ATM transactions suddenly vanish without trace

Andre Jordaan said he was going off his trolley trying to find out what happened to the R3 500 his wife deposited in four separate transactions at Absa ATMs at Cape Gate and Old Paarl Road, Brackenfell, in May.

After getting no help from his Absa branch he sent an email to their branch action line on August 1 and received an automated response with a reference number.

Mr Jordaan got the same response to his second email which he sent on September 1.

Finally, on September 9, he received a reply from a call centre agent, Songz Lunika, saying that without the slips which reflect the ATM number, date and time of transactions, they were unable to help, but if the ATMs are at a branch then they should visit the branch.

“So what then is the purpose of providing an account number, a reference number, a name, surname and SA ID number when doing the transaction if they insist on being provided with the ATM slip? Who is now at fault if the ATM is out of paper and does not supply a slip? Do these unallocated funds simply go into the pot with which Absa uses for all of those exorbitant sponsorships?” Mr Jordaan wanted to know. 

“My wife made four cash deposits totalling R3 500 using the card-less cash-deposit facilities at different ATMs. With each of these deposits, not a single transaction receipt was received from the ATM. Their machines seem to be permanently out of paper. At the time, the bank’s SMS notification system didn’t work either, so my wife could only pray these transactions were successful. I don’t use any of the electronic banking platforms, because they have not yet been proven safe, therefore I had to wait for my account statement to arrive. When it did arrive not one of these transactions reflected. 

After I posted to Hello Peter in desperation, an agent contacted me asking for precise details of the date, the time and exactly which ATM was used. Who records these details? Now I’m supposed to know this nearly three months later. Surely with all of the information that can be provided, Absa must have ways of tracing the deposits,” Mr Jordaan said.  

Apparently not.

Tshiwela Mhlantla, Absa’s managing executive: physical channels, said ATMs are a vital part of their banking ecosystem.

“The proliferation of self-service channels like ATMs (with increasing functionalities) are critical to deliver full-value banking to our customers. We take every possible precaution to safeguard our customers’ money, while prioritising the safety and integrity of all transactions.

Our ATMs have a full electronic journal trail of all transactions performed (regardless of whether there is paper or not), and have dual printers in many instances. As an additional security precaution, and in the event of a paper jam or receipt paper unavailability, various functionalities are temporarily disabled (such as deposits, prepaid purchases and CashSend initiation) to protect our customers’ funds. In this instance, the unavailability of paper receipts would have disabled the functionalities of the ATM.

Following a thorough review of the purported deposits by the customer, our investigations indicate that our internal controls were not compromised. We could not trace any of the transactions as the deposit functionality was not available,” said Mr Mhlantla, who didn’t explain why the SMS alert didn’t work either.

“I expected it,” Mr Jordaan said. But if ATMs have a full electronic journal trail of all transactions why can’t they find my money?”

Good question. How long is a piece of string?

Saving data

Andre van der Walt, chair of the Internet Service Providers Association, says that although mobile and fixed line consumers are paying less for data there are ways they can save more.

“Firstly, under new Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) regulations, users of capped services must be allowed to roll over unused data. While the roll-over period is at the discretion of the provider, data users cannot be charged out-of-bundle rates unless they have consented. Make sure your service provider does not automatically switch you to a different price structure when your data bundle expires,” he said.

However, there are many more ways to save mobile data that do not require regulatory intervention.

Here are some tips: download your mobile network’s usage app, opt in to receive SMS data usage updates and download special data-saving apps to remain on top of data usage; understand wi-fi, which is now increasingly provided free in public places like restaurants, gyms and airports and is particularly useful for streaming and downloading large files and updates; become familiar with off-peak, uncapped and similar times of the day when data usage may be more affordable than usual.

Instead of choosing not to download software updates, you’ll be able to postpone large updates for relatively cheaper times of the day; try out a few different operating systems.

Some of these are notorious for behind-the-scenes updates that seem to deliver little but hefty data charges at the end of the month; and close apps when you’re not using them.

Social media apps, in particular, use a lot of data when they’re running in the background. Go to settings to double-check what apps you have installed, what’s running and – ultimately – what can be safely deleted to help you save data.

“Finally,” says Mr Van der Walt, “continue being vocal on this issue. Voice and data are now basic services that enable us to apply for jobs and care for our families so the costs of these services should be as low as practically possible.”