Foreign men arrested in card skimming hustle

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Foreign men arrested in card skimming hustle

Two foreign men were arrested for illegally collecting card information and withdrawing money by setting up a hidden camera and card skimming device on an ATM located around Hongdae in western Seoul, the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency said on Monday.

According to police, the suspects - a 38-year-old Canadian and a 50-year-old Bulgarian - withdrew 1.47 million won ($1,299) in Hong Kong between June 22 and 23 after setting up the equipment in Korea.

But when they returned to Korea earlier this month, police arrested them.

According to the police, last Thursday two foreigners wearing medical masks were seen lingering near an ATM machine located in Hongdae, western Seoul, for about five minutes.

After they left, 162 people who used that ATM became victims of data and money theft.

Police said the suspects implemented their card skimming plan while staying in the country from June 9 to 18.

By attaching a device called a skimmer to the card slot of the ATM, the suspects could collect ATM users’ card information including the card number and expiration date.

They also stole users’ passwords by placing a hidden camera inside the machine.

Instead of the usual method of putting a camera outside the ATM, they installed the camera inside by removing the side of the machine so that it was well-hidden from users.

To avoid being pursued by law enforcement, the men wore masks and hats and frequently changed clothes. When they moved to another place, they went by foot to avoid detection, and they used only cash while staying in Korea.

After leaving for Hong Kong on June 18, the two made 39 attempts to withdraw money using the card data they collected in Korea.

But police confirmed that they succeeded in obtaining money only nine times due to the card limits.

Police said it was the first time that those who are specialized in card skimming came to Korea from abroad to obtain domestic users’ card information.

Officials confirmed that the 38-year-old is responsible for counterfeiting cards and the 50-year-old is an expert in card skimming.

The authorities also said they are investigating a similar case that happened in Hongdae in February since the two suspects arrived in Korea for the first time on Feb. 19.

The investigation will be broadened to look into a card forging group based in Hong Kong with the help of Interpol, local police said, adding that the two suspects may be affiliated with the group.

BY PARK BYEONG-HYUN [nam.yoonseo@joongang.co.kr]

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