ISLAMABAD, DECEMBER 20, 2018: Around 1244 cases of online banking fraud have been reported during January 01-November 08, 2018 according to Interior Ministry. These complaints were related to unauthorized transactions made either via ATMs or internet banking, Dawn reported.
As a result, 35 FIRs were launched and 76 suspects apprehended. Meanwhile, 524 complains were converted into regular inquiries and 463 being verified at Federal Investigation Agency, FIA, cybercrime wing.
These figures were shared in writing by Minister of State for Interior Shehryar Afridi in response to a question raised by Independent Senator Rana Mahmood-ul-Hassan. Mr. Mahmood had asked about the number of complaints filed since January 01 about illegal banking transactions through ATMs or other means and also about the number of people apprehended.
In his written reply, Mr. Afridi also stated that the State Bank of Pakistan, SBP, was well-placed to respond to any queries related to banking transactions as it was the regulatory authority for national and international banks. He added that FIA only took action on complaints that were filed with them against the said bank.
Pakistani banks have come under a lot of scrutiny over the past one year after multiple incidents were reported involving theft of consumer bank details and subsequent loss of millions of rupees.
In December, 2017, more than 10 million Pakistan Rupees (71000 USD) were reportedly stolen from 559 bank accounts of Habib Bank limited, HBL.
In January, 2018 customers of United Bank Limited, UBL lost money possibly owing to ATM skimming. One UBL customer lost around Rs.400,000. Talking to Digital Rights Monitor, a UBL representative acknowledged that some customers even lost more than 800,000-12,0000 rupees owing to illegal transactions.
In October 2018, more than 2.6 million rupees were allegedly stolen from Bank Islami as a result of illegal transactions. Later more than 10 banks suspended their international payment mechanism during the same month.
Lately, in November 2018, a report by a cyber security firm Pak CERT claimed that 19864 debit and credit card details belonging to 22 banks were available on sale over Dark web; majority of them belonged to HBL During the same day, one FIA official also claimed that data of almost all the Pakistani banks was hacked. While the SBP rejected any notion that the banks were hacked, it directed the banks to carry out their internal and third party risk assessments and share the findings with the SBP.
Meanwhile, during the year, many instances were reported where scammers called people as bank representatives and made them give their ATM Pin codes. It is not clear how much money was lost as a result of these calls.
As part of their security measures under the SBP directives, the banks have also started the biometric verification of their customers. Millions of account holders will have to go through this process by June 2019.
Talal Raza is a Program Manager at Media Matters for Democracy. He has worked with renowned media organizations and NGOs including Geo News, The Nation, United States Institute of Peace and Privacy International.