While in Beijing recently I had an ATM belonging to the largest bank in the world (the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China) issue me with a sheaf of nice crisp new counterfeit notes. I noticed this soon after when taxis, fruit shops etc refused the notes. Closer inspection revealed that several even had the same serial number. I went inside the bank (branch is adjacent to the ATM) with an interpreter from the place I was staying. They basically shrugged and sent me away. When I went to the police station with the same interpreter it became apparent that I would be there for hours getting nothing done and I gave up there too. The bank's position was "We don't operate the ATMs that's another company". This despite the ATMs being branded ICBC and on the same premises as the ICBC branch.

The money was withdrawn on an Australian credit card, about AU$250 or so, so I presume the ATM has been programmed to target just foreign credit cards to avoid locals arriving with pitchforks to burn down the bank.

My question is: Can I submit a claim on my credit card to be refunded? In the same way that I can with non-supply of goods from a vendor.

Also: Is there any other recourse against what you would suppose to be a reputable bank?

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    Furthermore, I would say that in any other country, something like this happening regularly would be detected and stamped out very quickly. For this to continue for many years (according to travel forums) means that a culture of permitting it exists. I don't know whether this culture penetrates into the bank, but I know they are aware of it and are either unable or unwilling to fix it. And I can't see how they would be unable year upon year to fix this. A simple phone call to the ATM managing company: "We have had 2300 ATM frauds from your ATMs in the last month. Fix it today." Commented Jan 10, 2020 at 4:37
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    @theonetruepath China is not a normal country, one of the big issues here is corruption and fraud, I estimate it will take another 50 years before they reach acceptable standards, also note that many Chinese people think fraud is ok, it’s almost as if you have to cheat to get ahead, the new president is trying to stifle this but it will take time Commented Jan 10, 2020 at 5:34
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    This isn't unique to China. It happens all over the world. I was once given a fake €50 note in Spain. The bank said I couldn't prove that I had withdrawn that note from their machine. Now I count my cash in front of the cash machine's camera in an attempt to have some evidence.
    – Aaron F
    Commented Jan 10, 2020 at 9:49
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    "in any other country, something like this happening regularly would be detected and stamped out very quickly" - would it? It doesn't cost the banks anything to ignore the problem, but would cost them a lot to reimburse everyone affected. How would they be able to distinguish real victims from counterfeiters? Cash also costs them a lot of money to deal with, and fewer people will use cash if there's a higher risk of counterfeit notes, so there's not much incentive to solve the problem.
    – Aaron F
    Commented Jan 10, 2020 at 9:57
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    Your credit card company is probably the place to ask if you can get money back from your credit card company.
    – puppetsock
    Commented Jan 10, 2020 at 14:59

2 Answers 2


This has happened to me multiple times with local cards as well so I doubt they target foreign cards.

Every time the police have helped me rather swiftly, provided me with a copy of the case registered which I took to the bank who then changed the money for me without delay at all.

But yes dealing with Chinese police can be frustrating and take a long time but it is what is it, can’t say it’s much quicker in sweden or other countries where I have had to deal with police

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    Right... so one has to simply accept that in China you will have to spend hours in a police station from time to time when 'the biggest bank in the world' decides you are one of today's lucky winners. In other countries they don't have this system: The banks rip you off in many other ways, but not with simple ATM reprogramming fraud. Unfortunately I can't front up to a police station in Beijing to fix my problem as I don't live there. Commented Jan 10, 2020 at 2:37
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    @theonetruepath I am not defending the system nor endorsing it, I am just advising how to fix it which of course is not trivial for you since you already left. Commented Jan 10, 2020 at 2:40
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    It would actually be physically impossible for the machine to disperse money from a different slot for specific cards. Mainly because there are only as many slots as bank note denominations. Commented Jan 10, 2020 at 12:15
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    @winternight No that is not true, in China there are two slots for each denomination, one for incoming money and one for outgoing, if you controlled the ATM you could choose of course from which slot to disperse the money based on whatever rule you set up. Commented Jan 10, 2020 at 12:31
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    @MattDouhan fair enough. I was not aware that all ATMs in China have incoming money feature. But you would have to put your counterfeit notes in the outgoing slot and use that slot only for foreign cards. Depending on the location of the ATM (more tourists vs. more locals) this would be difficult to manage, though, granted, not impossible. Still, exceedingly unlikely. Commented Jan 10, 2020 at 13:39

You said you used an credit card for this. Call the credit card issuer and ask to file a dispute. They will probably ask you what you've tried to resolve the dispute yourself, so be prepared to tell them about your unsuccessful attempt at involving the police.

  • The chargeback requirments are only with respect to the merchant, not the police. Commented Jan 11, 2020 at 7:23

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