ATM breach cause of fraudulent withdrawals: DBS

UPDATED (8:14pm Friday, to include additional details from press conference)

DBS will compensate 400 customers a combined total of S$500,000 for unauthorised withdrawals found to have resulted from a security breach at two of the bank’s ATM machines in Bugis, bank officials said on Friday.

In a press briefing, bank officials said its investigation into recent unauthorised withdrawals showed that anti-skimming devices had been breached in two ATMs along Bugis Street in late November.

A total of 2,700 customers had their ATM cards compromised, but only 400 had unauthorised transactions amounting to S$500,000 deducted from their bank accounts via ATM machines in Malaysia on 4 and 5 January, bank officials said.

Affected customers will be compensated fully by the bank by Friday night, the officials added, as they acknowledged this has been the biggest such scam to hit the bank.

Karen Ngui, managing director and head group strategic marketing and communications at DBS, explained that all of its ATM machines around the island always had anti-skimming devices installed, but these were not 100 per cent fool-proof and "crooks could have bypassed the security measure".

"It is an unfortunate incident and it is clearly not a lapse in security, as similar skimming fraud incidents do occur once in a while to banks around the world," said Ngui.

Lim Sim Seng, Singapore country manager at DBS bank, reassured its customers that the situation has been controlled and there are no new fraudulent withdrawals on Friday so far. Anti-skimming devices have also been checked thoroughly, and the two affected devices at ATM machines at Bugis Street have been replaced.

An anti-skimming device is a protective tool placed around an ATM's card reader to combat fraud cases.

Meanwhile, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) advised DBS/POSB account holders to lodge immediate police reports if they suspect that unauthorised withdrawals have been made from their bank accounts.

"In a card skimming operation, there may be unusual installation or fixtures on the ATM machines. Customers should alert their bank immediately if they observe unusual installations or fixtures on the ATM,” a MAS spokesperson told Yahoo! Singapore.

MAS noted that DBS is working closely with the Commercial Affairs Department of the Singapore Police Force on the case. The regulator added that it will review the bank’s investigation report.

Customers swamp DBS, POSB branches, internet banking

Snake-like queues were spotted at DBS/POSB branches and passbook update machines around the island on Friday morning, and customers also reported to have encountered difficulties in logging in to their internet banking account since Thursday night, after DBS said it is investigating a total of over $200,000 worth of unauthorised withdrawals.

When Yahoo! Singapore dropped by the POSB branch at Tanjong Pagar, a long stretch queue of around 40 people was spotted, most of which are checking for potential fraudulent deductions from their bank account. The passbook update machine outside the branch also saw a queue that is longer than usual.

Twitter user Yiu Xin Ting told Yahoo! Singapore that she saw around 20 people in line at the POSB passbook update machine outside Sembawang MRT station at 9.40am.

Many Yahoo! readers said they could not log on to the DBS iBanking website for the entire night. Some reported a slow-running site this morning.

Affected customers

One affected customer, 25-year-old Amanda Goh, wrote on her Facebook on Thursday that a total of $2,000 in withdrawals, spread across four fraudulent transactions, were made from her POSB bank account via an overseas ATM machine on 4 and 5 January this year.

She claimed that her POSB ATM card was not stolen, and that she is not subscribed to any third-party financial services like internet banking or Paypal that require banking credentials.

Another affected customer, John Seah, said on Twitter that $2,000 of fraudulent withdrawals were made from his POSB bank account. He noted that the source of the transactions was from Malaysia. He also added that his friend, too, had money deducted from his bank account without permission.