New York sues Citibank for alleged failure to reimburse fraud victims


A Citibank branch in the central business district of Singapore on Feb. 12, 2018.

Ore Huiying | Bloomberg | Getty Images

New York Attorney General Letitia James on Tuesday sued Citibank for allegedly failing to protect and reimburse victims of electronic fraud.

The suit claims that Citi does not have strong protections in place to prevent unauthorized account takeovers, misleads victims of fraud and illegally denies reimbursements, according to a release. The attorney general’s office said the alleged failure on Citi’s part has cost New York account holders millions of dollars, and in some cases, their entire life savings.

“Banks are supposed to be the safest place to keep money, yet Citi’s negligence has allowed scammers to steal millions of dollars from hardworking people,” James said in a statement. “Many New Yorkers rely on online banking to pay bills or save for big milestones, and if a bank cannot secure its customers’ accounts, they are failing in their most basic duty.”

Citigroup, the parent company of Citibank, has struggled with risk management and controls in the past. Former executives have said the bank — the product of decades of mergers that created a patchwork of technology systems — underinvested in its infrastructure. That was evident when Citigroup accidentally sent almost $900 million to Revlon’s lenders in 2020.

Later that year, banking regulators fined Citigroup $400 million and ordered the firm to improve its risk management systems. Since taking over in 2021, CEO Jane Fraser has pushed to improve the bank’s technology and appease regulators.

The New York lawsuit includes specific people who had thousands of dollars stolen from their accounts and said the bank did not reimburse them.

In a statement, Citi said the bank “works extremely hard” to prevent threats and assist customers who become victims of fraud.

“Banks are not required to make customers whole when those customers follow criminals’ instructions and banks can see no indication the customers are being deceived. However, given the industry-wide surge in wire fraud during the last several years, we’ve taken proactive steps to safeguard our clients’ accounts with leading security protocols, intuitive fraud prevention tools, clear insights about the latest scams, and driving client awareness and education,” the company said in a statement. “Our actions have reduced client wire fraud losses significantly, and we remain committed to investing in fraud prevention measures to help our clients secure their accounts against emerging threats.”

James alleged in the lawsuit that Citi must reimburse victims of fraud under the Electronic Fund Transfer Act.

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