Eastern European crime gangs are raiding cash machines across Northern Ireland with sophisticated card-skimming devices, the PSNI warned today.
The gangs are manufacturing the devices in eastern Europe and then smuggling them into the province where they can fit them onto ATM machines within minutes, allowing them to read card details and pin numbers.
Bank and credit cards are then being cloned for use in clearing out bank accounts.
Detective Constable Tommy Hutton – who deals with cheque and plastic crime within the PSNI’s Economic Crime Bureau — said those behind the card skimming are dangerous gangs who are also involved in prostitution, drugs and other types of high level criminality.
“We are having problems with devices being installed at ATMs. This type of thing is mainly an eastern European scam.
“People don’t realise that most types of fraud are being carried out by organised crime gangs.
“They can be very serious individuals or groups involved in this type of criminality. They are not very nice individuals,” said Mr Hutton
He added: “I have seen CCTV footage of an organised crime gang carrying out one of these attacks on an ATM machine.
“It took two minutes for them to install the card reader and the camera and within seconds a customer was coming to use the machine.
“The devices are only there for the battery life of the camera. Within just two hours of them receiving the information they will be at an ATM machine withdrawing your cash.”
Although these gangs have been working on an international level for several years, skimming cards across the US, Australia, the UK and many European countries, they have just recently begun to hit ATMs within the province.
Three devices have been seized by police over the past year after they were spotted by members of the public.
The devices are fitted over legitimate ATM machines and usually consist of a memory chip which copies the details on the payment card.
A small camera or a mobile phone is placed above the key pad so the customer can be filmed entering their pins.
The device is left in place for a short period of time and removed when finished. New technology is beginning to emerge however which allows the information to be sent electronically to laptops.