HSBC, the U.K. bank, disclosed on Tuesday (Nov. 6) that some of its U.S. customers had their accounts hacked in October.
Reuters, citing a regulatory filing, reported that HSBC said it’s not clear how many accounts were compromised or if any money was stolen from them. “HSBC regrets this incident, and we take our responsibility for protecting our customers very seriously,” an HSBC spokeswoman told Reuters. “We have notified customers whose accounts may have experienced unauthorized access and offered them one year of credit monitoring and identity theft protection service.”
News of the hack differs drastically from another HSBC report from early October. According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, an HSBC teller in London was able to stop a $500 million bank heist. The alleged attempted theft is a complex, convoluted tale that involves Angolan political and financial authorities, missed SWIFT signals, forged paperwork, a get-rich-quick scheme and a small cast of international characters that, the newspaper noted, seemed drawn from a Hollywood caper movie. The tale also offers a reminder that even in this age of digital fraud — earlier this year, for instance, three banks in Mexico were the victims of an attempted cyberattack that aimed to gain access to the country’s electronic payment systems — human beings are still more than capable of setting up large-scale bank cons via old-fashioned, face-to-face interaction backed by forgeries.
The pitch from the alleged con artists went something like this: Angola could invest in the private market and make billions via “bank guarantees,” a type of con that, the paper said, usually is targeted at “individuals or companies, not sovereign states.” Thanks to a combination of economic woe, political corruption and a forged letter meant to look as though it came from the head of BNP Paribas, legal authorities contend, Angolan officials — including the son of the country’s then-outgoing president — accepted the offer and transferred the money into a “qualified trust company” operated by the alleged thieves. When the scammers went to withdraw the money, the teller was apparently amazed that the bank account had $500 million. She reportedly “filed a report about the enormous balance, (and) HSBC suspended the account for review.”