Fingerprint no longer safe from data theft

FIA detains 30 suspects over banking fraud


Talib Faridi January 15, 2021
In the guise of NGO workers, the men took fingerprints for SIMs. PHOTO: AFP

LAHORE:

The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has arrested 30 people involved in robbing people of millions of rupees through banking frauds using stolen fingerprints.

FIA officials said they had recovered more than Rs25 million from the arrested suspects. Thousands of people across the country have reportedly complained of losing millions of rupees through the frauds committed using their own fingerprints.

The fraudsters steal the fingerprints from voter lists, B-forms, identity cards and documents from union council allegedly with the connivance of their accomplices within the staff having access to them.

The prints are then replicated with the help of silicone. According to sources, the fingerprints obtained by the fraudster are copied on X-ray films. After this a fake fingerprint membrane is made with silicone and is pasted on the thumbs and fingers of those involved in the fraud.

The fingerprints and thumbprints are used for biometric verification to receive mobile phone SIMs from cellular companies that are then used for various illegal activities. The sources further said that sometimes online banking applications are downloaded after getting issued a SIM of a phone number.

Once the app is downloaded, the fraudsters get information of the users and withdraw money from their bank accounts. As a result, the victim loses money from his account within minutes. The FIA cybercrime wing has been receiving a large number of complaints daily about such frauds, which have been investigated and the 30 arrests have been made.

The arrested suspects revealed their modus operandi in detail during interrogation. They told FIA officials how they obtained fingerprints of citizens, copied them using silicone an changed the images in the data of citizens. Last year, complaints for withdrawal of millions of rupees from thousands of accounts were received. In the first 10 days of the current month, the FIA Cybercrime Wing Lahore received more than 500 complains of such incidents.

Similar complaints were also received from Karachi, Islamabad and other cities. FIA sources revealed that some employees of banks and mobile phone companies were also involved in the frauds. The personal information of consumers was provided to the fraudsters with their connivance, they added.

An official said one reason for the frauds was the opening of banking accounts in a large number through phone companies and branches. He said that by downloading the app on mobile phone, one can easily open bank accounts of other citizens with the help of their fingerprints and commit fraud using them.

The sources said the FIA had also informed Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and State Bank (SBP) about the matter so that action could be taken against those who opened fake accounts. Meanwhile, the FIA has initiated action against the fraudsters on the basis of evidence in specific cases.. FIA Cybercrime Wing Director Chaudhry Abdul Rab said while talking to The Express Tribune that new kinds of frauds were also surfacing with the rapidly changing technology. As soon as the FIA receives a complaint of a fraud, it takes action immediately as per the law, he added. The official also said the citizens should take more precautions to protect their personal data.

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