The Observer (Kampala)

10 January 2013

Uganda: Women, Villagers Bear Brunt of ATM Fraud

Shs 800m reported stolen in one week:

Police statistics show a pattern whereby women and people from villages are at higher risk of losing money at automated teller machines (ATMs) to conmen. Police have since opened a general inquiry file at CPS Kampala for victims to report cases.

"Since we started the crackdown on these ATM fraudsters mid last week, over Shs 800 million has been reported robbed from ATM machines, and more victims are still coming to record statements here (CPS)," said the head of Crime Intelligence, Kampala Metropolitan, Musa Birunda.

"The fraudsters rob money at different ATM machines all over the country, using very quick means especially at night to avoid being detected," he said.

Weeks after three Bulgarian nationals were convicted of fraud and forging Stanbic bank ATMs, Police have arrested five people suspected to be part of a racket that has robbed city banks using forged ATM cards. According to Police, the banks that have been robbed include Centenary, Stanbic, Orient, KCB, Eco, Diamond Trust, Barclays, Housing Finance, dfcu, Trust Merchant, Equity and Post. Ibin Senkumbi, the Police Spokesperson, Kampala Metropolitan, told journalists recently that the suspects have been detained at CPS, Kampala.

Senkumbi added that the fraudsters, normally smartly dressed, camp mainly near ATM machines, posing as bank staff ready to assist clients who find problems operating the machine, only to rob them.

"These fraudsters were arrested with over 100 ATM stolen cards which they have been using in all ATM machines to rob innocent Ugandans...," said Senkumbi.

Police identified the suspects as Fred Kasule, Jean Adam, a Congolese national, Jaul Hamura, Shalih Ajuna and Denis Etum, all residents of Kampala.

According to Senkumbi, Kasule was found with 20 cards; Entum; 20; Adam, 8; Shalih, 10; and Hamura, six cards from various banks.

How it is done:

Police say the suspects buy expired and stolen ATM cards from pickpockets in parts of Kampala.

"There is a group of hooligans in Kisenyi who sell these expired, lost and stolen ATM cards, which they claim they get after stealing people's bags on the streets or from vehicles," Musa Birunda revealed.

He said when fraudsters camping at ATM machines identify a customer who needs help, they rush in as if to assist but in the process ask for the pin code and then swap the ATM card.

"They will genuinely help you to withdraw money but in the process of returning your ATM card, they will swap it and give you a different, stolen or expired, card which you will not recognise because your mind will be concentrating on the money," he said.

He said Police started investigations after receiving several complaints about ATM fraud.

"We started our operations yesterday (Wednesday) and we managed to arrest one suspect from an ATM of Centenary bank main branch on Kampala road who led us to other arrests of fraudsters in the same racket," Birunda said.

"We have written to all banks to send us their footages to help us in our investigations."

He advised people to avoid giving their ATM pin codes to any person pretending to assist them. Last month, Bulgarian nationals convicted of ATM fraud were sentenced to 20 years in jail for forgery and accessing computer data without authorisation. The suspects were arrested as they withdrew money from an ATM they had disassembled.

Police are also investigating a case in which 20 staff of Centenary bank Kireka branch are suspected of involvement in robbery at the bank. Allen Ayebare, the corporate affairs and communications manager, confirmed the investigation.

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