Union boss Mike Treen’s online bank accounts allegedly hacked by fraudsters, $13K drained

A high-profile union boss is questioning the security of internet banking platforms after fraudsters accessed his online Kiwibank accounts and drained $13,000.

However, Kiwibank is defending its systems as robust and says the man was most likely victim to a scam.

There are also suspicions information on the man’s phone may have been compromised when the device was serviced at a shop, providing thieves with potential access to his log-in and password details.

Unite Union advocate Mike Treen was shocked to receive an email on July 21 from Kiwibank’s fraud department.

He rang the call centre and learned $13,000 had been siphoned from his cheque account that day in three separate transactions – $5000 and $3000 to different ANZ accounts and $5000 to an account registered with SBS Bank in Southland.

The cyber criminals had also secretly moved $5000 from Treen’s credit card to his cheque account to enable the theft.

Treen told the Herald he did not authorise the money transfers, or receive an authentication text alert from Kiwibank to confirm the transactions were legitimate.

“They treated me like I was an idiot, like I had essentially done something to give my password to somebody over the phone.

“They made it very clear that it was up to me to try and fix it.”

Treen – who has since been refunded the stolen money – is adamant he did not share his internet banking log-in details or personal information with anyone.

Kiwibank told him the thieves gained access to his accounts through the Kiwibank app and correctly answered several personal security questions.

Unite Union’s Mike Treen had $13,000 stolen from his Kiwibank account by cyber criminals. (Photo / Alex Burton)

Just three weeks before the fraud, his phone was rescreened at an Auckland store and he suspects staff somehow cloned the device’s contents and harvested his personal details.

“They had it for 45 minutes so I was a bit suspicious of that.”

Treen has filed a police complaint which has been passed to the financial crime unit.

An August 3 email from a detective asked whether Treen recalled communicating with any scammers, or disclosing his account access details in response to phishing emails, phone calls or text messages.

“This offending is predominantly committed by offenders that are based overseas and have gained access to your bank account via the methods mentioned above. Because these offenders are overseas police can do little to identify them.”

The detective said the only course of action for police was to investigate the bank accounts that received the stolen money. However recipient accounts were often used to launder money through “mules” who may also be fraud victims.

Police planned to get court production orders to force ANZ and SBS to hand over the account holders’ details to help track the money.

The detective reiterated that banks and legitimate companies would not ask customers to provide their internet banking details via text or email.

“Those requests are sent by scammers. Delete them immediately.”

An email to Treen last month from a Kiwibank fraud investigator confirmed that ANZ had returned the $8000 unlawfully removed from Treen’s account, “however the $5000 transaction to an SBS bank account we were unsuccessful in retrieving”.

Kiwibank offered him a $5000 refund “as a gesture of good will”, but warned that each case was treated on its merits, and any similar future situation may not result in the same outcome.

In another email last week, the investigator said that based on the thieves’ access to Treen’s personal information and the phone being serviced just weeks before the theft, Kiwibank believed “the fraud occurred as a result of a scam rather than an extremely sophisticated technological hack”.

“However, as you have vehemently denied that you have been scammed, we have ruled the source of the compromise as “inconclusive” (unless other evidence comes to light).”

A Kiwibank spokeswoman said it took security and scams seriously with “appropriate action” taken through bank and police investigations.

Kiwibank was doing its bit by educating customers and providing regular warnings so they didn’t become fraud victims.

The spokeswoman said malicious apps downloaded on to mobile phones could compromise personal data. Remote access scams could also result in phones becoming compromised.

Treen said he was now considering shutting his Kiwibank accounts because no one was certain how the thieves gained access to his money.

The irony was he’d worked for the Alliance Party when it was part of the Government that created the state-owned bank and he was a founding Kiwibank customer.

Treen said he decided to speak out after reading a Herald story last week about an Invercargill pensioner who lost $134,000 when cyber criminals hacked his SBS Bank account.

He questioned how secure people’s money was in online bank accounts and how commonly innocent people were being fleeced.

“Maybe there should be obligations on banks to report how often this happens and what steps they’re taking to protect people’s money.

“I’m an old pensioner who’s battle-hardy. But what if you’re an old pensioner who’s been beaten around in life and gives up? I was utterly determined I was going to get my money back.”

SBS Bank said it followed standard protocols to assist Kiwibank, but the SBS account holder had immediately transferred Treen’s $5000 after receiving it.

“Unfortunately this means that when Kiwibank approached SBS to recover the funds they had already been transferred and were unable to be recovered.”

SBS would not confirm if it had given police the account holder’s details.

Police said they could not comment on specifics but were following “a positive line of inquiry”.

Don’t be scammed• Never disclose PINs or passwords or save them in any way – including in your internet browser settings or in disguise.

• Investigate recipients to ensure they are genuine before sending funds.

• Never accept money into your account for subsequent transfer to others.

• Check your accounts regularly to ensure money is going to the right places.

Best Online Banks Of October 2022

Online banking offers a host of benefits that can make managing your financial life much easier. If you’re interested in finding the best online bank—but you’re on the fence about whether online banking is right for you—here are some of the most significant advantages to consider.Convenience

One of the chief benefits of online banking is the ability to access your accounts from practically anywhere. As long as you’re able to log in to online banking or mobile banking, you can check your balances, pay bills or transfer money between accounts.

You can also deposit checks remotely and set up notifications or alerts, all without visiting a branch. If your debit card is lost or stolen, you may be able to log in to your mobile app to deactivate the card so no new purchases can be made. These are tasks you can do with the tap of just a few buttons.

While online banks may lack branches, many of them offer ATM access if you need to withdraw cash. In short, online banking keeps you in touch with your money whether you’re at home, out to dinner or taking an extended trip.Added Features

Online banking and mobile banking allow you to perform a wide range of functions. But you may get more than simple account management.

Some of the best online bank accounts include features such as:Goal trackersAutomated savingsFinancial calculatorsBudgeting toolsPerson-to-person paymentsIntegration with mobile wallet apps

All those features can help you feel more in control of where your money is going. Having built-in trackers or automated savings can also help you get into a regular savings habit if that’s something you’ve been struggling with.Cost

Online-only banks don’t have the same overhead costs that traditional banks do. That can be a huge benefit if you’re tired of paying high fees.

Many of the best banks online charge no:Monthly maintenance feesMinimum balance feesPerson-to-person transfer feesIncoming wire transfer feesForeign transaction feesOverdraft feesATM fees

Some of the best online banks even refund your foreign and domestic ATM surcharges up to a certain amount each billing cycle. The less you pay in fees, the more of your hard-earned money you get to keep.

Online banking can pay off in a different way if you take the money you save on fees and deposit it into a high-yield savings account. Online banks can offer rates that are much more competitive than brick-and-mortar banks, owing to their lower overhead costs.Record Keeping

Keeping track of expenses is crucial for creating—and sticking to—a realistic budget. Online banking simplifies that task by letting you review credit and debit transactions at a glance.

You can easily filter your account details to look for specific transactions or review purchases made over a certain period. As mentioned, some of the best online bank accounts offer digital tools that let you categorize expenses for easier budgeting.Other Benefits of Online Banking

Online banking offers many advantages. Here’s a quick look at some of the pluses of banking online:It’s easy to open accounts without going to a branch.Automatic bills payments save you time and postage.There’s no need to wait in line for a teller.You can pay bills with no fees.Automatic savings deposits can grow your money faster.Online banking can integrate with budgeting apps.You can monitor your account for fraud from anywhere.

Online banking can take some of the hassle and frustration out of keeping up with your accounts. And it’s a secure way to manage your money.

Online banks may use the same level of encryption as brick-and-mortar banks and they can offer enhanced security features, such as multifactor authentication. Those measures, along with taking basic steps to protect your online banking security, can keep your account information safe and out of the hands of hackers.

One thought on “Union boss Mike Treen’s online bank accounts allegedly hacked by fraudsters, $13K drained

  1. This was beautiful Admin. Thank you for your reflections.

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