Skimmers, Harvesters and your money cards

The attack on the T&T accounts of clients of Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) in the aftermath of Christmas 2015 is a wake up call as the reality that is common in certain Caribbean states such as Curacao and Sint Maarten and Saint Martin has now arrived in T&T in full gaze of the public.

The public of T&T must understand how this illicit enterprise operates and the fact that it is driven by transnational organised crime (TOC) in the Caribbean. The structure is as follows: a skimmer enters a jurisdiction to collect the card data of targets utilising devises that can collect the data stored on the magnetic strips of cards and most important is the PIN number of targets. Wherever cards are utilised operations are established so forget this fixation with ATMs as this is just one point of attack. In every situation where you hand over your card/s to pay for goods and services purchased by you the potential exists to be skimmed.

Pinpads are replaced with special pads that will record your data and handheld devices that are easily concealed on the person are widely available for sale. TOC pay skimmers for data collected which has created entrepreneurs who place themselves in businesses such as retail/distribution simply to collect data for sale. The data sold in then loaded on cloned cards and handed to harvesters who loot accounts in locations external of where the card was issued. So cards cloned located in Curacao are looted in Asia etc. Harvesters choose Caribbean states with free zones, a tourist trade and lax surveillance of cards tended for purchases etc to draw cash and purchase brand name luxury goods such as Prada etc.

These goods are then moved and sold or used as stock in TOC outlets. Harvesting is an illicit job that enables you to see the world. There are those who attempt to combine both tasks as they are self-employed and have proven to be the operators easily caught in the Caribbean. In Curacao and Sint Maarten Bulgarians and Romanian citizens have been arrested and charged with skimming and/or harvesting pointing to the transnational dimension. RBC in both Sint Maarten and Curacao have had attacks by skimmers and harvesters on their clients hence their experience in this area. The attraction is the breached technology of the magnetic strip on cards and as long as this porous technology continues to be used in T&T TOC groups from Eastern Europe etc will target T&T. Persons with cards must understand that the states with acute attacks on cards in the Caribbean Basin where issuing banks external of these states have refused to activate the full range of services of their cards when used in these states are Mexico and Colombia. Pax Mexicana!!!

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