Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Credit card details cloned and money withdrawn in India

This is the second time in the six months that hundreds of British citizens have become victims of international gangs who manage to clone credit card details here and withdraw money from their accounts in India, Philippines, Australia and Canada.

In the latest incidence hundred of villagers of Houghton on the Hill in Leicestershire have become victims of credit card fraud. Their card details were reportedly cloned at a petrol station in the village, and soon found money being withdrawn from their accounts world-wide.

A similar scam was discovered in Buckinghamshire in April this year, where credit card details were cloned at a petrol station. A Sri Lankan embassy spokesman here had alleged when the scam was unearthed that it was linked to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to fund its violent activities.

According to reports from Leicester in the latest instance, international gang members managed to install a fake card reader at the till inside the Houghton Garage, in Houghton on the Hill, and used it to clone customers' card details.

The reports further states that the criminals might have installed a tiny needle camera in the garage to spy on customers as they entered their PIN numbers. The card data and the PIN numbers were matched up, and then e-mailed to gang members around the world, where fake cards were created and used at cash machines.

In Britain, most banks have installed machines using ‘chip and pin' system for transactions in shops using credit and debit cards. This means that for every purchase, apart from the card, the customer also needs to punch in an exclusive pin number.

To prevent card fraud signing for purchases using cards has been virtually phased out to and instead introduced the 'chip and pin' system which has led to a considerable fall in the scale of card frauds. Industry figures say that the fraud has been slashed by 3 percent, to £428 million last year.

But the criminals are also tech savvy they also search new ways for targeting the customers which has raised a concern over new ways being used to target customer bank details using lost, stolen or counterfeit cards on the phone, Internet, email and overseas instead. Experts believe the real victims of card fraud are mostly banks as they have to pay back customers for money taken illegally from their accounts.

A Leicestershire police spokeswoman said: "We can confirm that we are investigating a number of instances of card fraud."

John Stobart, a solicitor with Harvey Ingram LLP Solicitors in Leicester and a victim of this scam, narrated his story following reports of the scam: "My card was used last week in New York to withdraw US$500 and an attempt was made the same day in Canada. The bank intervened.

"I have been in both Singapore and Hungary on business in the last month and I thought the card must have been copied at one of these places. In fact it was more local - Houghton on The Hill".

Garage owner Jim Funnell told the Leicester Mercury, a local daily: "It's wiped out most of east Leicestershire and pretty much all of the village. Of course, as an independent business, you rely on your local customers, and we were scared that this would ruin us".

"We've been the centre of a credit card scam which has affected every house in the village. It's probably hundreds of people. It's pretty much every customer who used the garage in the last three weeks to a month.

"I first had a couple of calls from customers about odd transactions, but I dismissed it, as we have never had a problem before with card fraud. But when I had a couple more, I thought there had got to be substance to it and rang the police.

"It looks as though there were cameras involved and they may have switched the card reader in the shop. It could have involved staff or an ex-member of staff, or it may have been a distraction, when they switched it while the cashier was off the till.

"Something happened, but I don't know what. At the moment, all 15 of us in the store are suspects, me included. We thought we were safe, squeaky clean even. It has been a mighty blow to find out we've been hit."

In the April incident in Buckinghamshire, several residents had complained that the money was being withdrawn from their accounts from ATMs in Mumbai and other places in India.

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