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Friday, September 24, 2021

P420,000 lost to ATM skimming

EIGHT more persons fell victim to automated teller machine (ATM) skimming in a department store and ATMs in Cebu City and the City of Naga.

One of those victimized was Cebu City Councilor Dave Tumulak.

Seven persons who used the ATM in Barangay East Poblacion in Naga reported that they lost a combined sum of P423,000 to the culprits.

Tumulak, the chairman of the City Council committee on public order and safety, said that several unauthorized withdrawals were made in his Landbank of the Philippines payroll account since Sept. 9.

He discovered the unauthorized transactions only last Nov. 9.

Tumulak refused to disclose the total amount stolen from his account, but the latest unauthorized withdrawal from his ATM was P50,000, on Nov. 9.

Tumulak immediately reported the incident and surrendered his card to his bank branch.

The bank asked the councilor to change his PIN but just hours after, another unauthorized withdrawal was made.

It was only after this transaction that Landbank decided to block the councilor’s account.

Tumulak was dismayed by the late action of the bank. He said the latest unauthorized transaction would have been prevented had his account been blocked immediately.

Gone in hours

“In a span of few hours, few days, gihurot gyud pagkuha akong kwarta? (they took all my money). That’s why I’m appealing to the public to coordinate with me or with the police in case they see or detect suspicious people who can lead us to arrest the suspects,” he said.

With other banks, Tumulak said the bank officers immediately report any suspicious transaction to the depositors.

Tumulak said the money in his account is his savings from his unspent salary from City Hall since his first term as councilor.

He is willing to give P3,000 reward to anyone who can report the whereabouts of the culprit.

The councilor, who is on his second term, was appointed by Mayor Tomas Osmeña as deputy mayor for police matters.

Coordination

Tumulak urged the bank management to coordinate with the police on the matter, saying their depositors may lose millions from the ATM skimming group.

In the City of Naga where seven persons became victims, the first to report to the police was Gretchen Capangpangan, who discovered that P30,000 was withdrawn from her account last Tuesday without her knowledge.

Investigators are looking into the possibility that the culprits are not locals and are members of a syndicate.

Naga City Police Chief Gregorio Galsim has coordinated with the banks and the department operating in the city.

He sent his investigators to check the footage of the closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras of the cash dispensers, hoping to identify the culprits.

Galsim instructed the management to strengthen their security and check the ATM for any device.

More incidents

Last Wednesday, between 2:55 p.m. and 8:18 p.m., the police station received complaints from more victims.

Investigation showed the withdrawals happened in the evening of Nov. 14 and early dawn of Nov. 15.

Victims Melody Lazarte lost P25,000; Emilie Lazarte lost P60,000; Zosimo Ravanes lost P33,900; Eden De Gracia lost P128,000; Delia Arellano lost P75,000; Maria Lucille Bacariza lost P57,000, and Gilbert Tapia lost P45,000.

Capangpangan said she withdrew P1,000 from her account last Monday. She said her account balance was still P30,000.

At 10:30 a.m. last Tuesday, Capangpangan returned to the department store’s ATM to withdraw money, but she was stunned to see only P1,000 left in her savings account.

Capangpangan went to her bank and learned that there were three withdrawals of P10,000 each last Monday.

Security measures

On its official Facebook page, the Naga City Police Station advised the public to check anything unusual with the cash dispenser, such as a bulky device attached to the machine.

They also advised the public to withdraw cash from a bank and always cover the pad when entering the personal identification number (PIN).

In a meeting with the Cebu Bankers Club, Councilor Tumulak urged the bankers to conduct a system inventory on their security measures.

Sought for comment, Osmeña said Landbank should be held liable.

“If the bank is the one holding your money and bank is robbed, then the bank should be responsible. If there’s anything we see, we will run after Landbank,” Osmeña said.

Since ATM skimming incidents were also reported in Naga, Galsim, the police chief, met with Tumulak yesterday.

Galsim discussed with Tumulak the circumstances of incidents reported in his area.

In just two days, Galsim said they received 10 complaints about ATM skimming.

Bankers Club

In a separate interview yesterday, Eugene Rigodon, president of the Cebu Bankers Club, said the reported ATM skimming incidents are being investigated.

He advised account holders to report to their banks immediately unauthorized withdrawals from their account.

He said ATM card holders should protect their PINs because no one can access their accounts if they don’t have the security numbers.

“When they use the ATM, they should cover the keyboard when they enter their PIN. We also advised that they transact only in one machine if they withdraw,” he said.
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