A Man Wrote a Word on a Bank Transfer That Sounded Innocent – The Bank Froze the Funds for a Month.

Written by Henrik Rothen

Feb.17 - 2024 8:59 PM CET

Photo: Shutterstock.com
Photo: Shutterstock.com
Banks' monitoring systems are particularly sensitive to names on sanction lists.

Trending Now

The funds were supposed to be transferred from one account to another within a couple of days, as usual.

The man had attended a work seminar in Helsinki. He paid for train tickets and two hotel rooms with his own credit card.

When billing his employer for the sum of 572 euros, he noted "hama-seminar" as additional information on the payment document. He is involved in a project that delivers cultural activities to sparsely populated rural areas. The term "hama" is officially used as an abbreviation for such rural areas.

This abbreviation was repeated in the message field of the transfer when the amount was to be paid out from Osuuspank.

A Few Days Passed

A few days passed without the funds being transferred, prompting the man to start questioning the delay. His employer confirmed the payment and contacted Osuuspank, while the man reached out to his own bank, Nordea.

– Everywhere I was told not to worry, that the funds usually arrive within a couple of days. But they didn't. Nothing happened, and no information was provided, the man shared.

He prefers to remain anonymous in this financial matter. His identity is known to the Sunday Suomalainen.

He sent messages to his bank's customer service daily. Nearly four weeks passed this way.

'I Completely Lost My Patience'

Eventually, his bank approached him, asking him to explain what the abbreviation "hama" meant.

– At that point, I completely lost my patience.

According to the man, Nordea indicated in their communication that they could not know where he worked.

– On the other hand, they do know who pays my salary. After all, they granted me a mortgage. If they had spent even ten minutes investigating, they would have found the information from public sources.

The man works for an association aiding Somali immigrants.

Osuuspank told this association that they could conduct a payment investigation on their funds. This would have cost 15 euros.

The man feels this situation does not reflect well on the banks' customer service.

– It's sad that the customer is bounced from one uninformed person to another, and the clarification process starts over.

If a transfer includes the word "hama" and soon after the letter "s", it gets caught by the automatic monitoring system as a name referring to a Palestinian terrorist organization.

Artificial intelligence reacts very sensitively to names on sanction lists, explains Pekka Vasara, head of the Financial Supervisory Authority's office for preventing money laundering.

100 Euro in Compensation

The man who lost his funds finally clarified the peculiar mix-up over the phone. He then sent an email, attaching information about the cultural project. The funds were transferred to his account, including a compensation of one hundred euros from Nordea.

– The compensation is reasonable. All in all, the investigation probably took up one full workday.

He also mentions having to borrow money while waiting for the transfer.

The man appreciates the careful monitoring of transfers. However, he considers the delay unreasonably long.

– My bank explained that they tried to ask the sending bank the same questions they asked me. Meanwhile, we from the association managed to call the deputy managing director of Osuuspank.

Most Read