Scammers bag over $98m from citizens via fraudulent transactions

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Scammers bag over $98m from citizens via fraudulent transactions

Over $98 million has been stolen from citizens by scammers in the last year alone and according to officers of the TTPS Fraud Squad, millions more have already been stolen for this year thus far.

Speaking at the TTPS weekly media briefing, Acting Corporal Terrence Nowbutt said fraudsters are counteracting every new technological advancement and he warned the public of a new debit/credit card scam called “shimming.”

This new advanced device allows fraudsters to target the new EMV chip-card technology being given to customers by financial institutions throughout T&T.

“This is supposed to help further secure the financial information which is contained beyond the magnetic strip of the card. You may ask if an EMV card is really safe. We all know how technology works but every advancement, it’s the fraudsters job to counteract that,” Nowbutt said.

“So, they would always look for a way to counterattack any advancement in technology for security.”

Nowbutt said EMV cards presented a major improvement in the security of point-of-sale transactions, as fraudsters cannot clone these chips. However, he said they have now designed or are utilising a method by which they would engage in something called “card shimming.”

He said a card shimmer is a device designed to illegally capture data stored in the microchip implanted in the EMV debit and credit cards.

“The shimmers are very thin, tiny devices that can be fitted into a card terminal and can read EMV microchip data much in the same way that skimmers can read magnetic stripes,” Nowbutt said.

“They have designed technology that can now capture the data from the magnetic stripe. Fraudsters can’t fully clone these chip cards though. However, the encoded users’ information from that chip can be obtained by them using this information, they then encode it on the magnetic stripe of a card so they would now create a counterfeit EMV chip card that the chip would not be able to work. However, the information on the strip will be able to use, so the fraudsters will now go to any retailer which allows magnetic strip card use and try to use this card, so it’s crucial for retailers, merchants to look out for this.”

Nowbutt warned businesses not to allow the use of damaged cards and contact the bank, police at 800-TIPS, 555 and give information when anyone comes in with a faulty card.

He also warned of E-Skimming being on the rise. This also involves EMV cards and is considered a major cyber security concern for financial institutions, their vendors and any company that processes payments information on their behalf.

“These skimmers drive customers to a domain controlled by a fraudster that looks and feels like a legitimate checkout page. So, I refer to those well-known online shopping websites. In some instances, the fraudster will redirect you to a page that seems similar to that known online shopping website. Upon checkout, after you have entered your card information, it will be stolen because the information that you entered on those pages are everything that they need—your name, your address, the expiry date and CVV number. They will then take this information and make purchases of their own or sell the information to a third party,” Nowbutt said.

Inspector Tricia Smith revealed that 1,189 reports were made to the Fraud Squad in 2022.

“Interestingly, an estimated TT$98 million. We would have had US$584,809.03, and EU$ 49,994.82. The attempts (unsuccessful) $41,237 where 59 persons were charged during this period, including fraudulent cheques to purchase goods and services—managers and company cheques—the TT dollar value was over $5 million. Online fraud $10 million, with 44 reports being made. In investment fraud, $27 million, which there’s a decrease in 2023 with only five reports (of investment fraud) amounting to $187,600 value,” Smith said.

“In vehicle fraud there were 76 reports—$7,267,497.67. Romance fraud, there were 39 reports, over $2,342,138.30 but a decrease this year with only seven so far amounting to $350,302.29. In 2023, up to May 31, there were 424 reports $25,936,517.81; US$750,041 and attempts TT$1,163,100. We have closed 150 reports, 55 charges thus far with 32 persons being charged,” she added.

The officers noted that online fraud was the latest crime trend.
“This is with us again and it includes account takeovers, password resets and fraudulent online transactions,” she said.

Smith advised customers to always secure personal passwords and pins and never disclose them.

Also recognising loan fraud, Smith said fraudulent documents were being used to secure loans. She said they have had 26 such reports for this year to the tune of TT$3,537,868.38.

Property or land fraud, with persons using fake deeds or impersonating the real owner, also drew 35 reports amounting to $9,874,283.36, an increase from last year’s figure of TT$4,459,525. The reports include fraudulent completion certificates, Town and Country and permissions to occupy state land.