More ATM users share horror stories

Lynda C. Corpuz
More ATM users share horror stories
(UPDATED) Most cases reported to Rappler involve Bank of the Philippine Islands ATM accounts and happened in various parts of Metro Manila, Rizal, and Bacolod

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – More victims of automated teller machine (ATM) card skimming shared their stories with Rappler, following a November 20 story on the issue involving an apparent compromised ATM of the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) in Powerplant Mall, Makati City. (READ: ATM card skimmers strike at upscale mall in Makati)

Cases emailed to cited BPI ATMs located not only in Powerplant Mall but in various parts in Metro Manila and as far as Bacolod City. Most incidents also happened between November 15 and November 19, 2015 – a week with most working days declared as holidays due to Manila’s hosting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.

Copying or skimming card information is a common modus operandi of card scammers.

Skimmers copy the information stored in the card’s magnetic strip, as well as the personal identification number (PIN) code of an account holder through fake keypads, hidden cameras or other means.

Names of the senders were withheld upon their request and upon editorial discretion, as cases they reported to Rappler are still undergoing investigation.

Case solved

Maria said she often uses the ATMs at Powerplant Mall or at Sacred Heart Church in Makati City. Having no access to a BPI ATM on November 17, Maria used the BDO ATM at LRI Design Plaza along N.Garcia (formerly Reposo) in the same city.

On November 18, she went to Century City Mall also in Makati City and tried to do another ATM withdrawal “but was informed I reached my daily limit.”

“I called the BPI hotline (it was an APEC holiday) and they traced a withdrawal done (after cut-off time) along Marcos Highway in Antipolo at 10: 25 pm.”

Maria immediately changed her PIN, and waited until the next banking day.

She said, “Because I reported the incident immediately through the hotline, immediate action was taken by BPI and the P20,000 [withdrawn from my account] was credited back on the next banking day, November 20. I have to credit BPI Ayala Extension for the wonderful service in making sure immediate action was taken.”

Hacked, too

George said he was also a victim of BPI ATM skimming after making a withdrawal at the BPI ATM in Shangri-La Mall, Mandaluyong City on November 18.

He was able to immediately notice a discrepancy and filed a complaint with BPI. As of November 21, George said he was still hoping that the bank would return his stolen P20,000. “Hopefully this issue can gain more media coverage to put pressure on banks to improve their security,” he said.

May said she, too, discovered that her ATM account got hacked.

She said she had her last ATM withdrawal on November 17, 7:53 am at a BPI ATM inside Family Mart on Jupiter St., Makati City. “Looking back, I noticed some people milling near us while we were withdrawing. They were looking at the drinks inside the refrigerator, which was beside the ATM. But I shrugged it off.”

So May carefully covered the keypad while punching her PIN code. But when she tried to withdraw on November 20, she discovered that P70,000 was already missing from her account. She called BPI and was told that a withdrawal was made from a Bank of Commerce ATM in Cainta, Rizal on November 17 at 9:30 pm, and then daily until November 19 at 4:30 am.

She said she reported it to BPI and is now complying with the procedure and awaiting feedback on the investigation.

“I even have to pay P100 to replace the card that I asked them to block. I find that unbelievable and almost funny – really I have to pay after all that? I’m now P70,100 poorer but I just want to get this over with and get my hard-earned money back,” May said.

Feeling unsafe

Camille said she was also a victim of unathorized withdrawals from November 18 to 19, involving two of their different BPI accounts with two different ATM cards.

She said that upon checking her BPI online banking account on November 21, Camille found out that there were two withdrawals made the previous day from their first account and worth P10,000 each per transaction.

She checked their second BPI acount and found out that another P13,000 was withdrawn from it. Camille said, “We don’t use the ATM card for this account because we don’t usually withdraw from this. We only use this account for online bills payment, but still, the culprit was able to get money from this account.”

On the morning of November 21, there was another withdrawal of P20,000 (again, P10,000 per transaction), from their first account. In two days, Camille lost P53,100.

They reported the incidents to the BPI hotline and were told that their money would be returned following an investigation. As per BPI, the withdrawal transactions happened at Robinson’s Bank and PS Bank ATM machines in San Bartolome, Novaliches, Quezon City. Camille said they do not withdraw with other banks.

“We do our withrawals at BPI ATMs only. Plus, we don’t do withdrawals at night. We’re always cautious when doing our withdrawals. We have absolutely no idea how can another person make withdrawals from our account when in fact, our ATM cards are with us. Call it cloned ATM [card], system error or whatever, but are we still safe?” Camille said.

Salary gone?

Charles, who is based in Bacolod City, said he, too, was also a victim of ATM card skimming.

As a first-time language tutor, Charles said he was excited to receive his salary on November 10, and had asked his wife to get it through an ATM. “But evening came and nothing came in. The company advised me that I was late in the submission of ATM card details, hence, I will need to wait until the next payout.”

On November 19, he happened to drop by a mall and decided to change his PIN number. “An amount was there. I had it withdrawn then left.”

On November 25, he checked his card again. “I registered my account to online access and discovered that there were several withdrawals – unauthorized withdrawals on  November 9.”

Charles called the BPI customer service and confimed that an actual card was used in the transaction and he was given a case number. As of November 26, he said he was told he needed to wait 6 to 7 banking days for the result of the investigation.

“The amount is not as huge as the other cases, but the fact that it was a hard-earned labor is disheartening. It should have been used [for] my medications. But, well, I guess thieves will always be thieves. I just hope they will not go through what I’ve gone through,” Charles said.

READ: BPI statement on ATM card skimming incidents


Confirmed incidents

On November 21, BPI confirmed in a statement sent to Rappler that there are indeed incidents of unauthorized ATM withdrawals.

Tricia Quiambao, head of BPI’s Strategic Brand Management, said the bank has confirmed reports of “unauthorized withdrawal incidents” and has launced an investigation into the matter.

The statement also said that “BPI commits to reimburse funds lost due to unauthorized withdrawals.”

BPI said in a statement released Friday, November 27 that among the measures they have undertaken include the continuous replacement of ATM models; better and more strategic  placement of CCTV cameras; more frequent ATM checks by branch officers; enhanced  security measures; and close coordination  with law enforcement agencies in apprehending  perpetrators and pursuing criminal cases against them. (READ: BPI eyes replacement of 7M ATM cards by 2016)

“We assure the public that BPI remains committed to the security and confidentiality of our    customers’ accounts,” Friday’s statement read.

In a Senate committee hearing in February, BancNet vice president for operations Rene Natividad said those involved take advantage of the daily ATM withdrawal limits. They usually operate at night, knowing that the bank limits take effect at midnight, Natividad said.

Thus the suggestion to lower the daily withdrawal limits, but Natividad later clarified that it is only a precautionary measure, and that this will depend on the initiative of individual banks. (READ: Lower ATM withdrawal limits to fight fraud?)

In 2013, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas received 1,272 reports of ATM fraud from banks, amounting to close to P220 million.

As card skimming is difficult to immediately detect, card holders are advised to check for any signs an ATM has been tampered with or compromised. They are also advised to be aware of their surroundings and to keep their PIN codes secure. –

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