Tuesday April 23, 2024

Over Rs1b looted through ATMs’ skimming

By Shakeel Anjum
July 30, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has initiated crackdown on skimmers, active in drawing cash from ATMs by using expertise in computer technology, reliable sources told The News.

The Cybre Crime Wing has arrested two young men on information provided by an officer of operational department of a bank, the sources said.

The sources claimed that the FIA has busted various gangs active all over the country and initiated massive crackdown in this regard.

The gangs involved in the ATM fraud hire services of well-educated but jobless computer experts for the skimming as the complaints in this regard are increasing day by day.

“Over a billion rupees have been scythed deceitfully from ATMs of different banks in major cities of the country by using a specific device in the ATM,” sources told The News.

The FIA's Cybre Crime Wing with the collaboration of the IT experts of a bank initiated the countrywide operation against the gangsters involved in the ATM scam, the sources said.

At initial phase, the Cyber Crime Wing, on the information of the bank official, have arrested two well-educated skimmers hailing from Lahore and Gujranwala.

“Quite easy to get heavy amount without any hard-work and non-cognisable offence in books of the law,” the sources said and added, “The government and bank authorities should take it as serious national issue and should amend the law to capture such anti-social elements.”

ATM frauds or commonly known as skimming is on the rise globally as well as in banking industry of Pakistan.

Skimming is operated through corporal devices that are installed over the actual ATM card slots with card reader that captures data from cards that are then copied on replica counterfeit cards. Simultaneously a micro camera is installed above ATM key board to capture the customers secret pin code and finally getting access to account, the people engaged in the investigation of the case, disclosed.

Executive officers of NAB Rawalpindi region with the help of the officials of FIA Cyber Crime Wing Islamabad, arrested active members of the skimming gang, the bank sources maintained.

“Taking notice of rising trend of ATM skimming, a top banker has issued stern directives to all field staff and IT teams to be extra vigilant and proactive against this crime,” the sources said.

The bank’s regional head, Rawalpindi, constituted a team of IT experts and asked the field staff to be vigilant and pay regular visits to ATMs especially after office hours and over weekends when skimmers are most active, the sources added.

On July 7, 2019, staff of the bank branch in Rawalpindi visited their ATM in evening to find out if skimming devices have been installed. They immediately contacted their seniors and upon their advice contacted local police station. They, with the help of police, were able to arrest two members of the gang namely Tanveer Hussain S/o Muhammad Nawaz, resident of Gujranwala and Ali Ahmad S/o Safdar Ali hailing from Lahore who have come here to retrieve their skimming device installed a day earlier.

The bank lodged complaint with appropriate forum and informed FIA cyber crime director who immediately took action and directed DD Cyber Crime to shift criminals to the agency.

It is ironical that in banking industry of Pakistan, there are no proper follow-up of these complaints but banks paid to their clients mostly through insurance and no real effort is made to follow up and ensure arresting these skimmers. The bank sources told this scribe on the condition of anonymity that millions of rupees have been siphoned off and total amount in last 2 years may be over a billion rupees.

Another aspect is that under the directives of State Bank of Pakistan, most of the branches of the banks are guard-less where guards are only present in branches in banking time and there is no guard(s) in branches after banking hours or over the weekends to keep a check on these skimming activities. As these skimmers enter ATMs sites in the absence of security guards, wearing helmets and masks to conceal their identities and install their devices without any resistance.

FIA Cyber Crime, Islamabad has also arrested 2 more skimmers namely Waseem Aftab and Adil Saeed who are believed to be senior members of these skimming gangs.

These fraudsters mostly target the accounts of pensioners and salaried class as these account holders are in a habit of checking their accounts at the most once a month on salary and pension days.

Special legislation is required to counter these highly tactful crimes. For example card/ data of an account holder of a bank in Islamabad can be used anywhere in Pakistan for encashment, say in Quetta. The bank also may or may not be the same, thus it is very difficult to decide the real place of occurrence of crime, which is necessary for lodging of complaints.

It is generally believed in banking industry that current fraud amount of skimming may just be the tip of the iceberg as with advancement of technology through credit cards and phone banking products and access of these high tech organised gangs to it.