Transnational hackers gang involved in ATM, credit cards scam

ISLAMABAD –  The Federal Investigation Agency has decided to broaden the scope of investigation into the ATM and credit cards scam after a preliminary probe suggested that a transnational gang of hackers belonging to Canada, Italy, Nigeria, the US and India was involved in it.

“We have come to know after the arrest of Saqibullah from Rawalpindi in the ATM and credit cards fraud case that the accused was not working in isolation rather a transnational gang was operating as he was in direct contact with international hackers especially of India,” said FIA Director Shakeel Ahmed Durrani while addressing a press conference at the agency’s zonal office.

“The crime is digital and transnational in nature and after broadening the scope of investigations, we will first arrest his Pakistan-based accomplices,” he said, adding the volume of the scam in terms of money was yet to be ascertained.

The FIA has recently registered a case against Saqibullah and other gang members involved in illegal and fraudulent practices of manufacturing and use of fake ATM, credit and debit cards of various national and international banks in the name of different persons and the government as well as private organisations.

The FIA had arrested Saqibullah from the Defence Colony area of Rawalpindi who along with his other gang members was also accused of using skimmers, magnetic stripe readers (MSR) to steal data of ATMs, debit and credit cards from ATM machines and other card-swiping machines. The gang has been found involved in the illegal manufacturing of ATM and credit cards, hacking of credit cards, stealing data of ATM cards and in the sale and purchase of credit cards of national and international banks, the FIA claims.

The FIA probe says that the gang was also involved in blackmailing women through recorded videos of their sexual intercourse being recorded without their consent.

The FIA director said that the gang members operating in Pakistan used to share the data of credit cards with their international counterparts and they further made purchases from these cards. “We had some specific intelligence, we fine-tuned the information and arrested accused Saqibullah who is on 11 days physical remand with the agency,” Durrani said, adding efforts were being made to locate other gang members. “The accused operating from foreign countries could be brought to Pakistan through bilateral mutual legal assistance agreements,” he said answering a question.

The preliminary investigations show that Saqibullah had a direct connection with an Indian hacker, namely Sorev, through his Facebook account and internet messenger. The Indian hacker directed the accused to take pictures of Pakistan ATM terminals and send the same to him in order to prepare a special skimmer for further criminal activities in Pakistan. The accused had taken the required photos of different ATM terminals in twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad. The FIA probe says that he was also having direct connections with the US, Canadian, Nigerian and Italian cyber criminals and he collected a bulk of credit card data for the international miscreants. He used to sale the credit card data to the international hackers and collected the money through the Western Union, a company providing services of transfer of money internationally, against the sold data.

The FIA investigations suggest that the accused Saqibullah also tampered with the genuine CNICs (computerised national identity cards) of his family members and relatives to execute the transactions through bogus credit cards being prepared by him in order to present the tampered CNICs to the POS (point of sale) operators. The accused also prepared credit cards in the name of his family members including mother and father and converted the hacked credit card information on them and further used the same to purchase goods from national and international online warehouses.

The accused purchased the banned devices through his female friend residing in Italy from China and delivery was made to him through international courier services. He had also been found maintaining and operating international credit card account of Payoneer (online sale/purchase platform) in the name of his cousin Furqar Nadir. The FIA is also examining the role of his family members including father, mother, sister and cousin.

Durrani said the accused and his other gang members had been involved in installing hidden cameras besides skimmers in ATM machines to steal information from ATM, debit and credit cards.

Answering questions, he said that the FIA would ask the banks to increase checks on ATM terminals to stop such frauds in the future and added that the agency could not rule out the possibility of the connivance of employees of banks in the scam. “We will include the banks into the investigations if found some clue of their involvement in the fraud,” the FIA official said when asked how the accused used to install skimmers and hidden cameras in ATM terminals when all such terminals were under the surveillance of CCTV cameras.

Durrani said Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal wanted that the public should be sensitised about the use of ATM and credit cards to avoid such frauds.

FIA Deputy Director Cyber Crime Wing Imran Ali also briefed the reporters how the banned devices were used to install in ATM machines to steal the data.




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