Plastic Pays for Thieves
Molouk Y. Ba-Isa
ALKHOBAR — As in other modern nations, Saudi Arabia is gradually
shifting from cash payments to card payments. This is leading to an
increase in credit card theft and fraud, and since the incidents of
abuse aren't being publicized, consumers don't know that they should
be on guard.
The first case that came to my attention on this subject involved an
Eastern Province-based expatriate, whose credit cards had been issued
on a European bank. One night the man noticed that two credit cards
were missing from his wallet. He reported the theft to his bank, but
it was too late. The thief had already spent SR10,000 on the credit cards.
According to the terms of the credit card agreement, the man was
responsible for paying most of that money, since the charges to the
cards had been made before they were reported stolen. The bank did
oblige him by disclosing that the largest purchase of SR7,000 had been
at a jewelry shop in Alkhobar. When the man went to investigate that
purchase, he found that the jewelry store clerk knew the name of the
man, a Saudi, who had used the credit card. The expat was shocked to
learn that one of his colleagues had removed the two credit cards from
the wallet when it had been left on the desk during the workday.
How could it be that an Arab used a credit card issued in a
Westerner's name? I discovered that it's so easy to do. For the last
month, my husband Muhammad and I switched credit cards. I went around
town charging everything I bought. From the supermarket to the
shopping mall, no one stopped me when I used "Muhammad's" credit card
to pay for my purchases. No clerk asked me for identification. No
salesman even inquired if "Muhammad" was a relative. With my face
covered, no one had a clue who I was — except that I certainly wasn't
Reports of credit card fraud are becoming commonplace. One father
explained how a supposed friend of his son had removed a credit card
from his wallet and then used it to purchase mobile phones, which can
be easily resold for cash. A woman forgot her credit card at a store
after making a purchase. The card was used by someone else at several
shops in the mall, until the card limit was reached.
In both of these cases the credit card holders were held liable for
the purchases because they did not comply with the "Terms and
Conditions" laid out by the respective card issuers. These terms and
conditions vary widely. Many credit cards issued in the Kingdom come
with the following stipulation: "The cardholder will be responsible
for any unauthorized card transactions affected before written notice
of the loss or theft has been received by the bank's card center."
Some banks also demand police reports in cases of card theft.
I went back to the merchants who had accepted "Muhammad's" credit card
from me and questioned them as to why they had not declined to take
the card or asked me for identification. Every one of them said that
if the transaction is accepted by the electronic approval system, then
the purchase is good. Plus, the clerks, all of whom were male, stated
that they would never ask a woman for identification.
"Once I asked a Saudi man for ID," replied Muhammad Shaife, a clothing
store clerk. "The man became angry and accused me of treating him like
a criminal. I quickly apologized but he just threw the goods at me and
left the store. To this day I don't know if I lost a sale or deterred
a thief. When I discussed the situation with my store manager, he told
me not to ever ask for ID."
The clerks don't compare the signatures on the credit cards with the
signatures on the receipts either, although they do keep the signed
receipts. The paper receipts are only turned in to the banks if they
are requested or if a bank does not deposit cash for the purchase to
the merchant's account. In this last case, the signed receipt allows
the merchant to show that an approved transaction was made.
"Debit cards are much safer than credit cards because a PIN must be
entered before the transaction is authorized," said Babu Shetty,
manager of a small electronics shop. "Another problem we see a lot
these days is with `void' transactions. These are transactions that
are not approved and the system spits out a `transaction void'
receipt. In a void transaction often the bank transfers the money to
the merchant's account anyway. The banks don't always realize the
error and the charge goes to the customer's credit card bill. This
causes a lot of headaches and customers get really angry with us.
Customers should keep the void transaction receipts, if any, and check
their credit card statements before the `pay by date' each month to
In a statement, Ihab Ayoub, Saudi Arabia country manager, Visa
International, CEMEA region, advised that the contract for credit
cards in Saudi Arabia is between the card issuing banks and the
cardholders and that cardholders must deal with the banks directly to
resolve issues in regards to theft or fraud.
"Our member banks are pro-actively working to increase security
measures," said Ayoub. "Current initiatives include the migration to
chip cards and in the virtual world by adopting the `Verified by Visa'
(VbV) e-security program for secure online shopping. Additionally,
many banks have introduced technologically-advanced cardholder
tracking and monitoring systems designed to identify untypical
spending patterns, which help identify potential fraud cases at an
If a credit card is lost or stolen, it is of course essential to call
the issuing bank immediately. In such a situation most consumers are
quite frantic, which is why preparing for the worst is wise. Consumers
should create a list of all their credit card numbers along with the
issuing bank and the bank's customer service telephone number which
can be dialed internationally — not a toll free number. One copy of
the list should be kept in safe place at home but also send the list
to a personal e-mail account at a major e-mail service such as Yahoo.
With this method, if the card is lost or stolen at the mall or while
on vacation, then it will be easy to immediately access the list using
any Internet connection and quickly begin the process of canceling and
replacing the lost or stolen credit cards.
What Makes Some Women Steal Their Husbands' Money
ABHA, 1 June 2007 — Many women have admitted that they do benefit a
great deal from the change they find in their husbands' pockets. Many
said that they use this money for their children and other family
needs. Others said that saving change is of great benefit when their
families have financial problems. Some believe that there is nothing
wrong in taking the money, especially if the husband is stingy and the
wife uses the money for the needs of family and children. Others
however, maintain that regardless of the intention, these acts are
"I fear the future so I need some savings," Fatima told Al-Watan
newspaper. "I take money from my husband's pocket, and I make sure
that he doesn't know it. I learned this lesson after I was divorced
and found myself with no money. At present, I am saving from the
pockets of my second husband."
Nisreen said that her husband was a waster. "My husband spends
whatever he finds and he never saves anything. I have, therefore,
begun collecting the change from his pocket without telling him. After
three years, I managed to give my husband SR8,000 which was useful in
paying his debts."
Alia said that she was against taking any money from her husband.
However, she said that she finds herself forced to take some because
her husband is very stingy and does not buy the family things except
for real necessities. "He does not give me money even to buy winter
clothes for our children. He does not buy school supplies for them as
he considers that wasteful. I have never thought of saving anything. I
only take money to buy necessities for the children. I do not want my
children to go astray or to become thieves," said Alia.
Wafa Saeed said that a wife must tell her husband that she is taking
money from his pocket; the wife, she said, must make it plain to her
husband that her intention is to save money for the family. "Some
wives take the money for their own benefit."
Al-Bandary said that one woman she knew had saved SR80,000 by telling
her husband that she was spending money because of increasing demands
on both the family and children. "In fact, she would spend very little
on the family or children but would keep most of the money for herself."
Nura said that she saves money from her salary which her husband
normally takes from her and uses for himself. "I should have put
restrictions on his use of my money from the beginning. Now I do not
tell him about any increase in my salary or any extra and additional
money I get from my job," she explained.
Hala Zuaitar, a sociologist, said: "This act is of great benefit to
the whole family, especially if the husband is a waster or if he is
stingy. Some wives might take money from their husbands in order to
control them, thinking that by this means, their husbands will have
less of a chance to look for other women."
Manal agreed that taking the husband's money was all right as long as
the aim was to support the family. She added, however, that if the
intention were to prevent the husband from remarrying, the wife in
this case could be described as lacking confidence, not only in her
husband but also in herself. "The husband in this case must comfort
his wife and explain to her that money is not the only means to a
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