Wednesday, September 17, 2008

UAE banks restrict ATM usage abroad - - 15 Sep 2008

Dubai: Banks in the UAE are focusing on restricting international transactions to contain the payment card fraud that came to light last week.

Officials have said that first, information about the ATM card is stolen, along with its PIN number. Second, a copy of the card is then produced, which is used to withdraw cash overseas, most likely in the home country of the gang members that are behind the scam.

To tackle this, banks have blocked overseas transactions. "Stopping international transactions is the key to containing the damage," Saif Al Shehi, senior general manager of retail banking at National Bank of Abu Dhabi, told Gulf News.




The bank initially blocked transactions in a few countries, but now has extended it to most countries. To accommodate the needs of their customers, banks are making exceptions for some international transactions.

Al Shehi said transactions can only be made at points of sale. "Personnel at cash counters are careful about the authentic look of a card and they might even ask for an ID, so this makes it much more difficult (for fraudulent transactions)."

He added that the number of international transactions being rejected is ten times more than those that are allowed, including those from point of sales.

In taking further steps to curb illegal cash withdrawals, the bank will be issuing new cards to all its customers by October 1.

He said that beyond that, the authorities are working towards tightening security, investigating on how the information was stolen and identifying the guilty members. "The Central Bank is working on this and the Police is collecting data," he said.

Meanwhile, Emirates NBD is witnessing a reduction in the number of swindling cases. Suvo Sarkar, general manager, Retail Banking, Emirates NBD said the bank has blocked transactions from 20 countries.

Sarkar said that only two to three per cent of overall transactions have been blocked.

Investigation: No tampering reported

Most of the bank in the UAE have confirmed that none of their ATM machines was tampered with, thereby ruling out the possibility of card fraud.

An impact of stolen details such as this is likely to be the result of gaining access to a larger database system rather than acquiring card and PIN numbers on an individual basis, according to sources.

Saif Al Shehi, senior general manager of retail banking at National Bank of Abu Dhabi, said they have visited various ATMs with engineers and until now, he says, no banks have found devices that might indicate card skimming.

"We thought that devices were placed in ATM machines, a repeat of what happened here three years ago, but right now, we have no leads," he said, mentioning the the first major ATM fraud that hit the country in 2003.

He said that it is possible that a larger database was hacked.

Visa International, one of the major two card networks, warned Barclay's bank last month that the security of their 1,469 debit and credit was compromised after the network's UAE database was hacked.

Major General Khamis Mattar Al Mazena, Dubai Police's Deputy Commandant General, said investigations are still underway.

By Nadia Saleem

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