.
1. They told me that I had signed receipts proving that I had received my statements. They produced a photocopy of four signed receipts which proved to be forgeries.
The misspelling of my full first name, which I never use except on official ID documents, is an indication of a major security breach. It also voids the small print at the bottom of the printed statements: This statement shall be considered correct unless notice of any exception is given by the Customer within 7 (seven) calendar days after the date of the courier stamp or (?) the receipt of this statement.
I am not alone in viewing this as an obvious example of Bank Permata’s negligence and, furthermore, a potential security breach. A friend writes: For 15 years I never received a Permata bank statement even though they claimed they sent them to me and that I signed for them!
He closed his account after “they refused to issue me a new debit card claiming my signature didn’t look authentic!“
Really? Every customer has to sign a document for every transaction involving Permata Bank’s staff who have records going back to the opening of customers’ accounts.
2. My regular ATM of choice has been one provided by Bank Negara Indonesia (BNI) at the end of my road. Rather than withdrawing Rp.1 million, I have usually chosen the option of withdrawing Rp.1.2 million.
Pak Satria stated that he contacted BNI last December.
– So how come the Central Jakarta branch of Permata Bank at WTC had no record of my December visit when I returned in January?
– And if the nobbled ATM was the one I regularly used, why wasn’t I informed?
– Satria also said that they had just been informed by BNI that the CCTV wasn’t working.
What? It took three months for BNI to respond? I doubt it because I have yet to hear negative reports about their customer service division.
Those questions arose after a night’s sleep, and after I had signed the meeting’s ‘minutes‘ which were to be sent up the bank’s chain of command.
I telephoned Satria on Tuesday and asked him to send me via email a time-line of the actions he and his partner in ‘Customer Care’ had taken. I pointed out that I would publish an Open Letter outlining the bank’s inaction if he failed to do that.
That is what you have just read.