For now, it’s deny, deny, deny.
For seven hours on Friday, three of Mexico’s four biggest banks, BBVA, Citibanamex and Banorte, suffered payment system failures at exactly the same time, leaving millions of consumers unable to withdraw money from ATMs, make payments with their credit or debit cards, or access their online and mobile accounts.
From noon, many of the banks’ customers vented their anger on social media, complaining that they could not carry out transactions of any kind, whether in physical cash (because there was no way of withdrawing money), with their cards or on mobile platforms. While the mayhem caused by the outage may have been short lived, the timing could not have been worse, coming on the Friday of the second quinzena (fortnight) of the month, when most of the country’s workers get paid and huge amounts of money are spent.
Rumors quickly spread that the outage was the result of problems with the Bank of Mexico’s SPEI interbank transfer system, an iteration of the SWIFT global payment system that already suffered a series of cyber attacks last year. BBVA, Mexico’s biggest bank, even said that its system had been disconnected from SPEI for 33 minutes, resulting in a massive pile up of interbank transfers.
The Bank of Mexico — Banxico for short — was quick to quash the rumors, insisting that SPEI was in perfect working order and that any problems that had occurred processing bank payments and transfers were the result of internal issues within the three banks. It was a bizarre claim, given that the chances of Mexico’s three biggest banks suffering virtually identical payment outages at virtually exactly the same time are minuscule.
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