Opinion, by Nicholas Storey

RIO DE JANEIRO – Apart from the fact that, unlike some British banks, Brazilian banks have no recent tendency to succumb to bankruptcy, there are other comparisons between British and Brazilian banks in which British banks do not stand up very well. Bank fraud is a widespread problem in the whole world, and twice over three years in Brazil I have been subject to a form of this.

The first time was the misuse of a British debit card. I had used the card only three or four times in Brazil and the next thing that I knew, Venezuelans were buying themselves airline tickets to Miami on the strength of it. The British bank covered the loss but showed no interest in the information that I got from the airline about the identities of the users of the card (which was established by linking the card number with the tickets).

The second time was the recent misuse of a British ATM cash card. This card works on the usual basis of an electronic strip and a four digit pin number. Several, gradually accumulating in amount, fraudulent transactions were made all over Brazil using these details. No one seems to have any idea how both the information on the electronic strip and the pin number were gathered. That British bank, as of now, has returned only part of my loss but not all of it.

Pending the reissue of my card and the security number, I have signed up to internet banking, to ease matters. However, to engage in this, I have to key in a personal identity number; a pass-code and a registration number. I am then hit with a page that tells me that actually to use the internet banking service to move my money, instead of just using it to look at my statements, I need to register a UK mobile telephone number and then receive a code for each intended transaction on this telephone, find it and then key this in to the internet site, to finalize the transaction.

The purpose of all this, is to have me jumping through hoops to protect the bank’s money because their general security systems are so poor that they need to impose layer upon layer of additional security and because they cover the losses on fraudulent transactions. I do not yet know for certain, but I bet that, even if you get all the new procedures together, there will be occasions when the transaction screen will ‘time out’, rendering both the code and the intended transaction void.

But I don’t even get there, because I do not have an operational UK mobile telephone number and, despite the fact that the British bank in question operates all over the world, there is no opting-out of the additional security.

Even so, I do not see why a British bank customer, resident in the UK should have to have or to obtain a UK mobile telephone just to get at, and use his own money! However, my father has a mobile telephone and he agreed to let me use that number. But he is nearly eighty years old and, although he is admirably up to speed with the internet, fumbling around with a mobile telephone is not something that he has ever concerned himself with.

The result is that, after three wrong codes (three strikes and you’re out), I had to telephone the bank (apologetically) and try to change the registered mobile number. The first call nearly succeeded but I was cut off seconds before the change was effected (so it was not) and in the second call I was told that it was not possible to change the registered mobile number on the telephone! In the hallowed phrase much used in the construction industry and by their lawyers, the result, for me is ‘buggeration’.

In contrast, Banco do Brasil is most helpful and efficient. The helpfulness is clear from the ticketed queuing system for attention in the branch and a tenacious grappling with any problem to resolve it. Moreover, debit and credit card pin numbers for use in shops are six digits long (not four) and the cash machine codes are keyed in by on-screen, multiple choice selection, meaning that even observing or photographing my pin code choices could not result in easy duplication.

This suggests to me that just as the Brazilian economy booms and the economy of the ‘West’ slides over the precipice, Brazil is also now ahead in how to deliver efficient banking services to customers.


  1. For sure you have never stayed 4 hours inside Banco do Brasil to sort out an issue., wainting in the queu to be seen by someone.They are great concerning their cash machines which you can do most bank operations in it.

    Because the high inflation during the 80’s the Brazilian banking system had do grow a lot.

    But I still think it falls short of you being able to take money out in all cash points. In her you have to use the bank’s own station or a hrs. which charges you for the transaction. So I think that has to catch up with the UK.

    I have to agree though that since I moved back I have not been able to access my Halifax internet banking, which says I’m not allowed to use because I’m in Brazil. They ask you to call the 0870 No., which is really insane, it is an international call for God’s sake!

  2. Two points: first, I know that thye waiting times in Banco do Brasil can be long but you have a ticket and you are free to leave; provided that you can judge when your number is going to come up – so go and have a pastel and a nice caldo; browse a shop or two; buy your shopping. Secondly, it is possible to make international transfers of small sums by internet banking from Brasil but not from the UK: the assertion that it is not possible to do this internationally is all a big lie: the fact of the matter is that British banks are so hide-bound by regulation (except, evidently as to their own solvency!) that I understand that it is becoming difficult to effect legitimate transactions at all.


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