Taking caution at an ATM is important Image Credit: GN Archives

DUBAI UAE banks are urging customers to exercise extreme caution while handling plastic money following cases of debit card fraud.

On December 18, XPRESS reported how Rosauro Agustin, a Filipino accountant, lost more than Dh20,000 in seven days when his account was hacked as many as 60 times in faraway Vietnam, a country he has never been to. The following week, Suriksha Menon, an Indian procurement officer, lost Dh10,000 when her account was illegally accessed five times in Canada in a single day.

Tech savvy

“Fraudsters and hackers across the world are getting more tech-savvy, and the UAE is no exception. The best way for bank customers to protect themselves against scams is to be more vigilant and careful when using debit and credit cards,” says Farid Al Mulla, head of distribution at Emirates Islamic Bank.

Tony B. Graham, executive vice-president of retail banking at United Arab Bank, says customers must keep their card and PIN safe at all times without compromising either of them under any circumstances. “One must monitor one’s transaction statements regularly and any unauthorised transactions should be immediately reported to the bank. When using a credit or debit card online customers should be sure that they are using secure websites and must not click on any suspicious links. Always remember that banks never ask for the customer’s confidential or personal information PIN or online banking password,” says Graham.

To counter the growing threat, especially that of ATM card fraud, the Sharjah bank has laid out the three telltale signs (see illustration) one must look for when withdrawing cash from an ATM machine - a skimming device, which looks very similar to the original card reader in colour and texture, a hidden camera that is typically used along with the skimming device in order to record customers typing their PIN into the ATM keypad and a keypad overlay that is placed directly on top of the factory installed keypad and is a fairly new technique that takes the place of a concealed camera.

“When performing a transaction at an ATM, beware of skimming or suspicious looking devices. Secondly, when entering your PIN (Personal Identification Number) for any transaction, ensure to cover your hand and change the PIN regularly,” Graham adds.

Agustin and Menon reckon their cards may have been duplicated at some point and say they were used in countries they had never been to.

Both reported the matter to their banks immediately and had their new debit cards issued. The banks in question reinstated the amounts temporarily but not before separately launching internal investigations.

What you need to look out for while withdrawing cash

Skimming is an illegal activity that involves the installation of a device, usually undetectable by ATM users, that secretly records bank account data when the user inserts an ATM card into the machine. Criminals can then encode the stolen data onto a blank card and use it to loot the customer’s bank account.

Card Reader: A skimming device, which looks similar to the original card reader. As customers insert their ATM card, bank account information on the card is “captured” and usually stored on a built in electronic device.

Hidden camera: A concealed camera is typically used along with the skimming device to record customers typing their PIN into the ATM keypad. Cameras are usually concealed somewhere on the front of the ATM, just above the screen in a fake ATM part - or somewhere nearby.

Keypad Overlay is placed directly on top of the factory installed keypad and is a fairly new technique that takes the place of a concealed camera. Instead of visually recording users punching in their PINs, a device inside the fake keypad stores the entered PIN.

YOUSPEAK: Have you ever been a victim of debit/credit card fraud?