Authorities Arrest 61 in Global ATM Skimming Ring

Monday, July 18, 2011

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An international investigation headed by Europol has led to the dismantling of an global ATM skimming operation based out of Bulgaria.

The criminal syndicate is suspected of pilfering over 15,000 credit and debit card details leading to the theft of more than $70 million in funds from European banking customers.

So far, the investigation has led to the arrest of more than sixty suspected members of the crime ring, and more arrests are expected.

"What stands out to me is that they arrested 61 people and they anticipate more. I think it just shows how pervasive these skimming rings are. This isn't a couple of smart teenage hackers operating locally, but a globally organized operation," said Nicole Sturgill, research director at TowerGroup.

Authorities credit the success of the investigation and subsequent arrests to an increase in international cooperative efforts on the part of a diverse ensemble of law enforcement agencies.

"This major new criminal phenomenon exposed in this case, with criminals transferring data stolen within the EU to accomplices in countries and regions elsewhere in the world, is of great concern. Law enforcement authorities should increase their collaboration with Europol in this area. The European Commission, meanwhile, is committed to exploring all possible opportunities to reverse the effects of this new problem," said EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmström.

With the rapid adoption of Internet technologies by the financial sector, the targeting of ATMs and other forms of cybercrime have become a problem that is essentially borderless, according to experts in the field.

"These reports reinforce that the ATM security landscape is a global one. With ATM skimming, the stakes are low and the payoff is high, making it an attractive crime. These criminal networks are well-funded, organized and experienced. They have the resources to constantly change their attack methods to defeat security measures," said Terrie Ipson, manager of ATM security at Diebold Inc.

European law enforcement officials believe the continued use of outdated magstripe (magnetic strip debit and credit cards) technology leaves financial institutions and consumers vulnerable to fraud and theft.

"This investigation has given us a unique insight into the 'skimming phenomenon. It highlights the fact that illegal credit card transactions outside the EU are a major part of the problem, and that as long as cards have magnetic strips, they will be vulnerable to skimming. This operation shows, however, that Europol and its law enforcement partners are determined to crack down on the problem. One of the most significant criminal groups active in this field has been taken out of business in a fantastic example of international police cooperation," said Europol Director Rob Wainwright.

Source:  http://www.bankinfosecurity.eu/articles.php?art_id=3854&pg=1

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