Since the ABM Task Force was reintroduced by the T&T Police Service (TTPS) in September, 19 persons have appeared before the courts, including 18 non-nationals.
ASP Curtis Julien of the Fraud Squad revealed this at yesterday’s at the police press briefing as he gave tips to safeguard against ATM/card skimming, especially during the Christmas and Carnival seasons.
Julien said for the first half of the year, 542 reports of ATM fraud has been reported in the Port-of-Spain area alone. He said the skimming is divided among four banks in T&T and there has been an increase in three of those banks between July and November.
“The challenge is the majority of the persons who are involved in this activity are non-nationals. We have a number of Venezuelans, Mexicans, persons from Europe, Bulgarians, Russians, and it is our information that there are a lot of other nationalities as we speak who are engaging in this crime,” Julien said.
He said daily people, mostly non-nationals, are skimming ATMs across the country.
“Generally they go to places that are remote and at late hours when there aren’t much people, “ he said.
According to Julien, from January to June 2019 the reports of ATM fraud divided among the four banks—Scotia, RBC, Republic and FCB.
“We had a decrease in three of those banks between July and November since the inception of the ABM Task Force. This task force operates independently to decrease this type of activity, “ he said.
Julian said card slug holders are used by skimmers as an overlay to capture information. This works with a plastic panel placed at top of the screen to make it look like an ATM. A wi-fi camera is attached and a handheld skimmer records all the card holder’s information.
Julien’s advice is to always keep your eyes on your card because once you take your eyes off, all your information can be recorded.
He said if the transaction failed, the cashier claimed the battery is low or that there is an error, take a receipt and contact their bank immediately.
Skimmers also rig the machine by placing other components in it and according to Julien, this is hard to detect because it looks normal. And will work on any card that has a magnetic strip, such as a Massy stores card or a Starbucks card.
The ABM Task Force recently made a breakthrough when a Canadian citizen of Sri Lankan nationality was detained. He said T&T is being targeted by non-nationals because this country is seen as having low security when it comes to banking. Julien added that the people who mastermind these activities never do the harvesting.
Other skimming components include a card reader and keypad guards and the speakers on the ABM’s can also be rigged.
He advised that citizens to do physical checks, including tugging at the card slot, physically checking components on the ATM and using another machine if there are no keypad guards. Skimming devices are usually attached during early mornings and late evenings as there must be a free traffic flow for the skimmers to escape. They don’t leave their devices in one location for longer than 24-hours.
What to look out for:
° A card slot overlay—a green component which is put in an ATM to capture information from a bank card.
° Handheld skimmers are used mostly at point of sale machines and contain a memory card to store a card holder’s information.
° Immediately contact your bank if told the transaction has failed, there is a transaction error, or the battery low so they have to use another machine.
° If you have online banking, monitor your account immediately to ensure all transactions are authorised.