Friday, May 15, 2009

Coordinated Attack Across City in ATM Fraud

It was just after 6am and close to the end of my shift. Friday before the long weekend is always nice right? Just another hour to go and I’m done. Then these calls start coming in  all over the city. They are being called in by TD Bank Security Department. They are reporting multiple frauds taking place at ATM’s across the city. They obviously caught on to this large scale coordinated attack. Police fan out across the divisions and arrest at least six people, actually in the act of making multiple withdrawals from bank machines. I drive over to one location at Weston Rd and Finch Ave West and grabbed some video of two suspects in custody. Then I headed out to another location in Scarborough. Three males were being questioned there. Police think they actually interrupted this location before the dead was done. I stopped at two other locations were people had been caught.  
I also stopped for bagels on my way home. My card is not working. I get home after working on the story, only to find that I have been victim to the same bandits. They took $200 then $200 then $100 all at 6am this morning.
They steal legitimate PIN pads at various locations. They tamper with them and set them up to record all transaction card numbers and pins. Then they go to a friend or someone they know needs some cash and maybe works at some nice busy place. They switch the pads. Weeks later they retrieve the pin pads full of skimmed card info and pins. They put back the old ones. Then the gang gets any card they can find that has a magnetic strip. A good source is those racks of gift cards at checkout counters and gas stations. They imprint the ATM card info onto the fake plastic. The bank machine doesn’t know the difference as it just reads the stripe.
This has been going on for years. Now the gangs are getting organized. They know that a few single transactions at an ATM will cancel the cards and give police time to look at bank video. So they get people to withdraw the money all at the same time at multiple locations across a city or even a country. By the time the red flags go up the damage is done. Good for TD Security staff for making the call to police and helping police catch a few suspects. Obviously, other banks have been hit too. I’m with PC Financial, which is actually CIBC, and I have been hit twice this year.
I have to stop using my bank card on my overnight shift. It has to be part of the problem. I’m starting to think that Cash is indeed King. I think if we knew the extent of the problem we would all stop using ATM cards. The banks don’t share too much info on fraud. It makes them look bad and is just part of the cost of doing business, much like a retail store and shoplifting. Relief may come as banks introduce new cards with smart chips embedded into them. These are much harder to copy, although not impossible. Satellite TV companies found that out the hard way.

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