Fatma Bazargan’s blog

UAE: ATM and Credit Card Fraud and Identity Theft
September 13, 2008, 10:40 am
Filed under: Security

Everyone has been talking lately about the ATM and Credit Card Fraud that took place last week; this security breach was not limited to one specific bank but various other banks in the UAE were affected too such as: NBAD, Emirates NBD, DIB, ADCB, HSBC, LIoyds, Mashreq, etc.

What happened was that fraudsters used counterfeit/cloned cards to make fraudulent transactions both from within and outside the country. The attack affected both the debit cards and the credit cards.  


The temporary measure taken by all banks to mitigate this threat was similar and simple. They all warned their customers as to 1. change the PIN numbers of their debit and credit card accounts; and some who failed to change their PIN numbers within a given period of time got into the hassle that all their debit card and credit card transactions where deactivated and were advised to approach the nearest branch to issue a new one. 2. Have blocked/limited international use of its ATM transactions in some overseas location. So the countries where the fraudulent transactions took place were: Malaysia, Philippines, UK, USA, etc.


The alarming question here is: there wasn’t a single bank that was not affected with this security breach? And the unanswered question is why?


Another point to notice is: this is not the first time in the UAE history of ATM fraud that such a security breach occurred. If we go past in the history in an attempt to search the Internet we would find that every year and precisely the same time of the year (i.e. after summer) we get the ATM fraud coverage in the UAE newspapers. The reason: almost everyone goes on a summer vacation to International countries exposing their debit and credit cards to stores/kiosks that do not practice due diligence in protecting the cards and there it goes “once it’s known it’s abused.”


So what about the debits cards? Well, debit card details can be stolen using the ATM fraud machines and card skimming/jamming techniques. These ATM fronts are installed in a way on ATM Machines that it just looks so original. But the best way to defeat against card skimming is to always mask/cover your PIN when entering it at the ATM or while making a transaction (mask it with your hand or a paper or a wallet; whatever it takes to mask your PIN) and always watch out for the Man in the Middle Attack (movie threat plot) (someone who stands anywhere close to you just to peak into the digits you are entering on the ATM Machine). Another way can be, if you notice that the ATM machine you are standing at has any signs that it has been tampered with, then it is better that you just notify the bank and try using other ATM machines for money withdrawals.


So what can a solution be? Keep using the magnetic stripe cards that can be counterfeited easily? Turn to Biometrics or Smart Cards? Shall we say RSA tokens for a change?


As for me; I believe the key is: Awareness, being aware about the best/safe practices for card usage, withdrawals and transactions and having a bank that practices due diligence in return is the key. Until the technology takes a heap and comes up with something better that could replace the existing banking technology all together.


-till my next post, safe banking!



1 Comment so far
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Mashallah 3laish …

Maybe .. That can be one of the causes behind the ATM Fraud issue … Lets wait and watch … time will show …

Comment by Sakina

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