Phishing victims demand compensation from Antwerp bank

Thirty customers of the Belgian savings bank Argenta collectively go to court because they were victims of phishing scams. They now demand that the bank pays for the damage. According to the initiators, this is the first group formation against a Belgian bank.

The victims state that they were robbed for 600,000 euros, the Belgian business newspaper De Tijd reports. When the customers asked for this money back from the bank, they were rejected. Argenta decided it was entirely their own fault, the customers say. In other words, the bank claims that they have deliberately transferred money to scammers. The bank is therefore not legally liable.

The bank only wants to enter into discussions with customers on an individual basis. Argenta gives the reason: “As a licensed credit institution, Argenta is subject to a strict confidentiality obligation towards its customers”.

After the summons was delivered to Argenta’s head office in Antwerp on Thursday afternoon, the bank announced that it would cooperate fully. The bank would have been aware of possible group formation in September and would like to discuss this. This did not work then, because “Argenta asked for a minimum of information, such as the identity of the customers. Unfortunately, we did not get that information until today.” The summons now contains the necessary information to start a conversation.

The complaint

Customers not only want their lost money back, they also believe that Argenta has failed by not informing them in time about new fraud techniques. Two clients from the collective, Hedwig and Josée, tell their story:

“We fell for it after we received an email from Argenta stating that we had to replace our digipas [a device that generates login codes for the online banking environment ]. After we clicked through, we were called by the bank’s phone number. An employee warned us that suspicious transactions had been detected, but that we could still secure our money by transferring it to another account that the bank had ready.”

In total, Hedwig and Josée lost 25,000 euros in this way. They had become victims of spoofing. In this case, the criminals had replaced their phone number with that of the bank. “Even our local branch manager had never heard of this practice at the time”.

A 2018 law states that banks in Belgium are liable for money stolen through fraudulent transactions. However, this does not apply if the bank establishes gross negligence on the part of the customer.

Ombudsfin, the Belgian ombudsman for financial services, noted as early as 2020 that some banks make it very difficult for their customers to prove that there was no gross negligence. These banks, therefore, do not fulfil their obligations when it comes to fraud.

Argenta is therefore not the first bank to be taken to court. Earlier this year, KBC was ordered in two lawsuits to repay a total of more than 32,000 euros to victims of phishing.

In one of the cases, there was no adjudication of gross negligence. However, the judge decided here that the phishing victim could not have noticed the fraud. KBC has appealed in both cases.

Many individuals cannot afford this procedure due to the high costs. For example, a bank has appealed in a similar case about phishing. This appeal is now on a waiting list with an expected plea date of 2027.

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