Earlier this year in the last week of January around 11:55 at night, I was sleeping in my house. My ATM card was in my possession, the details of which I never shared with anyone, not even with my younger brother, my mother and my father.
I received six SMS alerts at my registered number about cash withdrawals amounting to Rs100,000 at two distantly located ATMs near Ferozepur Road Lahore.
Next morning, I woke up and saw the messages.I called the helpline to report the incident and request to block my ATM immediately.
The Customer Service Representative advised me to visit the bank immediately.Then I visited my parent branch and informed the manager about the incident.
Initially my banker was not cooperative and he said it’s not possible.He said that in his banking career he had never heard about hacking of ATM cards in such a way.
I requested my banker to investigate the matter thoroughly or otherwise I will involve the respective LEA. I also threatened to take this matter to SBP Consumer Protection Department, Banking Mohtasib (which I involved later) and to banking courts if deemed necessary.
Upon such aggressive threats he advised me to put a claim by submitting a dispute settlement form and said they will investigate the matter internally.
I pulled some personal sources and got access to the ATM cameras where my card was used by the hackers.
The guys were experts,and had chosen the ATMs carefully.They knew the camera locations outside the bank, so they came with faces covered, calmly enteringthe ATM cabin and took the money. It was heartbreakingseeing them doing this to my savings.
At that brutal moment I decided not to let this go and to track the guys in legitimate and legal way, which fortunately in the end I successfully did.
I approached Fraud Management Unit (FMU) at Regional Head Office of my banking network and the official (to whom I am grateful) there helped me, because I was not the only victim – there were many others.
After internal inquiry of a few weeks,the FMU Official recommended us, the victims, to take the matter to FIA. After detailed investigation they arrested a few guys on suspicion of working in a shopping mall. I was lucky in proving that I am a victim and there is no negligence involved at my part.
The role of FIA and FMU is praiseworthy.They guided and helped us in every step to make it a win-win for everyone: the bank and the victims. It took six months,including hectic visits to bank and other authorities.Finally, after accepting my claim,the bank returned the whole Rs100,000 into my account in the last week of July.
During all this hectic procedure I maintained record (receiving/copy) of every written communication and kept Consumer Protection Department at SBP, FMU and Consumer Banking at bank and Banking Mohtasib in a joint email loop, which helped me a lot and sped up the process.
Criminal minded people are always out there.The skimming machines are available over internet and hackers have easy access to them.
I faced this situation in the start of this year, and now by the end of this year I know quite a few personal contacts who are victims.
Please consider some important points and keep them in your mind the next time using your card:
– Make it a habit to change your PIN every 2 weeks
– Preferably use bank ATMs rather shopping mall ATMs
– Never swap your cards at untrusted POS especially at restaurants and fuel stations where you cannot see them swapping your card
– Keep more than one ATMs; your saving account separate and shopping account separate.
Inform your family, friends, colleagues about ATM skimming.
In case someone faces such a situation and the bank refuses to accept the claim, or to cooperate, I have named all the relevant authorities to approach.
In all this, I came to know that our ATM cards are insured against such risks by Master, Visa etc and banks are bound by regulatory authority to accept such claims.
Remember: following up is the key in such cases.
Know your rights and never give up.