ATM card holders victims of fraud


This was revealed by two representatives from Barclays Africa, specialist investigator for cards and E-crimes Jan Kruger and the head of forensic investigation Bruno Schiemsky, during a recent presentation at the Central Bank of Seychelles (CBS).

Present at the presentation were Central Bank governor Caroline Abel and other staff members, as well as local bank directors and representatives of the Financial Investigation Unit and the police.

The two bank specialists were in the country following complaints of suspicious bank transactions filed by Barclays customers in Seychelles. Messrs Kruger and Schiemsky said that following the complaints, investigations carried out locally and abroad by Barclays Africa’s forensics department have proved that ATM card holders have been victims of card skims which involve unauthorised money withdrawals. They revealed that fraudsters had drawn cash from local accounts using ATMs in Seychelles but also in foreign countries as far as Zambia.

Most of the presentation concentrated on how the criminals succeed in accessing other persons’ bank accounts and robbing them of their savings. It was explained that usually genuine customers are not vigilant when using ATMs and the general practice is to distract them, spy them and manage to read their PIN code. They then go on, with the help of engineers, to reproduce an ATM card bearing the same PIN number and which they can then use anytime and anywhere in the world.

Another method is the use of sophisticated high technology skimming devices which can be concealed in the form of cigarette lighters, watches, mobile phones and other handy objects and which can read information on an ATM card from a distance. Tiny conventional cameras are also placed at ATM machines for the same purpose, and are removed when the fraudulent transaction is over. The presentation’s audience was surprised to learn that residue of skimming devices have been found on at least two different ATM locations in Seychelles.

The presenters also gave the profile of fraudsters, describing them as intelligent and alert individuals often with good strategic contacts. They are usually well informed on bank and police operations, and have access to useful information, for example about stolen cards. They are also difficult to prosecute as they can hire the services of good lawyers, and many countries still lack suitable banking legislation.

However, some banks have already taken measures to counter skimming. A fraudulent card detector already in use in certain banks and jitters which cause the card to vibrate and become unreadable when inserted into an ATM can also be installed.

Barclays Africa has offered training in order to create staff and customer awareness, detect banking fraud, draft proper legislation and efficiently investigate skimming.

The anti-fraud specialists have insisted though that much more needs to be done in order to combat this modern form of crime.

 They are for example asking banks to increase security checks at ATMs, keep the machines clean in order to detect residue glue from removed devices, ensure that CCTV cameras are properly installed and positioned, share information among them and inform clients by SMS as soon as a transaction has been performed on their accounts.

Even if banks should be held responsible in case of such fraudulent actions, unless of course the card holder has compromised the PIN code, customers are also being called to be more vigilant. For example, one must never let his/her card go out of hand, not even when settling a bill. This is because it has been proven that in certain countries employees of shops, restaurants, bars and other public establishments are paid to skim ATM and credit cards.

Central Bank governor Caroline Abel said the CBS is currently working on an awareness campaign which will involve the FIU, police, immigration department and the banking community in order to help tackle the problem, and that the presentation from Barclays Africa was a first step in that direction.


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