Tuesday, July 14, 2009

FIA detects forged ATM card scam

ISLAMABAD: The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has unearthed illegal bank transactions through forged Automatic Teller Machine (ATM) cards and arrested a senior banker allegedly involved in the scam.

FIA sources told that though not big in terms of the money involved, the scam had to be investigated thoroughly because it was the first crime of its kind in the country.

Detectives of the FIA found that Rs820,000 was siphoned off from different banks last month using forged cards at the ATM installed at the Bank Al Habib, Gulbarg branch, in Lahore.

A case has been registered against Khawaja Muhammad Usman Ghani, manager of operations at the bank, and two residents of Lahore --- Muhammad Imran Butt and Suleman Maqbool.

The scam came to light when representatives of the Allied Bank, Habib Bank, United Bank and National Investment Bank visited the FIA’s Cyber Crime Cell in Lahore with complaints that cheats had hacked into their security systems and withdrawn amounts from their clients’ accounts using forged ATM cards, wreaking havoc through their online business.

Subsequent investigations revealed that white plastic cards, widely available in the market, had been used by criminals to produce counterfeit ATM cards with relevant data of bank account holders provided by an insider.

Every customer using the machine gets a printed receipt showing details of his/her transaction from the machine. A copy of the same transaction is printed inside the ATM for the bank. Its officer deputed to feed the machine takes the prints at the time of reloading currency and compares the balance with this report. This process is linked with the bank’s main server online.

According to the complaints filed by the HBL, the data of their six ATM cards had been skimmed by the culprits and on the basis of this data, six illegal transactions had been carried out by transferring the data over white plastic cards and subsequently using this card at ATMs. It was further reported that in two cases, the amounts were illegally transferred to different bank accounts.

Three illegal transactions totalling Rs559,000 were traced to the bank account of accused Muhammad Imran Butt and Rs50,000 to the bank account of accused Suleman Maqbool.

Camera recording of Bank Al Habib showed that the accused obtained PIN codes from Khawaja Muhammad Usman, operations manager of the bank. In order to obtain the PIN code the accused, with the help of the same bank officer, mounted a small wireless camera inside the ATM booth and skimmed the data from there and carried out a number of illegal transactions from the accounts of a number of card holders.

Accused Khawaja Muhammad Usman Ghani was arrested on Tuesday. During interrogation, he disclosed that to date he had provided details of 1500 PIN codes of different ATM cards to one Hafiz Waseem.

He disclosed that his share in the funds amassed through the illegal transactions was 50 per cent.
Teams have been constituted for the arrest of Muhammad Imran Butt and Suleman Maqbool who are at large.

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