Though a large number of accountholders have been deprived of their money by fraudsters through the automated teller machines (ATMs), it was perhaps for the first time that a citizen in the federal capital found a skimmer attached to an ATM.
A skimmer can be fixed in the ATM slot for copying data from the card to make its duplicate and then steal money. Tauqeeruddin, an electrical engineer and computer software manufacturer by profession, told Dawn that he went to an ATM at a commercial centre of the capital city to withdraw money at about 7:15pm on October 13 (Saturday).
“I was shocked to see a skimmer installed on the ATM. I had read enough about skimmers but always wondered whether I would identify such a device if I ever come across it. It was so obvious, so fake and so cheap that it never looked like it belonged to the ATM,” he said.
“I took courage to insert one of my old ATM cards to test it. An important point here was that it took a bit of effort to insert the card.
However, the ejection was smoother and one would never think that it was coming out through a mischievous gadget. After taking a couple of snaps of the suspected skimmer, I pulled it out and kept it for an inspection,” he said.
Mr Tauqeer said he also reported the matter to the bank’s online staff. According to him, the skimmer did not have a camera but had a serial interface that could be used for retrieving stolen data through a computer or some other device. It had a small magnetic card reader head which copies the data when the card passes through it. “The skimmer had an Atmel Corporation’s tiny eight-bit microcontroller for processing and a flash disk capable of storing up to 2MB data. This meant that it could store information stolen from up to 30,000 cards,” he said.
“It also had a mini-USB port for transferring the stolen data to a computer. The whole electronics was powered by a tiny 3.7V, 30mAh lithium ion battery which I believed could keep the skimmer running for several days. The cost of the whole electronics may not exceed Rs1,000. However, in the underworld, criminals readily pay between $1,000 and $20,000 to obtain skimmers of varying capabilities. The prices are cited from some internet posts,” he said.
Mr Tauqeer said the bank’s representative later called and requested him to hand over the skimmer to them. After filing a written complaint and getting a receipt, the skimmer was give to an official of the bank.
When contacted, an officer of the bank requesting not to be quoted said: “We viewed the CCTV footage and saw that about 45 minutes before Mr Tauqeer’s entry into the ATM booth, a youngster, who could not be identified as he was wearing a P. cap, came to the ATM, fixed the device and went away.”
The manager of the bank said the device had been sent to their fraud department in Karachi, which would take necessary steps to ensure safety in the financial transactions.
Tahir Mehmood, a software expert, said ATM users should be careful while using their cards. Most of the skimmers do not match with the ATM’s original colour and material.
“Look for threads, thin films, tapes or thin wires hanging or pasted anywhere along the edges of the slot. If you see them, do not use the machine. If you are not absolutely sure why your card was confiscated, immediately report to your bank, and get the card blocked. Some skimmers go to the limits of installing their own keypads over the original ones, so look carefully before you punch your PIN,” he said.
It is worth mentioning that on August 23 and 24 this year, more than 20 accountholders of a bank in Rawalpindi lost their money through the ATM and filed complaints with the bank.
Mohammad Rizwan, one of the affected persons, who lost Rs30,000, while talking to Dawn said: “After two month-long process, the bank has finally decided to pay 50 per cent of the amount to those who lost over Rs50,000 and 100 per cent to those who were deprived of less than Rs50,000. The management has assured us that the money would be transferred to our accounts within a few days.”
Inam Ghani, the director of Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), told Dawn that their national response centre for cyber crimes (NR3C) dealt with such issues.
“According to my assessment, this kind of fraud cannot be committed without involvement of bank employees. I have been working with the FIA for the last four years and received many complaints regarding banking frauds but no one has ever lodged a complaint about a skimming device,” he said.
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First published by the Daily Dawn