Skimmers target rural banks after crackdown
Published 20/06/2011 | 05:00
CARD 'skimmers' are targeting banks and supermarkets around the country after being forced out of the capital.
The international gangs are focusing on ATM machines nationwide after a successful garda operation in Dublin, the Irish Independent has learned.
Now the operation -- codenamed Glint -- is being extended across the country. Gardai launched an investigation just yesterday following the discovery of an ATM skimming device in Tullamore, Co Offaly.
The device was fixed to an ATM located at the front of a supermarket in Cloncollig. Gardai believe the device, which consists of a card reader and covert camera, was attached to the ATM yesterday morning.
Skimming devices have been found in Ballinasloe, Co Galway, towns in Co Cavan and Co Cork, and Clonmel, Co Tipperary, in the past couple of weeks.
New figures show there were 245 recorded incidents so far this year -- up to June 9 -- compared with 213 in the corresponding period last year, and 208 in 2009.
Gardai believe the rise in skimming activities coincided with the release of a convicted fraudster from jail in England in the middle of last year.
The gangs operate by placing a device inside an ATM machine. It reads the data from a legitimate card and the details are then transferred to a blank card, which can be used to empty the victim's bank account.
In the past, gangs from Romania had dominated the market, but they were put out of business by a crackdown by officers from the Garda Fraud Bureau. Since then, fraudsters from Bulgaria have moved here and are now posing the biggest threat to ATM customers.
Banks and businesses updated their anti-fraud technology in recent years and this helped the gardai to curb the crime.
But these new gangs introduced new methods of by-passing the technology -- which had blocked the skimming device from reading a legitimate card -- and set off on a spree in Dublin.
Fraud Bureau officers gathered intelligence on the criminals and made an initial breakthrough in October last year, when two suspects arrived in the country with a bag of devices and used SatNav on their car to help them locate ATMs where they could fit the devices.
They were intercepted on the northside of Dublin after surveillance and arrested. In December, gardai made three further arrests in Co Wicklow after two ATM machines outside supermarkets had been fitted with devices.
And the following week another man was detained at Dublin Airport after a dozen devices were recovered during a search. Gardai said last night that the public had also become more vigilant.
Apart from skimming, a gang has also been involved in a scam, known as 'cash trapping', where a piece of plastic is placed inside the ATM to prevent bank notes coming out.
The notes become stuck to the plastic and the culprits can remove the plastic with the cash.