Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Correspondent
CRIMINALS who replicate Automated Teller Machine (ATM) cards and go on to clean out people’s accounts have hit Bulawayo, police have warned.
The crime, also known as card cloning or card skimming, is relatively new in the country.
Acting Bulawayo police spokesperson Assistant Inspector Abednico Ncube said three cases of card cloning have been reported in the city recently. He said it was too early to give details as doing so might jeopardise investigations.
Asst Insp Ncube warned members of the public to desist from leaving their cards with bank tellers and till operators in the hope of being assisted in withdrawing money.
He said criminal elements take advantage of such situations to make copies of the cards, containing data that is similar to the original, which they use to make purchases or cash withdrawals.
“Card cloning in the city occurs when individuals leave their ATM cards with bank tellers and till operators who in turn connive with fraudsters to duplicate their cards,” he said. Online reports say globally close to $1 billion is lost through card cloning crimes annually.
“This seems to be a new crime that we had not recorded before. We’re investigating three cases of ATM cloning where three individuals have lost their money to unknown people who would have cloned their ATM cards. The victims become aware of the theft upon receiving a text message confirming successful transactions,” said Asst Insp Ncube.
“The ATM cards cannot be cloned if someone does not know your pin code. We suspect that those cloning the cards are working in connivance with bank tellers or till operators whom members of the public would have given their bank details so that they can withdraw cash on their behalf. We urge members of the public not to leave their bank cards with anyone in the hope of being assisted in accessing hard cash,” said Asst Insp Ncube.
He however said members of the public should not be discouraged from using plastic money but guard against providing their bank details to unscrupulous individuals.
Recently, Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor Dr John Mangudya said the apex bank had not received any card cloning cases.
He said the RBZ working with other banks have a robust system that protects clients from card cloning criminals.
Last week a Choppies Sai Mart till operator appeared in court for allegedly stealing $500 from a customer’s ATM card after he had cloned his card.
Ziggy Moyo allegedly cloned Obrine Matare’s ATM bank card before withdrawing cash and buying fuel.
Moyo was arrested after forensic investigations and was caught on Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) using the cloned card. It was not revealed how he cloned the card.
Online reports suggest card cloning is rife in most parts of the world.
Sometimes, an ATM card may simply be swapped and a customer is given another card.
The service provider who swapped the card monitors the PIN code entered by the customer and remains using the original card to make more transactions.
Card Skimming or card cloning uses a device to fraudulently copy bank customer details stored on the magnetic strip (brown/black strip at the back) on a debit or credit card.
“Whenever you present your card for payment you run the risk of being skimmed. However, the majority of skimming incidents in South Africa are recorded around ATMs and, to a lesser extent, at retail merchants when bank cards are presented for payments. The customer and card information stolen with skimming devices is often used to manufacture counterfeit cards which criminals use to make fraudulent transactions on a victim’s account,” reads one online account.
“ATM skimming is like identity theft for debit cards: Thieves use hidden electronics to steal the personal information stored on your card and record your PIN number to access all that hard-earned cash in your account,” reads another account.
“That’s why skimming takes two separate components to work. The first part is the skimmer itself, a card reader placed over the ATM’s real card slot. When you slide your card into the ATM, you’re unwittingly sliding it through the counterfeit reader, which scans and stores all the information on the magnetic strip. Some may place a false key pad over the original ATM keypad to capture the details you punch in.”
Mr Vusa Martin Dube, a Zimbabwean IT expert based in Botswana, yesterday said card cloning should not deter people from embracing plastic money.
“The crime exists but like most crimes, an individual can observe a few basic rules to prevent it. Never let your ATM card out of your sight even in a restaurant and never disclose your PIN to anyone,” said Mr Dube.
“At ATMs in Zimbabwe, it is virtually impossible to clone cards because the machines are all in well lit places that are guarded by security guards and monitored through CCTV. Anyone tampering with the machine(s) will be caught.”
Tips to avoid becoming a victim
1. ATM safety tips:
– Never give your card to someone at an ATM for any reason.
– Never let anyone assist you at an ATM, even if they appear to be a bank official or security personnel.
– Beware of people standing close to you when you are concluding transactions at an ATM.
– Ensure you hide your pin when keying it into an ATM.
– Never use an ATM that looks tampered with or damaged.
– Always use an ATM in a well-lit area.
– If possible, use an ATM that is monitored by a CCTV camera.
2. Shopping Safety Tips:
– Ensure your card never leaves your sight. Most restaurants and shops have portable card swipe machines so there should be no reason for your card to leave your presence. If the person needs to use a different machine always accompany that person.
– Ensure that your card is not swapped for another card after paying.
– Use cash instead of your card if you have any suspicions.
– Monitor you bank statements for any unusual transactions.
– If married, reconcile your account transactions with your spouse on a regular basis.