International fraud ring operating in Taipei dismantled

ATM SCAM::The Criminal Investigation Bureau said it has been cooperating with Interpol and that 15 mainly foreign suspects have so far been arrested

Staff writer, with CNA

Sat, Apr 30, 2016 - Page 3

The Criminal Investigation Bureau on Thursday said that it has raided an international fraud ring suspected of being responsible for using counterfeit bank cards in Taiwan.

The bureau said it had been receiving information from Interpol since last year regarding cases of money being stolen from bank accounts belonging to Europeans by people using counterfeit credit cards in Taiwan and of an international counterfeit ring led by a Romanian operating out of Taiwan.

In addition, police have received reports from domestic banks that several fake ATM cards had been confiscated by their machines. Images caught on security camera footage showed that the cards were being used by foreign nationals.

The bureau’s investigation found that members of the ring had been using visa-waiver privileges to enter and leave Taiwan since 2012.

Most would hire suites in Taipei and they often worked together, visiting ATMs around the city using public transport or YouBikes early in the morning or on national holidays and withdrawing money using counterfeit ATM cards.

They would then remit a large portion of the money back to Europe, the bureau’s International Criminal Affairs Division said.

Most of the suspects are Romanian nationals who led lavish lifestyles in Taiwan, often hanging out in nightclubs and bars, the division said, adding that Romanian police had confirmed that the ring had used the same scam in Europe and the US.

After obtaining information that the ringleader had sent members to the Philippines, Thailand and other Asian nations to carry out fraudulent transactions in February, the division notified the nation’s representative office in Thailand to exchange information with Thai police. As a result, one Romanian suspect was arrested, while several card readers and 301 cards were confiscated.

The division raided five Taipei properties last month, seizing three card readers, 60 counterfeit cards and seven foreign debit cards.

Six Romanian nationals and one South Korean national were arrested and referred to the Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office. A request for five of the Romanian suspects to be detained was approved, the bureau said.

In a second round of raids launched earlier this month, seven more suspects were arrested, including three Taiwanese and one Briton.

So far, 15 domestic and foreign suspects have been arrested and are suspected of having been involved in the fraud — which is estimated to have netted NT$60 million (US$1.86 million) — including one in Bangkok in February, the bureau said.