Tue, Oct 21, 2003 - Page 10 News List

Banks, officials mull new anti-fraud tactics for ATMs

By Joyce Huang and Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Beginning in January, domestic banks will be required to take digital snap-shots of new clients in a bid to prevent fraudulent savings accounts, which criminals can use to embezzle cash with forged automated teller machines (ATM) cards, Vice Minister of Finance Yang Tze-kaing (楊子江) said yesterday.

In his briefing to the legislature, Yang said that the finance ministry has also asked banks to study the possibility of shutting down some ATMs in remote areas during specified time periods or limiting certain types of ATM transactions at night as a means of curbing criminal acts.

The deadline for the full replacement of the magnetic ATM cards with integrated circuit (IC) cards will also be pushed forward from June 2005 to June next year, while magnetic cards will no longer be used after the ATMs are upgrade to accept only IC cards by the end of next year.

"Financial institutions have to complete the construction of the image-filing system by the end of this year in preparation for the launch of the scheme in January next year," said Vice Minister of Finance Susan Chang (張秀蓮).

"With the implementation of the IC-card replacement plan, we believe bank frauds will largely dwindle because they're more difficult to forge than normal magnetic cards."

Chang made the remarks yesterday afternoon after attending the regular social security meeting chaired by Premier Yu Shyi-kun.

Pressed by KMT legislators, Yang also confirmed that recent ATM-card fraud had cost a total of 257 depositors at 24 banks over NT$30 million within five days between Oct 10 and Oct 14.

According to the police, members of a gang suspected of committing the fraud and led by Soong Jen-chao (宋仁照), were arrested.

Following the scrapping of the card-swipe entry system on doors to ATM kiosks, both of the ministry's proposals yesterday represent its aggressiveness in hammering out measures to crack down on fake-card users. But such measures are sure to be inconvenient for bank clients, although the Bankers Association of ROC (銀行公會) and some bankers gave their primary endorsement to the ministry's plan.

A Cabinet official who asked not to be named, however, told the Taipei Times that one of the possibilities the ministry considered was to fingerprint depositors when they open a bank account.

"They opted to delay the idea because it's bound to cause controversy and draw vehement opposition from human rights groups," the official said.

Other officials disagreed.

"At least would-be bank thieves will be intimidated about committing crimes if their true identities could be exposed," Kuo Yu-chyi (郭玉麒), secretary-general of the Bankers' Association (銀行公會), said yesterday.

The digital-photo database will help provide the police with clues to investigations, Kuo added.

In terms of facilities, Kuo added that the measure would be easy for banks to comply with since all it requires is a digital camera.

But Kuo also expressed concern that bank clients who dislike the idea may not cooperate, as they might not believe such measures will stop ATM card fraud from happening, while adding to the customer's burden.

But he also believes that it shouldn't be too hard to talk customers into accepting the idea.

One office worker, surnamed Chiu, yesterday said that she dislikes the photo idea since she has lost trust in the banks' security management after the fraud.

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