Banks mull limits on withdrawals to combat ATM theft

by Ron Gagalac, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 26 2014 06:19 PM | Updated as of Feb 27 2014 05:27 PM

P220M lost to ATM fraud in 2013

MANILA, Philippines - The increasing incidence of ATM theft is prompting banks to study the option of further limiting ATM withdrawals, according to a bank official.

In 2013 alone, around P220 million was lost due to ATM theft, much higher than the P175 million lost in 2012.

Rene Natividad, vice president for operations of Bancnet, said the banks are studying the option of further limiting the withdrawals from the ATM to curb ATM theft.

"If the banks allow more limits, the more exposure it has... The banks are now thinking of limiting the limits of ATM withdrawals," he said, during a hearing conducted by the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs chaired by Senator Grace Poe.

Also during the hearing, BPI Vice President Miguel Bernabe showed a "skimming plate" -- a gadget used by criminals to steal money from ATMs.

The skimming plate is exactly similar to the plate used by banks as a keypad on their ATM machines. Criminals would place the skimming plate on top of the original plate, and once an ATM user enters his or her PIN number, the skimming plate automatically copies the PIN number.

Banks in the Philippines are now shifting slowly from magnetic stripe cards to Euro Mastercard Visa (EMV) chip type of card.

"They will put a chip on the card to reduce or eliminate fraud kasi may algorithm yun. Everytime you put in the card may different computation sya," Natividad said.

This is the trend now worldwide, says Natividad, but it will take time for banks to fully transfer to an EMV chip-based system because of its cost.

"ATMs will be replaced, it will be upgraded and cards will be replaced as well. Malaki ang cost sa bangko. Imagine the card magkakaroon ng chip, mas mahal na yun," he said.

Tips for ATM users

Natividad also gave some advice for ATM users. He said one should properly inspect the ATM machines before withdrawing cash, regardless of the location, since it is highly possible that even ATMs in malls may be tampered.

For instance, once should check the keypad, the card reader, the dispenser, the lighting on top of the machines. Anything movable, Natividad says, is likely fake or have been tampered with.

At least P220 million have been lost from savings accounts due to ATM theft last year, higher than the P175 million that was lost in 2012.

The lack of security guards in some banks when they are closed was seen as a reason why ATM theft proliferates.

Additional CCTV dedicated for ATM machines was also recommended as a security measure against theft.