Stakeholders should act swiftly on card cloning scams

THE last few months have seen an upsurge in cases of electronic credit card fraud involving use of cloned ATM cards, as more Zimbabweans have embraced the use of plastic money due to cash shortages.

Police recently disclosed that between January and March this year, as much as $200 000 was lost through cloned bank credit cards as the majority of banks are yet to migrate from the old but cheap magnetic strike cards, which are considered to be less secure, compared to the relatively new and expensive chip cards.

Card cloning involves the production of counterfeit bank debit cards by criminals after fraudulently acquiring bank debit/credit card information contained in the magnetic strip of the bank card. This information is fraudulently acquired through cloning or skimming using electronic gadgets such as point-of-sale machines.

This requires the copying of credit card information at a card terminal using an electronic device or software, and then transferring the information from the stolen card’s magnetic strip onto a new card or to rewrite an existing card with the information.

Experts in the banking sector argue that magnetic strip cards, which are commonly used by most banks, use technology that is easily breached by fraudsters, whereas data on chip cards keeps changing, making it extremely hard to tamper with.

We, therefore, strongly urge banks to urgently adopt the new technology, never mind the high cost of the upgrading exercise, than lose their customers’ trust in the banking sector.

Zimbabweans are generally known for their distrust for banks, especially after the 2009 switchover to the US currency where they just woke up one morning to be told their Zimbabwe dollar savings were now valueless.

Government through the Zimbabwe Republic Police and, indeed the Bankers Association of Zimbabwe and Confederation of Retailers should enforce this requirement for the sake of the banking public and as part of measures to promote use of plastic money.

We believe that nothing short of government and banks’ intervention would minimise this scourge. While we agree that card cloning has become a global issue, we believe our government and local banks can still come up with a home-drawn solution to reduce the risks associated with the scam.

Furthermore, the authorities ought to conduct awareness campaigns to safeguard the transacting public against falling prey to these cyber criminals.

It is unfortunate that multitudes of the banking public are losing money through card cloning. It is imperative for the financial services sector to conscientise the public on how to secure their hard-earned cash.

It is worrying that the police confirmed they had recorded over 150 cases of card cloning cases in the last five months, resulting in heavy financial losses to corporates and individuals. This, therefore calls for urgent intervention.

According to police investigations, most fraudulent withdrawals were happening at point-of-sale machines, suggesting a possible collusion between cyber criminals and cashiers manning various business outlets.

Clearly, something needs to be done like yesterday.

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