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Make curbing ATM frauds a systemic function, not just a DCI file

16th February 2013
Editorial Cartoon

Some good news is now being heard that frauds and flagrant robberies via software hijack on personal bank accounts stand to be checked after a police dragnet hooked a ring of fraudsters usually operating at around midnight, putting off CCTV cameras and other gadgetry.  

Heartening as the news definitely was, it may fall into another deception – if the matter is left to a single individual at the Directorate of Criminal Investigation to decide what to do next, with whom and about what. If it all depends on one person, it may record some happy news at the start, but it can hardly become sustainable, since ‘everybody has his price….’
When it is one person who controls or initiates all such operations, sooner there will be temptation to commerce that position, as it is a rent attracting monopoly, as it is the case in much government activity – and that is why corruption is rife in government circles, because one man’s decision is final. In the private sector there tends to be other sources for the services or goods provided, so the front or desk person tends to be a salesman, and the customer is even at times paraded as a ‘king.’ In government offices it is the opposite, each specific area has a responsible person, and nothing is done without him.
Nothing is easier to get a man hooked than to share ATM money, in a situation where only he could reveal the secret on such fraud, or take action about, as his accomplices have no reason to blurt out their sources of cash and privilege. So the instances of ATM fraud and tracing culprits, while there is likely to be specialized responsibility or lines of action for instance with the DCI or similar office, it also needs to be centralized, so that competitive and civic-wide transparent organizations participate in that effort. This way, chances of using an investigation monopoly for commerce are cut, and fraud curtailed.
Lately, that is, towards the end of last year, it was announced that a credit reference bureau had been launched, with two specialized foreign companies in assistance. That should be the first point of making curbing ATM fraud an institutional manner, as part of mechanisms for detection, reporting of fraudulent use of ATM cards, that is, where an imitated card based on hacked or stolen personal information is used and a client is defrauded of large amounts of cash. When such an instance happens, the bank in which it occurs, the specific ATM, should in a law-directed manner be reported to the credit bureaus.
This way all such matters will be made public through periodic statements, in which case banks will have sufficient motivation to investigate fraud cartels especially via information technology, or misdirecting of cheques (a more traditional kind of fraud). 
Even if it is still DCI personnel who conduct investigations, it is helpful when the public knows which banks are more frequented or accessible to fraudsters, as for instance in a photo of arrests, an array of NMB false cards was on the table. Even if banks as such do not organize those cartels, the personnel doing it are often protected by higher levels; secrecy helps them.
It is reported that when customers complain at a bank that their accounts have been accessed by some unauthorized persons, bank personnel often insist on ‘educating’ them that they must have withdrawn the money themselves. At times they concoct scenarios where the customer came to a bank branch, and was assisted to withdraw money in a different way, for which such teller or customer service official will show no signed and stamped documents. The issue there is to get the customer to go home frustrated, and it doesn’t matter to the customer service official if that customer quits that bank completely or not.
The whole point is that since we already have a Credit Reference Bureau which works in tandem with the Bank of Tanzania, the former should perhaps be the place to go in case an account is accessed by false ATM so that the bank can be quizzed and networks exposed. 
To get the bank to investigate, especially if the complainant is a single savings account holder and not a major institution – an A-rated company for instance, is difficult, as people usually go to the defensive when confronted with defects, trying to shift the blame to the victim. 
Get the fraud information to the public, and banks will then act.