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 Post subject: "UK credit card scam - part of a network"
 Post Posted: Sun Apr 22, 2007 2:43 pm 
UK police probe credit card scam
Tamil Tigers are to blame - Sri Lanka government

About 200 of the UK's 9,500 petrol stations are thought to have been hit a multimillion-pound credit card scam across the country. The Sri Lankan government claims the rebel Tamil Tigers are to blame. The scam is estimated to have illegally drained up to 30 million pounds from accounts last year, according to APACS, Britain's association for electronic payments. "If the British authorities are to get hold of this and stop it, they need to get hold of the LTTE network," Maxwell Keegal, an official at the Sri Lankan High Commission in London, told, referring to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

Copyright / Source: Brisbane Times / BBC

British police are investigating a multimillion-pound credit card scam at petrol stations across the country which may be funding rebels in Sri Lanka, Sri Lankan officials and police said.

The scam, which has been running for several years, involves cloning a user's credit or debit card information and stealing the PIN number during transactions, then extracting small amounts of money from the account over time.

The technique is estimated to have illegally drained up to STG30 million ($A72 million) from accounts last year, according to APACS, Britain's association for electronic payments.

About 200 of the UK's 9,500 petrol stations are thought to have been hit. Police are investigating complaints made in Edinburgh, Norwich, Bury St Edmunds, Peterborough, Nottingham, Leeds, Bristol and Hull.

"This is not just isolated cases, this is part of a network," Maxwell Keegal, an official at the Sri Lankan High Commission (embassy) in London, told Reuters.

"If the British authorities are to get hold of this and stop it, they need to get hold of the LTTE network," he said, referring to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, a rebel group that has fought the Sri Lankan government for decades.

Police are investigating reports of users' cards being "skimmed" in at least eight areas of the country. However, they did not specifically draw a link between the theft and the Sri Lankan rebel movement, only calling it "international".

In Hull, the economic crime section of Humberside Police are checking thousands of receipts for fuel bought with credit or debit cards at one petrol station.

Detective Inspector Paul Welton, of Humberside Police, said "Quite clearly this was well-organised and it was done on an international basis."

Those alleged to have been involved were able to obtain card details and pin numbers and put them together to clone the cards, police said.

"The people involved were able to obtain from all the debit and credit cards used, all the details off those cards.

"They were also able to obtain the PIN numbers used. Putting those two together they were able to clone cards, and use those cloned cards to take money off people's accounts.

"We have questioned a number of people in relation to our particular investigation, we are still looking for other people, and we will continue looking for them until we find them."

The site in Hull is now under new management, and the new owners are not linked to the police inquiry.

Sean Gillespie, one of thousands of possible victims, noticed his bank account was being emptied of small amounts over weeks, amounting to thousands of pounds.

"I knew how much had been taken but how it was taken was an absolute mystery to me," he said.

Keegal said the Sri Lankan government was providing evidence to British authorities and working with them to try to get to the bottom of the scam.

Once a user's credit or debit card details are known, much of the theft of funds is carried out abroad, often in Thailand, Indonesia and India, Keegal said. As well as extracting money directly, sometimes good are bought, then sold and the "laundered" cash used to fund operations.

"It has been happening for the past three or four years, but it has become much more obvious in recent times because of the way they have been buying petrol stations."

Keegal said Sri Lankan Tamils, about 200,000 of whom live in Britain, were being provided with funds to purchase petrol station franchises, making it easier to carry out the fraud.

Representatives of the LTTE, which operates mostly in the north of Sri Lanka but has recently carried out attacks in and around the capital Colombo, were not immediately available to comment.


© 2007

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