ATM thefts: More clients report loss; police start probe

Dubai Police and Sharjah Police have started investigations into the unauthorised cash withdrawals from accounts in several banks in the UAE as more customers and banks are reporting similar incidents that happened over the last couple of days.

As Emirates 24|7 reported earlier, at least five customers of Bank of Baroda have complained of unauthorised transactions from their bank accounts, almost wiping off their entire bank balances.

An Indian customer of Commercial Bank International, Anand, has now revealed to the website that he lost Dh7,000 on Sunday, and he is left with just Dh100 in his account with the CBI.

“After reading Emirates 24|7 report, I realised that I am not the only victim of this fraud. Yesterday, I lost Dh7,000 from the account, as somebody withdrew the entire amount from my account. I don’t know how it happened, but when I called up the bank’s customer service department, they said somebody withdrew the amount sitting in Malaysia. I have lodged a formal complaint and am waiting to know whether I will get the money back.”

He said “I did not get any SMS alert from the bank, but there were five transactions from my account on Sunday. The customer service staff said some accounts of the bank have been hacked and the transactions were conducted from Malaysia. Some of these cards have already been blocked by the bank.”

Meanwhile, Hussain Mohammed, an air-conditioning equipment trader, said he lost Dh20,000 on June 7 and 8 but is yet to lodge a formal police complaint. Hussain said: “I have an account in Bank of Baroda Dubai and on June 7, Dh 10004 was withdrawn in two transactions within a few minutes and as per the information provided by the bank, the transaction happened from Mashreq Bank’s ATM in Dubai. These two transactions took place at 7.20pm and after a few hours I got two more alerts saying Dh5002 was withdrawn from my account at around 2am on June 8. Within a few minutes another transaction of Dh5002 was reported. Altogether I have lost Dh20,008 from my bank account. My ATM card has been taken back by the bank and I don’t know what will happen to all the cheques that I have issued.”

“There are a total of five banks whose ATMs were compromised in Abu Dhabi. The list includes customers of Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, Al Hilal Bank, National Bank of Abu Dhabi, Mashreq Bank and Bank of Baroda,” said a source familiar with the fraud.

However, banks have been slow in reacting to the crisis but Dubai Police officials have asked banks to alert all their branches within and outside the UAE about such cases.

Another customer of Bank of Baroda, who lives in Al Qusais area of Dubai has also lost money from his account. A salesman at Chilly Willy has lost Dh10,000 from his Bank of Baroda account.

Two depositors of Bank of Baroda have lost Dh10,000 and Dh14000 during the weekend and they have formally lodged their complaint with the bank and Sharjah Police.

'Dubai Police can tackle crimes by hackers'

Senior Dubai Police officials have urged victims of ATM fraud to report the matter immediately to the nearest police station. In case their complaint is not registered for any reason, they can call the emergency number 999.

A senior police official told Emirates 24|7 that Dubai Police did not get any formal complaints from bank customers about the unauthorised transactions and said officials in any police station will register such cases on priority basis.

Affected banks have to follow certain procedures to record the transactions and report the crime to the Central Bank of the UAE and to the police in the respective emirates. There is good coordination between police departments in all emirates and when such complaints are registered, they are investigated with utmost seriousness. The UAE Central Bank had recently thwarted attempts to hack its websites.

Salah Omar, general manager of the Economic Crimes Wing of Dubai Police, said affected customers should immediately contact the police so that the culprits are stopped from repeating the crime and other customers do not lose their money.

“Such high tech hacking crimes did happen in the past, but we have caught them red handed. Dubai Police has a strong section to handle electronic crimes and in coordination with affected banks and the Central Bank of the UAE, such cases are investigated,” he said, adding that the nature of theft in the cyber age has changed drastically.
“Gone are the days when a thief will go with a knife to your house and steal money. Now they can steal your money using high tech methods. We coordinate with police in other countries to prevent such crimes.”

He said banks should inform their branches within and outside the UAE and the Central Bank when such cases are reported. “We have connection with the police force in other countries and can tackle hacking crimes.”

Major General Mohammed Saleh Badeh told Emirates 24|7: “Such cases should be immediately reported to the Economic Crimes Department of the police. Early reporting of the crime will help police to nab the culprits.”

Police officials have also revealed that in some cases the victims also share their secret bank codes with their friends abroad who withdraw the money and share it with them later. “In some cases, the victims are only from a particular country or region and no Emaratis or Arab customers are affected. Some people try to dupe the police and banks in this way,” he added.


Image from Shutterstock


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