Police step up vigilance to check ATM fraud

Kathmandu, November 12

Police have stepped up surveillance of suspected East European nationals, especially those from Romania, Turkey and Bulgaria, in the capital with specific focus on those loitering around the ATM booths.

The move comes in the wake of surge in ATM card skimming frauds involving foreign nationals linked with international syndicate of debit card information theft and withdrawal of cash from the bank accounts of depositors. A high-level police official said surveillance of suspected foreigners arriving in Kathmandu on tourist visa began from the immigration point at the Tribhuvan International Airport.

“Police in civvies are keeping close eye on the suspects not only in or around ATM booths but at their hotels too. Tourist hubs like Thamel and Durbar Marg are under tightened surveillance,” he informed.

Nine foreigners — three Turkish, four Romanians and two Bulgarians — involved in ATM skimming attacks were arrested with Nepali rupees, US dollars and euro worth over Rs 20 million from Kathmandu over a period of two years. Many others are suspected to have managed to leave Kathmandu with tens of millions of rupees they withdrew from the ATMs before the concerned banks and police got any clue.

The Central Investigation Bureau of Nepal Police has already established the East Europeans to be the key players behind the hi-tech ATM skimming and sought the Department of Immigration’s help to eliminate the problem from its root. The racketeers install electronic devices inside the ATM kiosk of banks to steal the secret pin codes and card details. Many of the bank customers, mainly foreign depositors, came to know about the fraud after finding their accounts drained.

Hidden camera, false ATM keyboard, false card slot and skimmers are among other devices used by the racketeers for unauthorised withdrawal of cash from ATM booths. Police have conceded that hi-tech banking offence was putting hard-earned money of depositors at high risk of being drained from their accounts.

As the police appealed to all to change their PIN at the earliest, banks have also urged the same to their customers saying that the international ATM skimming fraud racketeers might have managed to steal their debit card information and the fraudsters could withdraw their cash from any part of the world based on the  confidential data they stole in Nepal.