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$40.5m swindled from customers

Published: 
Tuesday, June 5, 2018
JSC told ATM fraudsters busy in 2017
Acting Deputy Commissioner of Police Harold Phillip, right, responds to a question during yesterday’s Joint Select Committee sitting. At left is acting Assistant Superintendant Kerwin Francis. PICTURE OFFICE OF THE PARLIAMENT

The Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) says there were close to 1,700 reports of credit card and other card fraud in 2017 to the tune of TT$40.5 million. The revelation yesterday prompting Joint Select Committee chair on the Cybercrime Bill, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi, to note that the disclosure in the cyber-crime environment “tells a tale of our country and the risks we are facing.”

Appearing before the JSC yesterday, Acting Deputy Commissioner of Police Harold Phillips reported on successes the TTPS has had under the Computer Misuse Act and the Electronic Transfer of Funds Act.

He said under the Electronic Transfer of Funds Act there were a number of offences “from fraudulent use of credit cards, trafficking in counterfeit cards, possession of card making equipment, obtaining goods by false pretences using false, expired or revoked cards and theft or retaining possession of cards.”

In 2017, he said the number of reports of card fraud was “1,694 reports and the dollar value for those reports would have been totalling $40.5 million.”

Phillips said the police undertook several prosecutions for fraudulent use of cards, trafficking in counterfeit cards as well as possession of card making equipment and “in these prosecutions sometimes one person would be prosecuted for more than one offence.”

The data so far, he said, indicates that there were 78 prosecutions. Phillips also pointed to the reports this year where persons were putting in empty envelopes into fast deposits and “getting sums of money credited to their account and monies were withdrawn by these persons.” He said most of the cases were recently reported and the police had started investigations “and we have been successful in a few prosecutions so far.”

For the year so far, Phillips said there had also been a substantial number of reports that focused on persons either responding to emails, whereby they indicated that they needed to supply identification information with respect to banks, and in fact, their accounts were hacked.

He said the police continue to get reports of the fraudulent use of credit cards and has received 747 such reports to date. Phillips said so far there have been 81 prosecutions under the Computer Misuse Act. On the Cybercrime Act, the TTPS is proposing that cybercrime offences be included in the first schedule of the recently proclaimed Anti-Gang Act.

Asked by committee member Barry Padarath what prompted the request, Acting Assistant Superintendent Kerwin Francis said fraudsters operate like gangs.

“There are persons who may be generating fraudulent bank cards, there are persons employed in a restaurant you may go with your credit card, that person may swipe your card, then that data is handed over to John Doe who may have the software and the blank cards upon which he can now impregnate that data from your credit card,” Francis said.

Francis said the activity of the employee at the restaurant, when married with the conduct of the individual putting the data on the blank cards, brings them within the realm of gang activity.

“Under the Anti-Gant Act, two or more persons coming together whether formally or informally to engage in a gang-related activity.”

He said by putting the cybercrime offences under the first scheduled of the Anti Gang Act, “these two persons can now be charged for being members of gang and the person leading the activity can be charged as a gang leader and then the follow-on with provisions under the legislation that deals with forfeiture of equipment etcetera.”

Asked whether there were high instances of this happening, Francis said he was aware that the Fraud Squad “does receive a number of reports outlining that sort of conduct.”

The TTPS has promised to provide data to the JSC.

Al-Rawi said police data was critical, telling Phillip, “You gave us a submission which was immensely important, $40m of transactions in the cybercrime environment and thousands of matters, that tells a tale of our country and the risks we are facing.”

He urged the committee to lean on the Fraud Squad if necessary to get the data which is critical in “exposing the mischief” of cybercrime and the economic impact.

Al-Rawi also asked the police to provide data on allegations of death or physical harm which may have been caused in a cyberbullying environment and data on allegations of domestic violence which occur in the cyber environment. Phillip admitted the police do get some of that through social media.

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