ISLAMABAD, 22 January 2018: Various customers of United Bank Limited have lost Millions of rupees in latest ATM skimming incidents. Angry customers have now taken to social media to express their dissatisfaction over the Bank’s response to these incidents.
On January 18 Dawn reported that more than 32 accounts of a “private bank” were compromised in an ATM scam in Rawalpindi without naming the bank. Different news outlets also reported about a UBL customer named Aliza who lost 400,000 rupees as a result of the ATM fraud. Later a video surfaced on social media in which the girl expressed dissatisfaction at the UBL’s response for not speedily recovering her money.
Digital Rights Monitor reached out to United Bank Limited to get their official version through their helpline, however the bank representatives were unable to share any specifics about the total amount of money lost by customers.
“Since so many frauds have happened and we are overworked, we have not prepared how much amount has been lost” said the UBL representative reached through the Bank’s UAN. However, she revealed that some customers even lost 8 to 12 lacs in the recent ATM fraud.
ATM and netbanking scam
During the month of January, a number of UBL users received text messages warning customers not to disclose any personal information including “Netbanking ID/Password/OTP/PIN/ATM Card number/PIN & Email, Password etc over email or phone”.
The scribe talked to a number of sources within UBL who revealed that the customers had been targeted by skimmers through a number of different techniques. For instance, criminal elements tamper with the ATM machine, install a skimming device with the card reader or insert a blank ATM card. Once the users insert the ATM in ATM card reader, the device or the card reader reads the PIN entered for the ATM card. Using the ATM’s pin, transactions are made. In some cases, a pinhole camera is also installed to note the PIN number of the customer.
“Near the Eid, I myself caught hold of four such blank cards near the ATM of my branch,” revealed one source.
UBL customer care representative Aiman Ghaffar talked about another methodology used by criminals to extract personal details of users. “A software has been launched that makes calls through our helpline to our customers and ask them to share their netbanking password or ATM PIN number.”
She urged the customers not to share any password, OTP, PIN number over phone with anyone as it could enhance the vulnerability of their ATM card.
When asked what steps are being taken to return the money of the affected accounts, Ms.Ghaffar said that after the documents had been received physically, it would require at least 30 working days for local complaints before the money could be returned. However, another source revealed that the process could take as much as three months.
“People should be patient if the bank makes calls to them to verify their details,” said a source within the bank.
ATM skimming scams on the rise
In the recent past, multiple cases of ATM fraud had been reported in local newspapers.
On December 04 2017, it was reported that more than 10 million Pakistani rupees was stolen from 559 Habib Bank Limited accounts.
Only during the month of January, at least seven Chinese nationals were arrested by local police after they were caught installing skimming devices on ATM machines.
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.