ATM Card Scammer Nabbed in Rangoon

By Kyaw Hsu Mon 11 December 2015

RANGOON — A Bulgarian national, wanted since last year for fraudulently withdrawing money from ATMs with cloned bank cards, was finally detained and charged by police on Thursday.

Rangoon Division police colonel Win Bo told The Irrawaddy on Friday that the man had withdrawn 492 lakhs from ATMs in Rangoon and Mandalay over the last month and was arrested in Rangoon’s City Star Hotel with the money on hand.

“We were informed last month that a Bulgarian had tried to withdraw money from ATM machines at Junction Square. He escaped that time, but we were able to obtain CCTV pictures,” Win Bo said. “We’ve been trying to arrest him since then and got information yesterday that he was staying at City Star. Now we’ve filed the case at Kamayut police station.”

“Most of the money was taken out from Kanbawza Bank machines. We’re still examining what he has done,” Win Bo said.

This latest development is part of a broader series of separate ATM scams operating across Rangoon. One British citizen and two Indian citizens were detained last year on Nov. 22 and charged with attempting to use cloned ATM cards in the city.

Rangoon police detained one Bulgarian citizen on Dec. 13, but his accomplice, arrested on Thursday, managed to elude police. It is estimated that the duo stole 25.2 million kyats (US$24,400) in 58 separate transactions across six local banks using cloned Visa, MasterCard and Maestro cards.

This wave of fraudulent transactions has convinced the eight private banks currently accepting international cards to clamp down on security regarding international cards over the course of this past year.

Pe Myint, managing director of the Cooperative Bank, told The Irrawaddy that his bank had raised its ATM security after Visa and MasterCard cautioned the bank to improve its technology in order to guard against fraud.

“We’ve worked hard to increase the security of our machines. That’s why I can say that this will not happen again next year,” Pe Myint said.

Zaw Lin Htut, chief executive of the Myanmar Payments Union, which administers Burma’s sole domestic card-based payment system, told The Irrawaddy that several major international banks were upping their security to combat the a global increase in fraudulent transactions, and he urged local banks currently accepting international cards to follow suit.

“There are many cases of fraud happening around the world. That’s why Visa and Master are taking greater security measures. This would be a good time for local banks to do the same,” Zaw Lin Htut said.

He added that all accounts affected by fraud had come from outside of the country.