THE rising number of arrests being made in the ATM-skimming fraud points to a serious flaw in the country’s security architecture: it seems that criminals are being issued visas to enter the country without any checks.
Reports of a growing number of ATM-skimming frauds have been rising since 2016, and only last week, the arrest of five Chinese nationals raised fears that under the garb of CPEC and a lax visa policy for visitors from China, large numbers of lawbreakers were starting to enter the country and engage in fraud.
Police who interrogated the arrested nationals claim that a large ring may now be operating in the country, centred in Karachi for the moment, using crude technology to steal personal information from ATM machines, including pin codes, to gain unauthorised access to accounts and withdraw funds from them.
The scam is rudimentary, and can be easily stopped if staff at the branches maintains vigilance and banks ensure that their CCTV systems are functional.
But in due course, the sophistication of scams such as these is going to rise, and the online systems of the banks could also come under similar attack.
The situation must not be taken lightly.
In the days to come, the numbers of Chinese nationals entering the country to live and work is going to rise very sharply, and though most will be welcome additions to the productive workforce of the country, the chances of some among them slipping past the net to take advantage of the basic protections of our digital and technological architecture will rise.
It is crucial at this stage to develop the systems to ensure that the credentials of those entering the country for business or tourism are thoroughly vetted. In the present case, for example, it is important to ascertain if there are any local partners that these individuals were in touch with so matters can be followed up and action taken against them. Our police, and other security systems, are woefully unprepared for the new kinds of sophisticated technology-driven frauds that can emerge in the future, and if the matter is not taken seriously, it could leave the country vulnerable to a spike in such cases.
Banks have an additional duty to upgrade their protection systems, and the capacity building of police and FIA authorities is badly needed. Let this be a wake-up call.
Published in Dawn, January 17th, 2018