More than 100 customers of N26, one of Europe’s largest online banks, were unable to access their savings after their accounts were suddenly blocked without warning.
Customers shared their distress online after N26 shut down their accounts on April 14 as part of anti-fraud measures gone awry.
Insider interviewed 12 customers, including a Ukrainian refugee who immediately lost access to up to $15,900 (€15,000) after receiving an email.
They told Insider they were “shocked” and felt like they were being punished “for something they didn’t do.
One said she couldn’t buy an apartment after losing her account. Others could not pay their telephone and electricity bills. Another said he would no longer trust online banks.
Berlin-based N26 said a number of accounts had been “wrongly closed” following new fraud prevention measures, in a statement posted on LinkedIn.
The digital bank, founded in 2013, announced its withdrawal from the United States last year and said it would refocus its attention on Europe.
The N26 customers Insider spoke to were spread across Germany, Spain, Italy, France, Ireland, Latvia and Romania.
They said they had experienced poor communication from the company and inadequate customer support. As of this writing, none of their accounts have been reinstated.
Ten of the clients did not have access to funds in their accounts for 21 days. Two have received their money.
Here are some of their stories.
“I fled Ukraine and then I lost my savings”
Ukrainian refugee Anya Shamaieva fled to Romania three weeks ago with her mother and dog to escape the war in her country.
A week later, she received an email telling her that her N26 account was blocked.
She had around €15,000 in his account. “I thought after being displaced I would be fine because I had savings,” she said.
Shamaieva was “shocked” and created a video to document her experience, which was shared on TikTok and LinkedIn.
She says N26 asked her to prove that the funds belonged to her.
“I explained that I am displaced, so it may be difficult to prove because I did not bring anything with me. I cannot go to the Kyiv tax office and risk my life again because N26 has decided to close my account,” she said.
Shamaieva is still awaiting reimbursement despite being told her case has been “essentially resolved” by N26’s chief growth officer, Alexander Weber, in a private LinkedIn message on April 23, screenshots show screen.
“When I get my money back, I’ll use a safe”
On March 22, Matija Tratar attempted to pay her phone bill and found that her payment had been declined.
Tratar, a student in Spain, said he started “freaking out” and tried to contact N26 more than 45 times. Tratar said he was told his account was blocked due to a random compliance check and when he asked for further information, the client agent said on a live chat that he had no nothing left to share and repeatedly closed the chat despite asking them not to. .
“I got sad and emotional and begged the customer service agent not to close the live chat and just listen to me,” he said.
“Before this, I had no problem with N26, but it revealed a dark side of banking. I will never use an online bank again,” he said.
A blog post on N26’s website states that when it blocks accounts, its customer service teams are not allowed to share any information with the account holder, to prevent criminals from being “warned”. that they could be investigated.
Nikita Serdiuk is an Irish front-end developer, whose account has also been terminated. “I can no longer support the people who depend on me,” he said. Serdiuk said he was unable to pay his electricity bill or take a trip to France he had planned following the shutdown.
Losing his account will change the way he manages his money, he said: “When I get my money back, I’ll use a safe because I don’t trust European banks anymore.”
“I lost the apartment I was buying”
“It’s a very painful situation and I feel like I’m being punished for something I didn’t do,” said Karolina Uskure, a Latvia-based software developer.
She said she was unable to complete the process of buying an apartment after her N26 account was closed and was unable to access her funds.
“I prepaid €3,000 for the apartment and lost it because I couldn’t make the last installment,” she told Insider, adding that “I worked hard and I saved for a long time”.
“I had no other bank account”
Russian PhD student Konstantin Bogatyrev was studying in Milan when he discovered his account was terminated. He had no other bank account at the time.
“What is happening at the time of the Russian invasion in Ukraine creates additional complications,” he said, explaining that he had difficulty opening a new account with other banks because of his nationality. . “It’s just depressing to be treated like that,” he added.
Online banks are under pressure
This isn’t the first time N26 has come under scrutiny.
The bank was fined 4.25 million euros by German financial regulator Bafin for delaying anti-money laundering reports in September 2021, and Reuters reported that four N26 executives were subject to of an investigation by prosecutors in February for fraudulent accounts.
In March, the Bank of Italy banned N26 from taking on new customers in the country until it tightens its anti-money laundering measures.
The neobank said in a blog post that it was trying to stop financial crime with measures including “automated systems, specialized teams and machine learning”.
According to Gary Prince, anti-money laundering expert and Chief Strategy Officer of SimplyPayMe, it can be common for digital banks to close accounts for “erring on the side of caution” as they face regulatory pressures to prevent fraud.
“The biggest difficulty is that sometimes it can go wrong. Online banks are under pressure to be smart and have to be smart,” Prince said.
N26 told Insider it was in the process of contacting affected customers and refunding account balances and said it had “rectified” the action that led to the error.
“Account closures at N26 are normally permanent, but N26 is also working to roll out a technical solution that will allow us to offer customers whose accounts have been wrongfully closed the option to have their account reactivated,” the company said. society.
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