Public Urged to be Wary of ATM Skimming Scam, Arrests Made in Upper Mt Gravatt and Sydney

Atm skimming
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Authorities are warning the public to be extra vigilant when using ATMs after three foreign nationals were arrested in Upper Mt Gravatt and Sydney last week for their alleged role in a sophisticated ATM skimming ring targeting customers across the country.

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Three Romanian men, aged 37, 34, and 21, were taken into custody last week after police received a tip-off from a financial institution about a card skimming device and pinhole camera installed on an ATM on Queen Street. 

Detectives monitored the ATM and observed two of the men, ages 37 and 21,  approach it on August 2. The men attempted to flee when confronted by officers but were apprehended. 

A search of an Upper Mount Gravatt property the following day led to the arrest of the third man. Police allegedly uncovered additional evidence related to the skimming operation, including two pinhole cameras used for secretly recording PINs and several fraudulent identification documents. These items included fake bank cards, as well as images of a driver’s licence and passport likely used in the scam.

ATM skimming
Photo credit: Queensland Police Service

ATM skimmers are illegal devices that clone debit and credit card data when unsuspecting customers use compromised cash machines. The skimming ring is believed to be part of a larger international operation that was sending equipment to Australia from countries including China, the UK, and the US.

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In May, the US Secret Service arrested five people related to the scam in the United States. Their investigation tipped off the Australian Federal Police that members of the group were active down under.

The three men have been charged with fraud-related offences. Two other alleged co-conspirators, a 32-year-old woman and 33-year-old man, were arrested in Sydney on August 5.

Police say the group was skilled at disguising skimmers and pinhole cameras to blend in seamlessly with ATM machinery. Customers likely had no idea their financial data was being stolen as they accessed their accounts.

ATM skimming
Photo credit: Sebastian Ganso/Pixabay

Authorities warn the public to be on guard when using ATMs and to immediately contact their bank and police if they notice suspicious transactions. The crime ring is believed to have defrauded numerous victims before being caught.

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Detective Superintendent Craig McGrath said identity theft and skimming devices carry a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison and that police will continue efforts to bring fraudsters targeting Queenslanders to justice. The men will face court again in September and October 2023 as the criminal investigation continues.

Published 15-August-2023