Trusting a stranger costs a woman shs.30,000

A 40 year old victim of Automated Teller Machine theft (ATM) in Isiolo town is moving from government office to office in a desperate attempt to unravel the identity of a man who withdrew shs. 30,000 from her account after stealing her ATM card.

The woman who says she sought assistance from a stranger at a local bank to help her transact a withdrawal from an ATM machine says she surrendered her PIN number to the man who helped her withdraw her money only to discover later that her card was missing.

Ms. Ann Kathure says she has not come into terms with reality and is chasing the shadows of the stranger who also stole her debit card shortly after the transanction.

Ms. Kathure who compliments her meager earnings from her casual job at the Labour office in Isiolo town with hawking soap after office hours is a victim of an ATM fraudster who after offering to assist her withdraw money memorised her PIN number and stole her debit card.

“There were many people in the ATM lobby as I struggled to withdraw cash and someone close by offered assistance which yielded no fruits only for me to realise that I had lost my card a few minutes later as I was collecting cash from one of my soap’s customers,” she sadly narrated to KNA.

She said that she rushed back to the bank to report the theft of her card only to be informed that shs 30,000 had already been withdrawn from the account using her ATM card and her PIN number .

Although the account was blocked to avoid any further withdraws with the lost card, the mother of two, was advised by the bank’s operations manager to report to the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) but efforts to identify the fraudster were thwarted by the fact that the photographs taken by the ATM lobby CCTV cameras were hazy and completely blurred.

She says two weeks ago she was called from the Equity bank branch in Ngong to be informed that her ATM card had been presented to the branch by a customer who had fallen victim to a fraudster who somehow exchanged her card after assisting her withdraw money.

As the saying goes ‘a drowning man will scratch at straws’, the desperate Kathure received the new scenario with nostalgia not realising that the call was only meant to find out how her ATM had found its way to Ngong and not to help her recover her money.

Equity bank Isiolo branch operations manager, Eliphas Gitari confirmed that Kathure’s lost ATM card was recovered in Ngong after a fraudster exchanged it with another victim card which he/she used to withdraw cash from the second victim’s account.

Gitari cautioned customers against seeking assistance to transact in ATMs from strangers adding that it is the clients’ responsibility to ensure that they do not reveal their PIN to anyone else.

“The bank is not liable for ATM transactions but we always go out of our way to assist our clients even to the extent of installing CCTV. It is unfortunate that the photos taken on that particular day were blurred,” the branch manager informed Ms. Kathure today.

He said the ATM card is a dangerous gadget which the bank issues to it’s customers on request after informing them of the risks involved besides displaying posters in all ATM lobbies to caution their clients against disclosing their PINs.

Mr. Gitari however called for the footages taken at the Ngong branch with the hope that Ms. Kathure may be able to identify the fraudster who stole her card and could be the same one who stole from the second victim.

Yet Kathure is not the first victim of such fraud. Automated teller machine fraud, usually called ATM fraud involves capturing a customer’s debit card number and using it in unauthorised transactions.

Because the clients need a personal identification number, or PIN, to complete a debit card transaction, ATM fraud also includes stealing their PIN.

ATM fraud is similar to credit card fraud from the perspective of the criminal.

The criminal uses a device to steal the ATM card number, finds a way to obtain the PIN, and drains cash from their bank account at points of purchase or at ATMs.

One difference between ATM fraud and credit card fraud is customer liability.

The customer liability for loss when a fraudulent ATM transaction takes place depends on how quickly they report the problem.

If they report the transaction, or the loss / theft of the debit card, before a transaction occurs, liability is zero.

Meanwhile, Ms Kathure tribulations are not nearly over.

She laments that she has not been paid for her casual work at the labour office since July last year and survival is becoming very difficult for her.

“I have a child in the University who needs support and I have rent to pay. The little that was left in the account is almost exhausted,” she sadly told KNA.

By David Mutwiri

Source: KNA