AP Business

Bank of Ireland glitch allowed customers to withdraw money they didn’t have

NEW YORK (AP) — Some Bank of Ireland customers were able to withdraw money they did not have Tuesday and early Wednesday after an hours-long technical glitch that also halted many of the bank’s online services.

The outage allowed some customers to transfer and withdraw funds “above their normal limits,” the Bank of Ireland said. Customers could withdraw up to €500 ($546) with their Bank of Ireland card, the bank confirmed to The Associated Press Wednesday. They could also transfer funds from their Bank of Ireland account to a different account and withdraw up to €1,000 ($1,091), the bank said.

As word spread on social media, images and video footage appeared to show people lining up at ATMs in hopes of receiving the “free money.” As more people appeared to arrive at ATMs in large numbers on Tuesday, images of police standing on guard close by began to appear on social media.

An Garda Síochána, Ireland’s national police, said it was “aware of an unusual volume of activity at some ATMs across the country” — and that “local decisions were made depending on the public safety and public order presented to members of An Garda Síochána” on a case-by-case basis.

The Bank of Ireland, however, warns that all withdrawals will still appear as a debit on customer accounts.

“These transfers and withdrawals will be applied to customers’ accounts today,” the bank said in a Wednesday statement. “We urge any customer who may find themselves in financial difficulty due to overdrawing on their account to contact us.”

Beyond the withdrawals, the technical issue also impacted many online and mobile app services. On social media, a number of frustrated customers reported not being able to access their accounts or see payments. Some stressed the difficulty of buying food and other essentials without being able to check their account balances — and others noted that this wasn’t the first times a technical issue at the bank has impacted them, pointing to a June glitch that similarly cut off access to online services.

The Bank of Ireland said that its online services were working again Wednesday, but that the bank’s app may be slow as the bank continues to catch up on processing payments. Overnight payments should appear throughout the day, the bank said.

“We sincerely apologise for the disruption this outage caused – we know we fell far below the standards our customers expect from us,” the bank said.

Ireland’s Minister for Finance Michael McGrath later announced he had asked the Central Bank of Ireland, which regulates the Bank of Ireland, “to establish a full account” of the outage and what can be done to avoid such issues in the future.

“Financial service providers have to do whatever is required to ensure continuity of service for their customers,” McGrath said in a statement. “Disruption to banking services can have a significant effect on people’s personal lives and on the running of businesses. Customers rightly have an expectation of a high quality of service and to be able to have uninterrupted access to services.”

In a Wednesday statement, the Central Bank confirmed it was monitoring the situation and had begun the process of establishing a full account of this week’s incident with the Bank of Ireland.

“Where issues occur which impact on customers we expect banks to rectify the issues urgently,” the regulator said. “We require banks to put things right where they have made errors or cause customer harm.”

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