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Hansapank ATM fraud affects many

  • 2000-09-28
  • Jaclyn M. Sindrich
TALLINN - A debit card scam at an automated teller machine (ATM) in one of Tallinn's shopping centers has affected all 610,000 of the country's Hansapank debit card users.

Unidentified perpetrators copied information from the magnetic stripes and the PIN codes of 60 bank cards within hours at an ATM at the Kadaka Selver shopping center in Mustamae Sept. 22. The thieves stole 200,000 kroons ($11,000) from the accounts, which Hansapank is reimbursing to the affected clients, said Ando Noormets, head of public relations for Hansapank.

Though cardholders from other banks can also use Hansapank's machines, none were affected, said Noormets.

The bank reported the incident to the police, but no suspects have been found. Hansapank is not revealing the details of the device itself, saying that it is not in the interests of the ongoing investigation, but said that it is not unique. The type of fraud committed, dubbed "skimming," has started to spread worldwide within recent years, said a Hansapank press release.

But the fact that the data needed for withdrawing money from people's bank accounts could be copied so effortlessly has raised definite fears about the security of the ubiquitous machines.

As a precautionary measure against those who may try to repeat the crime, Hansapank announced this week that all of its 610,000 debit card customers had to change their PIN codes by Sept. 25. Clients now will not be able to make transactions at ATMs with their old cards, said Kalle Valma, head of Hansapank's bank cards division.

Fortunately, lining up for hours at the bank to change the four-digit combination won't be necessary. The task can be accomplished at any of the nation's 380 ATMs with a few punches on the keys in minutes. Still, many could be seen standing in front of the machines around town, apparently unaware of the news and looking frustrated that they could not retrieve their money. Lines lingered.

"This is the only time this type of fraud has happened (in Estonia.) We discovered this equipment very quickly," reassured Valma. Nonetheless, the bank is advising its customers to watch out for any suspicious additional devices when using ATMs.