Foreigners are believed to be involved in the skimming racket that stole money from ATMs in signs of new financial crimes that rattled both banks and customers.
Bangladesh Bank, three commercial banks and police analysed video footage of four ATM booths that were skimmed off at least Tk 25 lakh last week.
At least two foreigners seem to be directly involved in the crimes, Shubhanker Saha, executive director and spokesman of the central bank, told The Daily Star yesterday.
The foreign national, who installed skimmers at three ATM booths in Gulshan and Banani areas, wore a cap to hide his face.
It appears that another foreigner set up the device at another ATM booth at Kalshi in Mirpur, according to the BB official.
Rafiqul Islam, assistant commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police, said an initial probe indicated the involvement of a foreigner in installing skimming devices at ATMs.
Eastern Bank Ltd, United Commercial Bank Ltd and the City Bank -- hit by ATM frauds -- have similar suspicions.
A skimmer is a small device, an illegal technology that can scan and store credit card data from magnetic stripes.
Fraudsters installed the devices at four ATMs -- two of the EBL and one each of the UCBL and the City Bank -- to filch data from debit cards used in the booths.
The gang waited for a few days to copy as many card details as it could. After three to four days, it removed the devices and cameras from the ATMs, and then loaded the details on cloned cards to make unauthorised transactions, said the banks.
In these cases, the original card details were still with the users who came to know about the fraudulence through text messages on Friday.
The BB has found that more than 200 cardholders had lost data to the fraud last week.
Of Tk 25 lakh stolen by the racket, the EBL alone lost around Tk 14 lakh. However, the total figure might go up once the central bank gets details from all banks.
In a case filed with Banani Police Station, the UCBL said video footage shows that a foreigner installed a skimmer and a camera at the bank's ATM in Banani area on February 7, telling the guard at the booth that he was there to check technical faults.
The fraudsters made unauthorised transactions from various ATMs in the capital and withdrew Tk 1.26 lakh on Thursday. The total amount could be higher, said the bank.
Similarly, skimming devices and cameras were set up at two ATMs of the EBL at Gulshan-1 and 2 on February 8, and money was withdrawn through 21 transactions on February 12.
“Our guard at the Banani ATM booth and I can identify the man if we see him again,” said Mahbub Ul Islam Khan, head of Fraud Control and Dispute Management of the UCBL, in the first information report filed with police.
Referring to footage captured by the CCTV camera of the City Bank's Kalshi ATM booth, Mashrur Arefin, additional managing director of the City Bank, said, “Images show the fraudster is a foreigner, probably a Caucasian.”
The bank said 66 transactions were made after a skimmer was installed at the ATM booth. Of the transactions, 32 were made through the City Bank cards and 34 through cards of other banks.
The City Bank has so far received claims from clients for loss of Tk 1.4 lakh, said Mashrur.
The bank filed a case with Pallabi Police Station in this regard yesterday evening.
Meanwhile, the BB issued a circular yesterday, making it mandatory to install anti-skimming and PIN shield devices at all new ATM booths.
The central bank also said the existing ATM booths must be equipped with these devices within a month.
It also instructed all the banks to examine video footage of their ATM booths every day and send reports to it on a monthly basis.
The national payments switch (NPS) is the common platform through which electronic payments originating from different channels, including ATMs, points of sales, internet and mobile devices, take place.
Of the 56 banks operating in the country, 48 are connected with the NPS, according to the BB.
It means debit cards of these 48 banks can be used in any ATM, no matter which bank issues the cards.
At present, there are 98 lakh cards that are used at ATMs and point-of-sales centres across the country.