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More Chinese nationals arrested in Pakistan ATM heist

The two foreigners were apprehended stealing financial data from a Karachi ATM owned by Pakistan’s largest bank, Habib Bank Limited, which has been previously targeted. (AFP)
ISLAMABAD: The arrest of two Chinese nationals involved in ATM skimming on Wednesday has alarmed security officials who have apprehended numerous Chinese individuals committing cybercrimes in Pakistan since last year.
The two foreigners were apprehended stealing financial data from a Karachi ATM owned by Pakistan’s largest bank, Habib Bank Limited, which has been previously targeted.
“The two Chinese men have been booked under FIR #1/2018,” Station House Officer Salman Waheed told Arab News on Thursday from his police station in southern Karachi. “We have registered cases against them under the Pakistan Penal Code and will send them to prison.”
He added that skimming machines and other devices were also recovered from the suspects.
The men had planted the devices days earlier and returned on Wednesday to collect the stolen data, not knowing that they were being monitored by bank officials who first detained the individuals and, after interrogating them, called the Federal Investigation Agency’s Cyber Crime Unit.
“These two skimmers arrived in Islamabad on Jan. 4 and traveled to Karachi. They took residence at a guesthouse in Defense Housing Authority (an expensive neighborhood) and began their criminal activity,” said Waleed, who is part of the investigation team.
He said the passports of the Chinese nationals have a one-month business visa, and it is likely that the two individuals have a link to the previous gang involved in similar activities in the city.
Superintendent of Police Tauqeer Naeem, who is in charge of Saddar area, a business neighborhood, said: “There has been a sharp rise in ATM fraud in Karachi, and the devices that the two men were carrying are similar to the devices used in other cases.”
In December, Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) probed a string of ATM scams that led to the arrest of four suspects and included Chinese nationals. The agency recovered money worth $105,000 in local currency and confiscated equipment and cloned debit cards used by the scammers.
Banks using outdated technology fitted with aging security protocols have attracted “organized foreign groups” to hack the ATM booths, suggests the FIA, which has called for the introduction of biometric security at cash machines.
Waleed explained that the two Chinese men may be part of an international skimming syndicate, pointing to FIA Director Shakeel Durrani’s press briefing in December in which he said that the hackers had sent financial information to several countries and the cash withdrawal trail led to China, Canada, Italy, Nigeria, Indonesia, Malaysia and the US, among other countries.
Explaining how the skimming is done, Waleed said: “Their main objective is to enter financial databases since that gives them the ability to read anyone’s credit or debit card. When the skimming device is installed in the card scanner, it records all the data on the card and stores it in the memory of the concealed device. Separately, a spy camera is used to record users’ PIN codes while they are typing them in before taking out cash from the machine. The saved data is cloned onto a fake blank magnetic strip card using a laptop.”
The end result, he said, is a fully functional plastic financial wallet.