In-depth knowledge of Europe’s banking system garnered from students they send through university is enabling these criminals to carry out widespread cash machine and online fraud.
By targeting online retailers or shops without modern chip-and-pin terminals, the cheats can use the cards as if they were originals belonging to genuine consumers.
Yesterday the banks’ Irish Payment Services Organisation (IPSO) staged an anti-fraud summit in Cork to educate retailers on how to stay ahead of the cheats.
“The new trends in crime come from the east and we’re in a position in the west in Ireland where we can see new frauds coming across Europe so we can put protection in place,” said IPSO manager Úna Dillon.
“But the thing we are trying to get across to consumers and retailers is to look at the bigger picture: it’s not just about bank fraud — it’s about where the money goes.”
Monies from bank card fraud go towards funding terrorism and was also used partly to bankroll the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the US, delegates learned.
Crime gangs come chiefly from Russia and Bulgaria, but also from Nigeria, the west African state which is one of the international centres for financial fraud.
Delegates at the IPSO conference yesterday heard how crime gangs have netted €3m from cash machines alone this year by copying or “skimming” account details from consumers’ genuine debit and credit cards.
The criminals get the credit card details from corrupt bank and shop staff or by affixing equipment to cash machines to capture consumers’ personal identity numbers (PINs) and bank card details.
In 2004 the crooks netted €4m in just a few months by using cloned cards, although card fraud is down thanks to new chip-and-pin security measure since then.
Last year overall card fraud was €12.5m, down €500,000 on the 2005 figure, but IPSO said card fraud in Ireland was rising.
To dodge chip-and-pin security measures, criminals are switching away from faking their own cards and are getting their hands on genuine cards by impersonating customers.
The cheats trawl through bins to steal identity documents like bills, so they can open bank accounts and obtain genuine chip-and-pin cards. Corrupt security guards and cleaners are also deployed at apartment complexes to retrieve cards and PIN notices from the letterboxes of tenants while they are at work.
“Identity theft is very lucrative (for the criminals) and it is very easy to take over someone’s identity,” Garda Catharina Gunne, of the Garda Fraud Bureau, told delegates.
Consumers must protect their personal information and be careful to shred important documents before disposing of them.
Retailers must be vigilant, especially at busy times like summer and Christmas, to check cards and follow simple anti-fraud steps — or find themselves financially liable for losses.
Criminals were now targeting shops without chip-and-pin security systems as they know they stand a better chance of using a fake card successfully.
INGENIOUS ways criminals are relieving you of your money:
Account takeover: a corrupt worker at your bank changes your address so crooks get your new card and PIN — and then empty your account.
Social engineering (1): Strangers in social situations “chat-up” bank staff to get information like family details and then blackmail them into supplying confidential bank details.
Social engineering (2): Consumers can also be targeted in a similar way by cheats who want to build up a profile of their identity for fraudulent use.
Mail-theft: Criminal gangs deploy corrupt security guards or cleaners at apartment complexes to steal bank and PIN notifications from letterboxes.
Bin-raiding: Petty thieves go through your bin for utility bills and bank statements so they can open up an bank account in your name or get a credit card.
Computer hacking: Criminals are hacking into the systems of big companies to steal records of credit and debit cards transactions.
Fake credit cards: Using complex mathematical formulae, criminals can manufacture fake cards with genuine but unissued bank numbers, tricking retailers’ old-style swipe card terminals.