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Police investigating unauthorized withdrawals of money

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Police here are investigating what they believe to be the criminal tampering of the accounts of customers of one of this country’s financial institutions.{{more}}

To date, no arrests have been made, but a police source told SEARCHLIGHT that a number of foreigners may be assisting police in the investigations, which began after customers discovered some discrepancies with their accounts.

The scam victims realized that withdrawals from their accounts had been made without their knowledge or consent.

Queries by the victims, followed by preliminary investigations, caused the institution to close one of its Automatic Teller Machines (ATM) located outside of Kingstown, where, as SEARCHILGHT understands, the perpetrators may have operated from.

The scammers are believed to have used a device called a ‘skimmer’, which usually fits undetected on areas where the unsuspecting customer may swipe their ATM cards.

The skimmer then reads the information on a customer’s ATM card, which the lawbreaker then recovers and uses to withdraw cash from the customer’s account until it is exhausted, or until the scam is discovered.

SEARCHLIGHT understands that the customers whose accounts had been tampered with were reimbursed following the internal investigations by the financial institution.

Meanwhile, this country’s Financial Investigations Unit (FIU), when contacted by SEARCHLIGHT, indicated in a statement that any financial institution that is affected by any scam or fraud would receive the Unit’s full support, as well as that of the Royal St. Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force.

The statement noted that the Unit is aware that there are a number of scam and fraud cases nationally, and has urged the public to be aware of these scams and scammers.

“The FIU continues to urge the citizens of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to be vigilant in undertaking all transactions at financial institutions, including ATMs…. The FIU in collaboration with the RSVGPF continues to be steadfast in its fight against crime in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and safeguarding our financial systems.” The FIU in its statement encouraged ATM users to be ‘Scam Smart’, by reporting all discrepancies regarding their accounts to the particular institution, the police and the Unit.

Other tips to help reduce the chances of being scammed at the ATM include:

1. Being aware of anything about the ATM machine that looks out of the ordinary, such as odd-looking equipment or wires attached to the device.

2. Being cautious of a “no tampering” sign. Crooks often place these to thwart anyone curious about a new piece of equipment.

3. Look out for a jammed ATM machine that forces customers to use another ATM that has a skimmer attached.

4. Customers should check their bank accounts regularly to make sure there are no unusual or unauthorized transactions. Consumers should check with their financial institutions for details.

5. Always protect your PIN: Don’t give the number to anyone, and cover the keypad while you are entering your PIN.

6. If possible, carry out your ATM transactions during the daylight hours, as most ATM-related crimes happen after dark.

More information could be found on the FIU’s website: www.svgfiu.com or www.antiscam.net.

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