Crime syndicate nets €11m from 1,400 cash machines in two-hour spree
Japanese police are investigating a nationwide ATM heist after nearly ¥1.4bn (€11.3m) was illegally withdrawn from 1,400 cash machines in the space of two hours.
Police suspect more than 100 members of an international crime syndicate were behind the meticulously planned robbery, which took place in the early hours of May 15 before banks opened.
Cash was withdrawn almost simultaneously across Tokyo and 16 other prefectures using as many as 1,600 counterfeit credit cards containing account information stolen from the Standard Bank in South Africa.
The suspects reportedly withdrew cash from ATMs inside Seven-11 convenience stores, with each transaction totalling ¥100,000, the withdrawal limit.
Japanese police are believed to have started the painstaking process of checking security cameras in each of the convenience stores in an attempt to identify the culprits.
Interpol is also helping Japanese police to coordinate with the South African authorities and identify anyone who might have leaked credit card information, sources told Kyodo News.
The raids are believed to have started early in the morning, buying suspects more time to leave the country before police investigated the crime, according to the Yomiuri newspaper.
Ross Linstrom, a spokesman for Standard Bank, one of South Africa’s largest financial services groups, confirmed that it had been the “victim of a sophisticated, coordinated fraud incident” but insisted none of its customers had been affected.
“This involved the withdrawal of cash using a small number of fictitious cards at various ATMs in Japan,” he said.
“Standard Bank has taken swift action to contain the matter and the gross loss to the bank is estimated at 300m Rand (€17m). This is prior to any potential recoveries that may serve to reduce the loss.”
The incident is the latest in a string of increasingly sophisticated ATM robberies involving fake credit cards across the globe.
One such incident reportedly involved a pair of heists totalling around €40m after cyber thieves disabled withdrawal limits on ATMs around the world.
Experts said customers could do little to protect themselves in the event of such attacks.
Dr Steven Murdoch, a security researcher at University College London, said: “It looks like something has gone wrong at one or both banks and there’s not really anything the
customer can do to protect themselves.”
The South African authorities have recently moved to cut credit card fraud involving its banks, including measures such as rolling-out chip and pin technology and tightening up internal fraud-check systems.