Thousands hit by bank card scam in Galway


GARDAÍ HAVE uncovered a large-scale international ATM and credit card cloning operation involving thousands of cards used recently in the Galway area.

Gardaí believe it is more serious than the card fraud which came to light earlier this week in the east of the country.

In the Galway case, cards had already been cloned and large sums of money stolen before gardaí were alerted to the problem.

The financial institutions whose customers have been targeted in Galway are still trying to assess their exposure to the scam.

However, it has emerged some cardholders had several thousand euro taken from their accounts overseas before they realised what was happening and alerted their card provider.

And it is feared that thousands of other customers do not yet realise their cards have been cloned. Garda sources have confirmed the case involves thousands of cards.

The Irish Times understands some of the cards known to have been skimmed and cloned have now been cancelled or blocked by banks.

The Galway investigation is centred on one large shop in the county. Gardaí believe several thousand cards have had all of their details skimmed, including pin numbers, over the past month.

Some of the cards have already been cloned and used in Canada and other countries where, unlike Ireland, chip and pin protective technology is not in use.

In the attempted fraud case in the east of the country which emerged earlier this week, some 9,000 cards were skimmed.

People posing as engineers working for banks went into major department stores and switched 47 card payment terminals with terminals fitted with skimming equipment.

However, the retailers quickly realised their technology had been tampered with. Gardaí were alerted and the scam was effectively foiled before those responsible were able to access and download the skimmed information via mobile phone technology.

In the Galway case, gardaí do not believe the same modus operandi was used. Detectives are working on the theory that somebody in the Galway shop may have facilitated the card skimming for an Eastern European crime syndicate.

Gardaí do not believe the payment terminals were tampered with. Gardaí have recovered CCTV images of suspects from in-store cameras.

In the past, cards have been copied using very small hand held devices through which a card is quickly and discreetly skimmed at the point of payment. The information is then copied, or cloned, onto a blank card which is then used like a regular payment card.

Skimming devices around the size of a cigarette lighter can store details from thousands of cards.

The payment terminals from the Galway shop have been taken by gardaí for technical examination as a precaution. The Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation is leading the inquiry.

A number of people from whose accounts money has been withdrawn on cloned cards have already made complaints to gardaí in Galway.