Big Banking Boo-boo

Like most people, I keep a reasonably close eye on my bank and card transactions. My current account offers the quite useful facility to download transactions directly into Microsoft Money[1], so I generally know what’s going on.

So when I saw a transaction labelled PTI Europe Region show up, I had a brief moment of concern. It was the right amount and date to match a payment I was expecting, so I figured it was either a name change or some kind of intermediate payment service or some such.

A few days later, I checked a credit card statement, and saw more transactions for PTI Europe. Only these had “Amazon” in the “location” field, and they all matched purchases I’d made. So I figured it was all some new payment company that various companies were using for their payment processing.

Then a few days later, all those payments were credited back to me. Now that did strike me as odd. What with one thing and another, I didn’t get round to querying the oddness, but this afternoon I was checking a different account, and saw three interesting transactions:

  1. A payment of an amount I was expecting (eMusic, as it happens), but listed as PTI Europe Region
  2. A credit of the same amount
  3. The correct transaction

Now that did seem strange. Three separate companies, accounts with two banks all having the same issue. So, I gooooogled “PTI Europe Region” and found that the most prominent hits were loads of forums full of people weeping, wailing and indeed gnashing their teeth over precisely the same issue.

It would appear to have been a processing boo-boo somewhere. We may or may not find out exactly where in due course, once the dust has settled and appropriate heads have rolled. It seems some people were, quite understandably, alarmed by apparent unauthorised transactions and had their cards cancelled.

At least some of the banks affected were a little lacking in information, and gave their customers advice that was not entirely accurate. People were told that PTI was a new name for AOL, for instance. That seems to have been caused by more complaints coming from AOL customers than anyone else, so it’s an understandable error.

The companies who collected payments had no idea what was going on either – apparently at least one Amazon customer was told that PTI was an internal name used for processing. That one sounds like a wild guess to me…

Apparently the actual PTI Europe is a company making security systems. Their website (last updated in 2004) has probably never been busier. The only thing that seems even remotely certain about this quite substantial boo-boo is that PTI didn’t have anything to do with it. So I’m sure they’d be very happy if people stopped phoning them. Assuming they’re still there….

[1] One of the remarkably few things I still use under Windows XP…

4 thoughts on “Big Banking Boo-boo

  1. Les Post author

    It seems very unlikely to me. The money was credited to the companies who it was intended for (Amazon and Napster in my case, AOL and Weightwatchers for others). For PTI Europe (or whoever was using their account if it was a case of fraud) to benefit, they’d have had to intercept payments from numerous companies and get them credited to their bank account. If the intended recipients hadn’t got their money, I think they’d have noticed pretty damn quickly. The fact that they didn’t, and mostly had no clue what was going on for several days suggests that funds were reaching them as expected.

    Then, they’d have to get the interest out of their accounts and somewhere untraceable very quickly. If they had done this, they’d be guilty of fraud on a massive scale – the fact that the payments were reversed doesn’t change that.

    There’s an old saying that comes to mind: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

    I’m sure there will be some kind of statement from the banks in due course which might explain exactly what happened…

  2. Ian Davies

    I have had vaeious problems with PTI Europe payments being taken from my credit cards and refunded then re debited using the correct information. Today when I checked my credit card I noted two payments that I have never made for prepaid phone amounts. I have now cancelled my credit card accordingly. Is it possible this could be linked to PTI Europe and someone obtaining my information using this scam or is it just coincidence that these fraudulent transactions have suddenly appeared.

  3. Les Post author

    I’d guess coincidence, personally….

    But ask your card issuer – they might be able to find out where the dodgy transactions came from.

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