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Bank accounts raided

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ATM users claim thousands have been stolen from their bank accounts in Siem Reap city.

ATM users in Siem Reap city claim they have lost thousands of dollars in fraud on their foreign credit cards after making withdrawals at machines operated by Cambodian banks.

Four residents of Siem Reap have told The Post they have lost amounts between US$500 and $2,200 in the last week. 

They claim to have fallen victim to a fraudulent activity known as “skimming”, in which criminals use methods such as unauthorised devices that fit over the mouth of an ATM reader to steal both account data from the card as well as PINs. The information is then used to make cloned cards and their money is withdrawn.

French teacher Laetitia Cheveux said her bank at home in France had notified her after they noticed suspicious activity on her credit card last week.

“They called my husband from France to explain there were some illegal withdrawals on my account using the numbers of my credit card. It was a card I still have in my possession, which means that the card hasn’t been stolen, but the numbers have been.”

Cheveux said the last withdrawal she made from her account was at an ATM on Siem Reap’s Sivutha Boulevard, which was soon followed by a number of fraudulent withdrawals in Phnom Penh on June 3 and 4.

“My French bank says the illegal withdrawals happened in Phnom Penh on those two days, when I was working in Siem Reap.”

Siem Reap businessman Phil Starling said he has lost more than $2,000 to the scam last week.

“On June 4 we had someone gain access to our account with a fraudulent ATM card. They then withdrew $2200 through three separate Canadia Bank ATMs. All the withdrawals were made in Phnom Penh,” he said.

Starling said the card which was copied belonged to his wife who only recently arrived back in Siem Reap after two months overseas. 

One victim, Julie Martinez, says her concerns were shrugged off after she attempted to alert a Canadia Bank manager to the spate of suspicious withdrawals.“They only took me seriously after I went back and closed my account, and then the guy that’s in charge of the point of sale people sat down with me and said ‘you know you have to keep this secret, you could destroy our reputation’. He told me that ‘there are laws in Cambodia under which we can take it to court’.” 

Canadia Bank officials said they were not aware of the issue when contacted by The Post. 

Canadia complaints official Oudom Vent said he was surprised by the information, adding he had contacted the staff responsible for ATMs, but they were not aware of a problem. 

Bank Vice President Dieter Billmeier said yesterday that Canadia was not aware of these complaints.“We haven’t heard of any cases where cards belonging to Canadia Bank customers have been affected, otherwise I would have heard from our security people. We’ve had no contact from the police about this nor have we had the issue raised internally,” he said.

However, other bankers said they are aware of a problem of fraudulent withdrawals and are taking action. ANZ Royal Bank CEO Stephen Higgins said the bank has asked Phnom Penh police to investigate the use of cloned credit cards by a gang that appeared to be composed of foreigners, and had provided the police with images of gang members to assist their investigation.“There’s a gang here at the moment that’s withdrawing cash using cards that have been cloned overseas in locations including the UK,” he said. 

The four victims had told The Post they thought the information on their cards had been cloned in Cambodia, though Higgins said information gathered by ANZ indicates all cloned credit cards used by the gang have been obtained from overseas. However, he did not discount the possibility that the same offenders, or even another gang, are targetting ATMs in Siem Reap.“We’re not aware that they’ve also skimmed anyone’s card in Cambodia. If there’s a gang that’s skimming account holders here that’s more concerning,” he said.

“If they’re cloning cards here or if they’re using cloned cards from overseas, that’s two very different scenarios, the former is far more concerning. Malaysia had a big problem with card skimming recently and if it is happening here it would reflect badly on Cambodia. We’ve referred the matter to the police for investigation.”

Phnom Penh police chief Touch Naruth declined to comment yesterday, while Ministry of Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak could not be reached for comment.

National Bank of Cambodia Director General and Spokeswoman Nguon Sokha said yesterday that the central bank was not aware of a problem.“I’ve checked with all the departments of the bank supervisory authority including the legal department, but they haven’t received any reports about this. The General Directorate of Bank Supervision has no record of any problems involving ATMs right now.” ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY THIK KALIYANN

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