ATM skimming case: One accused released on bail
ISLAMABAD: Senior Civil Judge Mahmood Haroon Friday accepted bail petition of one of the local varsity students who prepared a skimmer to illegally elicit data from ATM cards and deprived cardholders of millions of rupees bringing the credit card fraud into the country. Meanwhile the court instructed the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to investigate how the accused got hand on equipment to prepare skimmers locally.
A First Information Report (FIR) vide 01/2011 dated 20-01-11 was registered against Zaheer Ahmed, Nasir Abbas, Amir Shahzad, Muhammad Javed and Mustaqeem under section 36 and 37 of Electronic Transaction Ordinance (ETO) 2002 with FIA crime circle, Rawalpindi. The complaint was lodged by Syed Mustafa Ali Raza, Fraud Management Unit- North, Islamabad.
FIA conducted an inquiry (No, RE-11/11) and found Zaheer Ahmed, a resident of Chatha Bakhtawar, along with Nasir Abbas, Amir Shahzad, Muhammad Javed and Mustaqeem Ahmed embroiled in unauthorized access to the credit cards data. It was further revealed that when 14 Bank Al-Falah Credit Cardholders made a genuine transaction at Tri Star Petroleum (PSO) in 1-10 Markaz, Islamabad, the accused Zaheer Ahmed along with others fraudulently accessed the information systems of Bank / Visa International / Master Cards data and subsequently made fraudulent transactions on the same card accounts by using the counterfeit credit cards incurring Bank Al-Falah a loss of over Rs one million.
According to FIA interrogation, Zaheer was a local varsity student of electronics engineering and locally prepared skimmer to extract data from ATM cards. This credit card crime known as skimming in foreign countries is almost unprecedented in Pakistan.
The defence counsel Friday submitted bail petition. However, the jury granted bail one of the accused Mustaqeem Ahmed and rejected others’. The counsel said that his clients were brilliant students and got embroiled in the crime due to unemployment. He said they acknowledge their mistake and are willing to cooperate with FIA, therefore, they are entitled to be released on bail in the case which required further inquiry.
FIA investigations revealed that Zaheer possessed two skimmers, one to elicit information from a card with a magnetic strip, classically a credit card, when it is used in a legitimate financial transaction. Once collected on the device, the skimmer can be used to make a clone of the card, which can be used for fraudulent purposes, or the collected information can be utilized for online and over the phone transactions which do not require a physical credit card but only the information on the card.
The second skimmer is a small electronic device that the criminal attaches to a credit card terminal or automated teller machine (ATM). In this case, every time a card is swiped through the machine the skimmer gathers the user’s information, and it may be attached to a device that logs keystrokes to collect the personal identity numbers (PINs) of people who use the terminal.
The accused mostly used second skimmer, Zaheer would attach electronic device with ATM machine. When a cardholder uses this machine his card gets stuck in skimmer while the accused copies his information and password with another wireless device attached to the skimmer. FIA arrested the accused on 21-01-2011 from a flat in G-10 where they stayed. After the initial hearing, the court sent them to Adyala Jail, Rawalpindi and permitted FIA to search other suspected houses. Subsequently, FIA raided a flat in F-10 and recovered multiple counterfeit credit cards, PSO fleet / commercial cards and a laptop computer.
The court accepted Ahmed’s bail plea and instructed FIA to investigate how the students got hands on equipments to locally prepare skimmers. The judge remarked that the skimmers are proscribed in Pakistan as well as many other countries and adjourned the hearing till July 7.