Cops uncover ATM fraud in Boracay

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ANOTHER view of Boracay Island, the country’s most famous tourist destination and also one of its most crowded and attractive to crime groups. RICHEL V. UMEL/INQUIRER MINDANAO

ILOILO CITY—Police have alerted bank customers and tourists on Boracay Island against the operations of a crime group stealing bank information from automated teller machines (ATM).

The Boracay Tourist Assistance Center (BTAC), the island’s police office, issued the warning following the discovery last week of skimming devices on two ATM machines at the D’Mall commercial complex on the 1,032-hectare island.

Skimming involves the installation of devices, including ATM card readers and surveillance cameras on ATM machines.

The devices secretly gather card information and record the personal identification number (PIN) of ATM card owners. The stolen information is then transferred to another ATM card enabling access to the hacked bank account.

Employees of a bank on July 16 discovered a camera placed underneath the security cover of an ATM machine’s keypad, said Insp. Keenan Ruiz, chief of the BTAC’s intelligence and operations section.

The cover is a standard security device for most banks against surveillance cameras.

“Apparently, this group changed the security cover with a replica installed with a surveillance camera which is undetectable unless closely examined,” Ruiz told the Inquirer.

The fake security cover is slightly thicker than the original. Underneath it is a battery-powered camera that has a circumference similar to a regular ballpoint pen and with a data storage device.

Two days later on July 19, another bank discovered a similar device on its ATM machine also at the D’ Mall complex.

Ruiz requested that the identity of the banks be withheld.

SKIMMING devices discovered in at least two ATMs in Boracay. PHOTO COURTESY OF BTAC

It was unclear if those who installed the devices were able to steal bank information from those who accessed the ATM. But Ruiz said it would be advisable for bank customers to change their ATM PINs regularly.

“These are sophisticated devices and we still need to have them examined if the cameras can transmit recorded information wirelessly,” he said.

Two men were seen in closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage believed to be installing the skimming device on one of the ATM machines around 11 p.m. on July 15.

“It took them only five minutes to install the device,” Ruiz said. Investigators are still establishing the identities of the suspects.

Ruiz said Boracay is an attractive target of ATM skimmers because of the large volume of foreign and domestic tourists visiting the island.

The BTAC also advised ATM clients to still use their hands to cover the keypad when typing their PIN even if the ATM keypad has a security cover.

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