Over the past few weeks, news about a group of people unlawfully withdrawing money from a number of ATMS at several locations in Indonesia has made national news.
The offenders who are former employees of one of Bank Central Asia’s (BCA) vendors specializing in, among other things, ATM maintenance, easily walked into several ATMS at different locations and withdrew over Rp. 200 millions of ‘free’ cash from the machines using bank and credit cards.
Two of the offenders were apprehended by the police at different locations.
Investigation revealed that the two were once employees of PT Armarindo, an ATM – filling company. They misused the knowledge they acquired from working as ATM maintenance personnel at the company to commit ATM fraud.
The fraud scheme itself is considered new. The offenders first made seemingly normal cash withdrawal but as soon as the money was dispensed from the ATM they turned the machine off by first opening its case and hit the power button inside.
This caused the offender’s account balance to be reversed to its original amount as if no transaction had happened. They repeated the offence several times before they were caught after BCA reported to the police about suspicious transactions at several of its ATM terminals.
The thing worthy of a note in this case is that the offence was made possible by the existence of crime opportunity exploited by the offenders. Their past employment with PT Armarindo gave them knowledge and skills about how an ATM machines works including how to bypass its security measures.
This should raise questions regarding PT Armarindo’s policy when recruiting employees due to the nature of its service to its clients such as BCA. Such a company should carefully check and double check a potential employee’s background to ensure that he or she is a trustworthy person and will not misuse his or her skills and knowledge.
Fortunately, at least in the case of BCA ATM fraud, the presence of CCTVs has proven to be an effective fraud prevention and detection measure. Cameras at different locations recorded how the offenders commit their crimes and presumably will generate evidence for court purpose.
It was reported that the CCTV records were used to assist the authorities in identifying the perpetrators.
In principle, a major factor behind the occurrence of most if not all kinds of crime is opportunity. Therefore, crime prevention experts have designed various initiatives to eliminate or at least minimize such a factor, also known as the ‘situational crime prevention’ measures.
CCTV itself is an example of a ‘situational crime prevention’ measure which may discourage potential offenders from committing their offences. Another example, over a year ago, a fraud syndicate ‘skimmed’ information from ATM terminals in a number of major cities in Indonesia using skimming devices attached to the machines.
Since then we have seen many ATM machines are now equipped with anti-skimming devices presumably as a precaution against similar offence in the future.
According to a prominent criminologist, Paul Ekblom, there will always be a continuous evolution of the so-called ‘offenders’ and defenders’ in the course of crime prevention.
It means that crime offenders generally will try to adjust themselves to the existing crime prevention measures by, for example, inventing a new crime method such as in the case of BCA ATM fraud.
This sends a message to banks that they need to review the safety of their ATM terminals including selecting vendors for ATM filling and maintenance services. Additional measures such as CCTV camera should also be considered to increase the security of ATM terminals especially in the areas without the presence of security guards.
The key is to always stay ahead of the offenders. Failure to achieve this may result in decreasing customer trust in banks.
Written by Hendi Yogi Prabowo, the Director of the Centre for Forensic Accounting Studies – Department of Accounting at the Islamic University of Indonesia, Yogyakarta. He obtained his Masters and PhD in Forensic Accounting from the University of Wollongong, Australia.