Police today released photographs taken from video footage of two suspects, in the latest of a series of worrying financial crimes involving non nationals and targeted at automated teller machines (ATMs).
Lawmen did not release any details of the alleged crime or the two Caucasian men, who were caught on camera engaging in “skimming”, the illegal practice of cloning ATM cards and capturing personal data from unsuspecting card holders.
This is usually done by attaching a gadget to the machines as a means of getting into bank accounts and fleecing them of their funds.
“We want to advise the members of the public to be extremely vigilant when conducting transactions at automated teller machines. [We] want you to look for strange devices or gadgets that may be attached to the machines when you are making transactions,” warned Financial Crime Unit Inspector Mark White.
He said in recent times police had received several reports of customer bank accounts being compromised, even while the account holders were still in possession of their ATM cards, debit or credit cards.
In expressing strong concern about the practice, Acting Assistant Superintendent Jefferson Clarke revealed that in the past year alone, an estimated $50,000 was stolen from local ATM cards through skimming.
As a result, police have called on Barbadians to exercise greater care when using the banking machines.
White suggested that before cards were entered into these machines, users should look around to see if there was anyone acting suspiciously.
“We also want to encourage people who are using these machines to cover the key pads when entering their PIN numbers into the machines, because investigations show that there is some camera attached to the machine that captures your PIN information. So if you can conceal the number, it would be more difficult for the perpetrators to access your bank information,” added White, who also recommended that people report to the police or the bank immediately, any misuse of their cards and check account balances regularly to determine any unauthorized or unusual transactions.
However, this is not the first time that concern has been raised about ATM “skimming”.
In October 2013, two Bulgarians were arrested and charged in what was described back then as the country’s largest case of ATM fraud, involving about $1/2 million.
In response, the President of the Barbados Bankers’ Association Glyne Harrison had issued a similar warning to customers to be on their guard.
Harrison had also warned at the time that the issue was one to watch out for as the Barbados economy becomes even more open to new markets and the movement of people was made easier.
“From our end though we do have a process that has been in place since we had the last incident with the Bulgarians. We do have a bank anti-fraud committee that sits and reviews these types of incidents and that committee is currently working to identify the compromised customers as well as the compromised ATM locations. They are sort of working through that process to make sure that all those persons who have been affected have been identified,” the banking official had said at the time.
Today, lawmen also urged Barbadians to be on the look out for credit card fraud, following the appearance in court this week of three British nationals and a pregnant Barbadian woman in connection with a $75 000 scam.
White noted that in one case, a fraudulent credit card was used to make purchases in excess of a million dollars for a trip to the island.
“We call on business owners to conduct due diligence as these people who are presenting the cards for photo ID. You must make sure that the photo on the identification card matches the person that is physically standing before you. Sometimes you may need to call the international financial institution to just verify whether or not what is presented to you is legitimate,” advised the fraud investigator.
He said while on the whole the island had seen a decline in fraud and other financial crimes last year, there was at least one instance in which an elderly Barbadian was scammed of $60 000 from an overseas caller purporting to be a relative in distress.
Police also expressed concern at the rising incidence of vehicular theft island wide, while reminding Barbadians to remain on the look out for counterfeit money.
However, on the whole financial crimes plummeted from $12.8 million in 2014 to $4.3 million last year with the number of cases falling from 390 in 2011 to 329 in 2014 and 325 last year, when a 1.2 per cent decrease was recorded compared to the previous year.