ABU DHABI // Debit cards are being "skimmed" at ATMs in Khalidiyah, transmitting card details and PINs to thieves, the US Embassy has warned.
The embassy sent a precautionary email to US citizens in the capital warning of an increase in card fraud and asking them to avoid using ATMs in the area, specifically in Spinneys supermarket and at Khalidiyah Mall.
"Debit-card skimming is very uncommon in the UAE and historically has not been an issue that has impacted our community," the statement says. "The recent debit-card skimming incidents have been brought to the attention of Abu Dhabi Police."
Skimming uses a device mounted on the front of an ATM card slot that reads card numbers and PINs and transmits the information to thieves near by. Hidden cameras can also capture the data.
Although it says none of its ATMs has been affected, Citibank is issuing replacement cards.
"As part of our ongoing anti-fraud monitoring efforts, we are taking precautionary measures to replace some ATM/debit cards that we suspect may have been recently compromised at specific third-party ATM locations," a Citibank spokesman said.
A new card is issued to every client who used an ATM that has been confirmed to be hacked, even if the client's account was not affected, the bank said.
"We always advise residents to be responsible when using ATMs," said Col Dr Rashid Bursheed, head of organised crime at Abu Dhabi Police's criminal investigation department. "But we have not received any kind of notifications about problems in that area."
Col Maktoum Ali Al Sherifi, director of the capital police directorate, also said he had not recently been notified of any such problems in the area.
A customer service representative at Spinneys in Khalidiyah said it was common for its ATMs, which belong to the National Bank of Abu Dhabi (NBAD) and HSBC, to experience technical problems. However, the manager on duty said there have been no complaints and that they had not received any official notifications. An HSBC representative at its branch in the store said the same. Both ATMs were functioning regularly yesterday evening.
At Khalidiyah Mall, ATMs for Union National Bank, Dubai Islamic Bank, Hilal Bank and RAK Bank, were working normally, but one NBAD machine was encountering network problems with Etisalat.
"We have not received any complaints or complications of any sort regarding [fraud]," said Hiwot Mamo, a mall management representative. "We double-checked with our security team and surveillance team and no incident has been reported."
Noel Clay, a spokesman for the US State Department, said it was normal for the embassy to issue such alerts during the holiday season.
"This is very common and done in any country to protect US citizens during this time of year," he said. "But if the statement focuses on certain areas, it usually means there were incidents reported to the embassy."
The US Embassy could not be reached for comment.
Last month, the Central Bank unveiled a timetable to roll out EMV chip and pin, an international standard designed to prevent card fraud, over the next three years.
Instead of signing a receipt to authorise payments, customers will be asked to enter their PIN using a point-of-sale terminal or ATM. As part of the migration to chip and pin, all electronic points of sale are to switch to the system by March, with all ATMs, debit and prepaid cards to follow by the end of next year.
All credit and charge cards must be upgraded to use the new system by the end of 2014.