Malaysian, 4 others held for ATM fraud down under

By Lee Shi-Ian

KUALA LUMPUR - A Malaysian was among five suspects nabbed by police in New South Wales, Australia, on Sunday for allegedly masterminding one of the largest financial information skimming operations.

The skimming operations involved attaching electronic devices to automated teller machines (ATM) or Electronic Fund Transfer at Point of Sale (Eftpos) machines to steal a person's card data and personal identification number (PIN).

Eftpos is the Australian system for processing card transactions at "points of sale" and at ATMs.

A Federal Commercial Crimes Investigation Department spokesman at the Bukit Perdana government complex in Jalan Datuk Onn here, said the Malaysian and his four Sri Lankan accomplices, were arrested after several months' of surveillance and intelligence gathering by Australian police.

"The syndicate stole data from thousands of Australian credit and ATM cards, sending the details to syndicates in Europe and North America where credit cards were forged," the spokesman said.

"The role of the Malaysian and his accomplices was to coordinate the Australian wing of the international fraud racket.

"Their task was to steal the data before transmitting the details abroad."

It is learnt that the five men were found with A$10,000 (S$12,500) which they had withdrawn from ATMs with stolen data.

Initial investigations revealed that the bulk of the fraudulent withdrawals was reported in England, Northern Ireland and Wales. Cases have also been reported in Canada and the United States.

The five suspects face lengthy jail terms as they are facing charges of conspiracy to defraud, dealing with identification information and possession of equipment to make identification documents.

It is understood that three homes in New South Wales were raided by Australian police where they seized Eftpos terminals, laptops, mobile phones and PIN copying technology.

Cash, falsified travel documents and Canadian credit cards were also seized.

It was also revealed that drug transactions and credit card fraud are the majority of offences committed by Malaysians abroad.

In the past several years, Malaysians have been arrested in Thailand, Vietnam, New Zealand and Europe for involvement in credit card fraud and skimming information from ATM users.

In January 2009, a Malaysian man wanted in the United States for credit card fraud amounting to US$150 million (S$180 million) was arrested by Thai authorities and US Secret Service agents in Nonthaburi, on the outskirts of Bangkok.

The 43-year-old man had a warrant of arrest issued by a US court for illegal possession of a data access device, hacking into computers and stealing data.

He was a prominent member of a credit card fraud gang operating in the US for the past three years.