A SUSPECTED member of an automated teller machine (ATM) skimming syndicate from La Paz, Iloilo City was caught inside a mall in Barangay Tipolo, Mandaue City past 11 a.m. Monday, Dec. 10.
Mandaue City Police Office Director (MCPO) Julian Entoma identified the suspect as Lunalyn De Pedro.
Bank employees who were about to load bills into the ATM found her gluing the keypad buttons and the magnetic stripe reader.
Based on initial investigation, De Pedro arrived in Cebu last Dec. 9.
Entoma said the suspect could be a member of a “glue gang,” who came to Cebu to skim ATMs. The 35-year-old De Pedro admitted she is a skimmer, but she denied working for any syndicate.
Rampant in Region 6
“I am the only one. I don’t have companions. Check the CCTV (closed-circuit TV),” she said in Tagalog.
The suspect said she learned to skim ATMs in 2009. One time, she was able to withdraw P30,000, which she spent on her three children.
Last month, Entoma received reports about ATM skimming incidents in Mandaue City and in other parts of Cebu.
“This modus was widespread in Region 6 and several banks in the region had complained about it,” he said in Cebuano.
He said ATM skimming incidents were rampant in the cities of Iloilo and Bacolod that resulted in the relief of some police officials for their failure to arrest the perpetrators.
Entoma said the modus works like this: the skimmer approaches a prospective victim and pretends to help the latter. He touches the ATM card with his glued fingertips and makes sure the card does not enter the magnetic stripe reader.
When the ATM does not dispense cash, the skimmer tells the card owner to report the incident to the guard. The culprit then collects data or withdraws cash while the victim is away.
“They (the culprits) are trained. Their victims are the old persons or persons with disabilities who do not know how to transact with an ATM,” Entoma said.
Entoma urged card owners to approach the bank guard if they have a problem withdrawing money from an ATM or to bring along a relative who knows how to use the ATM.
He also asked victims of ATM skimming to visit the Investigation and Detective Management Branch of the MCPO.
Meanwhile, the Cebu Bankers Club advised the public to be on the lookout for suspicious persons hanging around ATM machines or any irregularities with the machine itself.
“We advise our depositors and the public to be vigilant regarding this matter and (to) never disclose their ATM PIN,” said Neil Rigodon, president of the Cebu Bankers Club.
He said the public should check the keypads because most skimmers glue the “0” and the “cancel” buttons. They should also avoid strangers who seem eager to help.
“We advise them not to entertain assistance from strangers because this becomes the modus of the syndicate,” he said.
On their part, Rigodon said, bank employees and guards should check the ATM machines.
“We advise bankers and guards, especially those assigned to ATMs, to doublecheck the key pads and also the CCTVs, for that matter,” he said.
In March 2017, 41 depositors fell prey to three Romanian nationals who withdrew their money from the ATM of the LandBank of the Philippines Banilad branch.
Authorities found two skimming devices that harvested the depositors’ data inserted in the machine’s card reader and PIN-pad. (from FMD of SuperBalita Cebu/KAL, JOB)