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United Arab Emirates hit with massive bank fraud


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September 17, 2008

The great majority of banks across the United Arab Emirates are currently fighting to restore lost confidence in its banking system after attackers used counterfeit credit cards to withdraw large quantities of funds from cash machines and ATMs. Losses are estimated to be several million dollars.

Details are sketchy on how so many customer accounts could have been hit by the attacks, much less how much money has been lost over the last three days when the issue was discovered.

Local banks including Citibank, HSBC, Lloyds TSB, National Bank of Abu Dhabi and Emirates NBD now have all issued public warning statements to their customers.

The fact that so many local banks are involved reveals that the problem is widespread and probably is a lot worse than what the banks are currently disclosing.

Various reports in the media say that fraudulent withdrawals both inside and outside the UAE have already been recorded.

Since yesterday, a large number of local banks have taken the highly unusual step of advising customers to change their PINs as an added security precaution. Those banks are issuing text message alerts to customers on the issue, while greatly emphasizing that anti-fraud systems have the problem under control.

Some security observers don't agree.

Preliminary investigations suggest that thieves illegally accessed various details and PINs after rigging cash machines with card skimmers. Other reports raise the dark spectre that the bank's internal security systems have been badly compromised.

Bank users have been assured that they will be reimbursed in full for any losses they may have suffered.

Since the incident, some banks have since frozen the accounts of customers who have failed to change their PINs, causing chaos, UAE paper The National reports.

Additionally, Dubai Bank temporarily suspended international use of all its ATM machines. In all, it says only forty-two customers were affected, all of whom have already been re-imbursed, the bank claims.

A statement from the National Bank of Abu Dhabi, which seems typical of those issued by the banks, say that the investigation is ongoing and that authorities have full control on the issue.

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Source: Tech Blog.


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