Ang Taong Suspect sa ATM Skimming Na Nangyari sa Ating Bansa Nalaman na

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CEBU, Philippines - An official from the Land Bank of the Philippines yesterday revealed that an unusual device had been found attached to the bank’s automated teller machine in Barangay Banilad, Mandaue City that could have captured clients’ personal data and compromised the integrity of their accounts.

A syndicate operated by foreigners is now at the center of police investigation after surveillance cameras in the  the branch captured two suspicious foreign nationals seemingly installing something on the machine in the wee hours of the night.

The device was discovered on February 27 when bank workers inspected the branch’s ATM.

“They discovered that there was really an insertion. Duha ka insertion: sa card reader and the other one is a PIN (personal identification number) pad with a camera. May camera siya (ang ATM), pero it’s so sophisticated, di siya (insertion) madali’g ka-detect,” Manny Jose Mari Infante, LDP first vice president for Eastern and Central Visayas, told reporters yesterday.

Following the discovery, Infante said the bank immediately blocked all registered accounts under the branch as a matter of security measure.

ATM cardholders were also advised to report and file a complaint with their main office.

“Gi-block namo. That’s why daghan ang nag-approach sa amoa karon nga mga branches to ensure that their balances are okay. Kung wala, okay lang, we will lift the blocking but kung naa, they would immediately file (a complaint),” Infante said.

As of yesterday, Infante could not yet provide the number of accounts affected, saying the count is still ongoing. He said, though, that they have notified depositors whose contact details were available.

He also assured that clients whose accounts have been deducted without their knowledge will get refund after an anti-fraud committee in their main office in Manila has thoroughly evaluated their individual cases.

One way to avoid getting victimized by ATM skimming, he added, is to regularly change PIN.

Yesterday, a crowd of government workers that consisted of policemen, firemen, military personnel and teachers went to file their complaints at the bank’s branch on Osmeña Boulevard in Cebu City.

They were among those who received a notification that their accounts have been temporary blocked for protection. Some of them also reported unauthorized withdrawals.

Infante pointed out that not all LBP ATM cardholders have been blocked, just those accounts in Banilad.

But other accounts may have also been blocked if cardholders have used them to transact with the branch’s ATM.

Such was the case of Cebu City Investigation, Detection and Management Branch chief Ryan Devaras, who told The FREEMAN that he lost P30,000 from his account after making a transaction in Banilad.

Devares, however, said he already had the incident reported.

Suspects foreigners?
Initial investigation showed that the modus could have been the brainchild of a syndicate of foreign nationals.

“We’re trying to collate and review our footages… I believe foreigners. I believe this is a syndicate,” said Infante, adding that the suspects were seen boarding a car and operating during dawn.

To alert the public, photos of two foreign suspects screen-captured from the CCTV footages have been posted at Land Bank’s ATM sites.

For his part, Police Regional Office-7 Director Noli Taliño vowed to conduct a deeper probe, especially since some of the victims were from the police ranks.

“We will coordinate with the bank officials kasi very technical kasi iyong problema nitong scheming device. All we can do is to check ang mga CCTVs nila. Iyong mga dating suspects siguro kung may mga record tayo ay i-check natin yun and we will continue conducting follow-up dito sa ating mga suspects,” he said.

Cebu City Police Office director Joel Doria said at least five police personnel reported falling victims to the scheme but the information will still be verified to ensure that it was not a plain case of transaction error.

Osmeña’s comment
At the Cebu City Hall, Mayor Tomas Osmeña is not entertaining yet the idea of shifting to manual payroll distribution but he did not mince his words when asked for his comment on the alleged ATM skimming cases.

“I’m very worried about that. You know, the banking industry has a responsibility. Right now, I see across the board that they are not upholding the responsibility to the people. They just want the money,” he told reporters yesterday.

Osmeña, who also reported losing P90,000 to unauthorized withdrawals in December last year, called on banks to immediately devise a way so that people’s wages will not be held.

“How many people can afford to hold their salary? Never mind Tommy Osmeña, I’m okay but ang uban? Ang ordinaryo nga tawo? Naa sila’y obligasyo nkadaadlaw. Kinahanglan sila mopalit og bugas unya nawala ilahang kwarta. Unsa ang atoang remedyo niana?” he said.

Acknowledging that he is not an expert on the matter, the mayor said he is open to suggestions on how the city could possibly help.

“I’m very open if there’s anything I can help. I’m not an expert on ATM system but send a message, we will listen to everything naman,” he said.

Osmeña said he is not amenable to manual payroll distribution because it is laborious and entails more manpower. — with Odessa O. Leyson (FREEMAN)

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