After waiting for two months to receive government financial aid to start rebuilding their homes, some earthquake victims in Oaxaca got an unpleasant surprise this week when they found their stored-value bank cards were devoid of funds.
It appears their cards had been cloned and the money withdrawn.
The federal savings bank, Bansefi, explained it had detected 60 cases in which cards issued by the Natural Disaster Fund (Fonden) had been cloned and cleared of their funds.
The total value of the alleged theft exceeds one million pesos (US $52,000), Bansefi said, adding that the operations had occurred outside the areas affected by the September 7 earthquake, including Mexico City, Jalisco, Veracruz and Quintana Roo.
One victim of the presumed swindle was 65-year-old Adán López, a resident of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region which took the brunt of the powerful 8.2-magnitude quake.
He had planned to spend the money on cement, rebar and other building supplies to reconstruct his badly damaged home but found himself unable to access the aid.
While lining up outside the Juchitán branch of Bansefi, he told the newspaper Milenio that he was now concerned that he had lost the much-needed funds for good.
“I went to order materials but they said that the card doesn’t work, that there’s nothing on it, it’s not valid. Here’s the little paper they gave me and now I’ve come to complain,” he said.
“How am I going to get the material if there is no way of taking [the money] out?”
Another local resident encountered the same problem while helping her father-in-law buy construction materials and again when she tried to withdraw cash to pay bricklayers who had already started rebuilding his damaged home.
“We arrived to order what we needed, we already had the list . . . but when we [tried to] pay, we couldn’t because [the card] doesn’t have credit . . .” Noemí Martínez said.
She added that there were other local residents in the same predicament, a statement supported by the long line of people waiting with her to go into the Juchitán Bansefi branch in search of an explanation.
Yet another local earthquake victim presumably caught up in the card cloning con was Margarito Alonso, but unlike others he was optimistic that he will be able to recover the missing funds.
Rather than a scam, he attributes the absence of funds to an oversight and is confident that the government will deposit money on to the card once it becomes aware of it.
“Just today, we were going to see the materials until they rejected the card, but I’m sure that it’s an error . . . because nobody has taken it from me,” he said.
In a prepared statement, government authorities announced that Bansefi was dealing with problems on a case by case basis and would reimburse funds if it was determined that a card had been cloned.
Bansefi has requested that authorities carry out a full investigation into the matter and take legal action against those responsible.
In the aftermath of September’s two devastating earthquakes, the federal government announced that 120,000 pesos would be made available to people whose homes had sustained total damage in either of the two disasters.
Source: Milenio (sp)