Foreigners Face Restricted Banking

by Park Hyong-ki, Korea Times 07/07/23, 23/07/2007


The nation's financial regulator will restrict both nationals and foreigners in withdrawing money from banks' automated teller machines (ATMs) and opening accounts to prevent financial frauds such as ``voice phishing.''

The Financial Supervisory Service (FSS) plans to revise laws that block such frauds this month for implementation in September.

Under the amendment, both domestic residents and foreigners will not be able to transfer money via ATMs or online worth more than 30 million won ($32,800) a day, down from 50 million won. The sum of daily withdrawal will be cut to 6 million won from 10 million won.

Foreigners who stayed here less then three months will be banned from opening new accounts, raising concern about possible discrimination against foreigners.

For those foreigners who lived in Korea for more than three months, they can open accounts with the provision of their qualification papers, including work permits and identification certificates.

But they will not be able to access online banking and ATMs in the first three months even after they opened an account. They will need to directly withdraw and transfer money over the counters at banks during business hours.

Following the news, migrant workers here are voicing concerns over limited access to banks.

``Since most of foreigners are here to make money, restricting their relationship with financial firms will make it difficult for them to live and provide support to their families abroad,'' said ABM Moniruzzaman, general secretary of Migrants' Trade Union. ``How can they directly go to banks after work when they are all closed? They need access to ATMs in case of emergencies.''

Since June last year, the FSS has found a total of 3,990 cases of voice phishing that caused damage to victims worth 37.1 billion won.

A person or foreign groups fluent in Korean have been using a method of identity theft _ or ``phishing'' _ posing as legitimate businesses, which they use to phone people to obtain their personal information such as credit card and PIN numbers.

Then, the scammers use the data to access the victims' accounts to either withdraw or transfer money to accounts established here and abroad.

The victims are able to retrieve their losses only after they win a lawsuit against the criminals.

The FSS has requested Korea Post and the Korean Federation of Community Credit Cooperatives to follow the measures against their customers.

``We have put priority on safeguarding banks, postal offices and the cooperatives where a rise of frauds have occurred through teller machines,'' said a FSS official. ``The cap of money transfers and withdraws could be eased on certain accountholders should they get approval from their service providers.''

It, however, did not decide whether to have mutual savings banks follow the revised restrictions.

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