Rolling in it: Romanian gangs behind nine in ten cashpoint robberies rake in £30m a year

Rolling in it: Romanian gangs behind nine in ten cashpoint robberies rake in £30m a year
By Nick Mcdermott
25 March 2012

More than nine in ten cashpoint crimes are committed by Romanian gangs.

The fraudsters come to Britain specifically to target cash machines, and use a range of sophisticated equipment to acquire the bank details of unsuspecting victims. £30million is stolen through the crimes each year. In the first three months of last year, detectives identified 120 Romanians linked to cashpoint crime, with the majority from or connected to the Bacau region.

Too young to know: The baby in the picture is the child of thief Adu Bunu - from Bacau - who was jailed in 2008 for a hole-in-the wall scam estimated to have netted more than £1million

Dirty cash: Proceeds of crime is now thought to make up 70 per cent of Bacau's economy

Detective Chief Inspector Paul Barnard, who leads the police’s cheque and plastic crime unit, said: ‘The fact is, 92 per cent of all automated teller machine (ATM) fraud we see in this country is committed by Romanian nationals. Very, very tight communities, very tight gangs.’

The most common cash machine crime is skimming, in which a device fitted to an ATM copies a customer’s bank details and a small overhead camera records their PIN. Criminals then place the victim’s details on to another card, which they use to withdraw money.

Bacau-based Adu Baunu, convicted in 2008 for credit card fraud, took a picture of his baby rolling in cash stolen from British cash machines

Fitting the equipment on to a cashpoint takes less than a minute. On average, £500 is taken from each cloned card. ‘The criminals constantly try to evolve their technology to beat the technology the banks put in place,’ said Mr Barnard. ‘It’s a constant battle to try to work out where the criminal is going next.’

Improved security has seen cash machine fraud fall by 12 per cent, from £33.2million in 2010 to £29.3million last year. However, officers warn there are an estimated 1,000 Romanian cashpoint gangs still operating in Britain, and fear there may be a surge in activity during the London Olympics.

Detective Chief Superintendent Steve Head, of City of London Police, said: ‘We can see quite clearly what they are doing with the money back in Romania. They are spending it on a lavish lifestyle, flash cars, flash houses. What sits behind it all is the greed – the greed of the people who are organising it, the greed of the professionals along the way who are enabling it and the greed of those people who are actually creating the technology to enable systems to be overcome. Sheer criminal greed.’

In 2008, Romanian fraudster Adu Bunu, from Bacau, was jailed for five years after he was convicted of cloning more than 2,000 cards, which allowed him to steal up to £1.1million. Photographs found by fraud police showed that instead of giving his baby son toys to play with, Bunu presented him with a mountain of stolen banknotes.

An episode of ITV1 documentary Fraud Squad, to be broadcast next month, follows officers on a raid in Essex to arrest another Romanian, 22-year-old Maxim Catana, and his fellow gang members Nikolajs Delvers and Daniel Anghell.

One step ahead of the banks: Police fear the fraudsters' technology is evolving as fast as the banks that are modernising their cash dispensers

Inside the house, detectives discovered what they called ‘a working ATM factory’, including skimming machines, cloned cards, £2,000 and a list of cash machines in the south of England. They also found more than 4,000 victims’ stolen bank account details.

A spokesman for industry group Financial Fraud Action UK said: ‘Although cash card fraud has decreased in the past year, it is still an issue that cardholders need to be aware of. If they think a card machine has been tampered with, they should immediately end the transaction and use an alternative ATM.’ He said users should keep the keypad covered when entering their PIN, and check their bank statement for any suspicious withdrawals. ‘If you spot any transactions you didn’t make, contact your card issuer immediately,’ he added. ‘If you are the innocent victim of card fraud you have legal protection and should not suffer any financial loss.’

Fraud Squad returns to ITV1 on Thursday, April 5 at 9pm.

Source: Daily Mail UK.