Illustration by Oscar Bray

The Danger of Wirecard Fraud

The service integrity of Wirecard AG – the company that manages NYUAD students' stipends, wages and even study away allowances – has come under scrutiny.

Oct 5, 2019

Founded in 1999 as a software for online payment and fraud protection, Wirecard AG is no stranger to controversy. Since June 29, 2016, the company has controlled the operation of Prepaid Card Services throughout the UAE, which includes NYU Abu Dhabi’s own student finance account. Within the Global Network University, NYUAD students' stipends, wages and study away allowances are all distributed through the Wirecard service. However, as of late, the company’s management, as well as the integrity of its own services, has come under scrutiny.
Wirecard began as a financial provider for more unsavory sectors, which covered gambling, the Adult Entertainment Industry, dating and lotteries. Although the company is now engaged in more upstanding business, individuals, like Financial Times reporter Dan McCrum, claim that they continue to hide some of their partnerships with third-parties like ConePay, whose merchants have been known to engage in porn and gambling. Even more alarming is the company’s tumultuous track record with accounting fraud. In March, Wirecard’s CEO, Jan Marsalek, was accused of approving four forged contracts that totaled over two million Euros.
On campus, Wirecard’s financial track record has been far from outstanding. Recently, many students have taken to NYUAD’s Room of Requirement and NYUAD Forum Facebook pages, both of which are popular university forums for frequently asked questions, to share their own negative experiences with credit fraud.
“In eleven transactions, they wiped out my money,” said Bernice Delos Reyes, Class of 2020, who had thousands of dirhams stolen from her own student account this fall. Following this, Delos Reyes found herself in frantic communications with NYUAD Student Finance and the Wirecard customer service. In order to dispute reported transactions of Playstation games and Xbox consoles, Delos Reyes told us that “the first thing I did was I messaged people that I knew got scammed and asked them what I was supposed to do.”
One of those affected students, Martin Smit, Class of 2020, had to deal with over 7,000 AED in fraudulent claims just two weeks into his study away semester at NYU New York. In Smit’s case, it took a little over two months for Wirecard to refund the disputed amount, whereas for Delos Reyes, her money was returned only four days after submitting a dispute form.
Moved by the lack of resources out there for students affected by fraud, Delos Reyes has even created a step-by-step list for students to follow in a similar situation, including links to the dispute form which can be found here.
When asked how well NYUAD Student Finances handled their cases of credit fraud, both students emphasized a need for better communication, transparency and alternative methods for finance. Delos Reyes stressed the reality that not all of us can “choose when these accidents happen” and that “it would have been nice if they had an automatically generated reply that says ‘Here’s what you do when your Wirecard gets compromised.’” After his experience, Smit immediately purged his Wirecard and deposited the remaining balance into an entirely different account. He too questioned why better security had to start from his end and asked, “the same way we had Citibank before ... come to campus and then open accounts with everyone why can't we do that with NBAD?”
The Gazelle sat down with Anam Khan, assistant manager of NYUAD’s Student Finance Department, in an effort to clarify why the university uses Wirecard services as well as how they plan on responding to credit fraud in the future. In response to Smit’s plea for private bank accounts, Khan says that paperwork and inflexibility have been the two main hurdles stopping the university from moving to local banks.
“We like to provide a service where when the student comes on campus, on day one, you get your Wirecard and your money. But we can’t do that with ADCB,” said Khan. She stated that this is firstly because, “you cannot have a bank account before you arrive in the country” and secondly because students do have employment contracts, which means that they need to wait weeks for their visas to be approved before opening accounts. That being said, Khan stressed that Student Finance offers an extensive amount of resources for students in case they do want to start a local account.
Looking towards the future, Khan stressed that NYUAD needs a “service provider which is happy to facilitate students going all over the world” and so for the moment, Wirecard serves as the university’s best option. Starting this year, Student Finance will also be implementing a new scheme to build a profile of fraud occurring on campus.
“Anyone who reaches out to Student Finance [about fraud] … we are trying to capture this data and whenever we meet with [Wirecard] … we can address them [about] those cases,” she explained. Hopefully, these efforts will mark the first steps towards financial security for the student body, but until we know for sure, we only have time — and our Wirecard balances — to tell.
Dylan Palladino is Senior News Editor. Email him at
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