Crooks harvest bank details from Net kiosk

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Crooks, operating in the Birmingham, area, are preying on people using public access terminals for Internet banking.

The scam came to light after a Reg reader discovered to his horror an authorised transfer of £6,300 from the joint account he and his wife hold with Lloyds TSB earlier this month.

When he contacted his branch, Lloyds TSB were able to reverse the transfer - so our correspondent, who has asked not to be named, is not out of pocket as a result of the crime. The explanation his bank provided, however, left him with more questions than answers about the incident. His concerns focus not on the security of Lloyds itself but on how confidential banking information has seemingly been harvested from public access terminals.

"Lloyds have advised me that there is a large-scale Internet banking fraud taking place, affecting customers in the Birmingham area, and has been ongoing for several weeks. Apparently branches have been alerted," the victim, a company director of a West Midlands Net services firm, told us.

"It appears that account details are being harvested from public access points (such as Internet Cafes, and more worryingly, Internet Kiosks)," he added.

Even the small Lloyds branch he approached gave out man the impression they had dealt with several such cases and its handling of the case left him convinced that fraud related to use of an Internet kiosk, rather than through some other means, was responsible for the rogue transfer.

The only time the account was accessed using a public terminal was when his wife used an Internet kiosk in Solihull.

Our enquiries, through Lloyds PR team, failed to unearth any warning to its branches in the West Midlands about Internet banking fraud.

Lloyds TSB doesn't specifically advise customers against using public access terminals for their Internet banking. It does, however, publish logon tips to on how customers can protect their accounts details.

These tips, which take cyber cafés as an example, advise customers to ensure no one is watching while you type, to never leave a terminal (even temporarily) before closing a session and to clear auto complete records from a browser once a session is over.

Cyber cafés, such as easyinternetcafe, flush through a cache and restart a machine after each session but this doesn't happen with all public access terminals, hence a risk to the less-tech savvy.

Our correspondent is not sure how the fraud took place, though he has some theories.

"I doubt that it would be a spying type of hack. You'd have to wait around all day hoping to catch someone accessing Internet Banking - and it appears to be more organised than that," he told us. "I would imagine that it is a fairly low-level hack."

Our correspondent is unaware of whether customers of banks other than Lloyds TSB are affected by the scam. He reports that the fraud department at Lloyds are well aware of the problem even if they are "very tight lipped about the scale of it".

Despite his experiences, our correspondent in happy to continue his Internet banking with Lloyds TSB. Apart from minor criticism that the bank could be more proactive about warning its clients he is content with its handling of his problem and restricts his criticism to the lack of security found at public Internet access points.

He said: "We're all give the message that Internet banking is secure, and we rely on banks to keep our details secret, but if the access point is insecure that all falls apart."

Quite. ®

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